University of South Carolina

A USC day of celebration: Spring commencement

More than 4,800 students from the Columbia campus received their degrees at the University of South Carolina’s spring commencement ceremonies May 6-7.

School of Law

The University of South Carolina School of Law commencement ceremonies held a big surprise Friday (May 6) for graduates and their families, and it wasn’t the rain: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined university officials and commencement speaker Sen. Lindsey Graham on the platform at the university’s historic Horseshoe.

Graham and Justice Sotomayor addressed the 209 graduates.

A graduate of USC’s law school, Graham encouraged law graduates to slow down and consider the moment when practicing law and helping a client.

“The one thing I advise you when you start your practice, whatever that be, is what gets routine for you is a big deal to the person in front of you. Don’t ever lose sight of that,” he said.

Graham said the law can make a very uncomfortable life sometimes for those who represent interests that are not so popular or controversial.

When confronted with those moments, “Say what you believe in when it matters most,” he said. “Because when you don’t, not only do you let yourself down, you’ve let those around you -- your colleagues and client -- down.” Graham said the rule of law is the essence of the law.

“Rule of law, to me, is a simple concept that is the hardest thing in the world to accomplish,” he said. “The Rule of Law is the heart and soul because, if you find yourself in a courtroom or before a legal body, you will be judged by what you did, not who you are. Rule of law must be cherished and guarded.”

Justice Sotomayor told the graduates that every day at the court renews her passion for the law, a passion that she hopes they find in their careers.

“Every day at the Supreme Court renews my passion for the law,” she said. “My work is always stimulating and challenging, and I learn so much from my colleagues and the advocates who come into court. As you embark on your professional careers as lawyers, let me express my hope that you find the same passion and intellectual rewards in your work.”

She praised Graham for his military service and encouraged the graduates to find ways they can contribute to their community and country.

“The ABA requires you to work in the public interest, but it should come from your heart,” she said. “The rule of law makes us the beacon of the world.”

Among the newly minted lawyers was Adam Hegler, a Kershaw native who had the highest GPA in this year’s graduating law class.

Hegler, who will clerk for Federal District Court Judge Joseph F. Anderson in Columbia, credits studying for a master’s degree in history to getting his method for success down, a method he says is grounded in a routine of staying on top of the work and reading.

Law graduate Karama Tomah Bailey, a Liberian native who plans to practice international or immigration law, had one bit of advice for next year’s incoming class.

“Study hard and do the best you can that first year because it is important to get that foundation. It only gets busier each year,” she said.

School of Medicine

At the Koger Center for the Arts, 81 new doctors received their degrees at the School of Medicine’s commencement ceremony.

U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, who spent much of her career directing a non-profit primary care medical clinic in rural Bayou La Batre, Ala., told graduates that caring for others is a high calling.

Benjamin, who holds the rank of a three-star admiral, said the title she prefers is “doctor.” She told the new doctors they have been well prepared to go out and serve their communities.

“As physicians we are truly, truly blessed,” she said. “There is no other profession like it. There is nothing like the look on a mother’s face when you tell her (that) her baby’s going to be OK. Whether her baby is 3 or 33, that look is going to be the same.”

Brooke Hollins is one of the new graduates who will be heading to Palmetto Health Richland, where she will pursue a career in internal medicine.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve accomplished something that’s going to benefit society as a whole. I think I speak for all of us when I say that,” she said. You go to medical school to alleviate suffering and help your fellow man.”

Bachelor’s and Master’s Commencement (first of three)

At the Friday (May 6) afternoon commencement, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor urged graduates to hold tight to the values they learned from their families and loved ones as they start their journey into the world.

“You may be among the largest audiences I’ve ever addressed. This is a bit awesome,” she said to the crowd at the Colonial Life Arena, where students from the Darla Moore School of Business, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, College of Nursing, S.C. College of Pharmacy and Arnold School of Public Health received their degrees.

Sotomayor received an honorary doctor of laws degree and called the experience one of those special moments in her life when she had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.

Sotomayor, who grew up in a public housing complex in the South Bronx, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2009, becoming the first Hispanic to serve on the country’s highest court.

She told graduates the story of “two remarkable mothers” – her own mother, a young widow raising two children in New York after moving from Puerto Rico, and the mother of a friend who grew up in the small town of Ninety Six, S.C.

While coming from such different backgrounds, both mothers sacrificed, worked hard, were passionate about education and instilled solid values in their children.

“Many of your families have made numerous sacrifices for you to make it to this point today. Even those of you who grew up in more fortunate circumstances than I have been guided to this momentous point in your lives by the values you have learned from your families and loved ones,” she said. “Everything we value -- education, hard work, generosity, service on behalf of others -- we’ve learned from our loved ones.”

Sotomayor advised graduates to put their whole heart into whatever they choose to pursue.

“I hope you do not measure the benefit of your education by how fast you get a first job, how much money you make, or the public importance of your position. I hope instead you measure the value of your education by how it improves the quality of your lives and the lives of those you strive to better,” she said.

Among the members of the Class of 2011 who has gotten that first job is Adam Keele, a public relations graduate of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. Keele, who is from Princeton, N.J., will work for a pharmaceutical marketing firm in East Brunswick, N.J.

“It feels excellent to be graduating,” he said. “I have loved my time here. It’s been a good mix of learning and fun. I feel like I grew so much as a person and developed a lot of life skills.” Best friends Bragan Mace and Meghan Tankersley, roommates during their first two years at Carolina, were having mixed feelings about graduating and saying goodbye.

Mace, an exercise science major in the Arnold School of Public Health from Palatka, Fla., is hoping to attend graduate school in genetic counseling.

“I’m excited to be done with school, but I’m sad to be leaving all my friends,” she said. “Thank God for Facebook and Skype,” she said.

Tankersley, from Greenville, was receiving her degree in public relations. She said she had several interviews lined up and wants to work with a study abroad program. She spent some time in Ireland with a communications internship while she was a student at Carolina.

Kristen Chauvin, of Rochester, N.Y., was earning her degree in marketing and management from the Darla Moore School of Business. She will leave Monday for San Francisco, where she has a summer internship with an advertising agency that she hopes will turn into a permanent job.

“It’s scary,” she said. “But it’s exciting, too.”


Bachelor’s and master’s Ceremony (second of three)

Jon Huntsman urged University of South Carolina graduates Saturday (May 7) morning to find their deep-rooted passion and follow that one thing that inspires them.

In his first major address since stepping down as U.S. ambassador to China, Huntman shared five thoughts he’s collected over the years with Carolina’s 1,150 graduates of the South Carolina Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences:

Be you. (“Don’t stand in front of the mirror and try to look like everybody else.”)

Remember others. (“Find a cause larger than yourself, then speak out and take action.”)

Embrace failure. (“Failure only hurts if you can’t turn it into a learning experience that makes you stronger and wiser.”)


Find somebody to love. (“It is life’s most powerful emotion….Love can transcend race, geography, religion and class. Some people need friends. Others need hope. You’ll find some who just need love. Reach out your hand and give them your heart.”)

Give back to your country. ("Work to keep America great. Serve her, if asked. I was, by a president of a different political party. But in the end, while we might not all be of one party, we are all a part of one nation, a nation that needs your generational gift of energy and confidence.")

Huntsman, who was named ambassador to China by President Barack Obama, spoke of the perspective he acquired on the people of the United States while he was in China.

"I know there are many in China who think their time has come, that America's best days are over. And there are probably some in this country who have lost confidence and think that China is the next big thing. But these people aren't seeing things from my earlier vantage point of 10,000 miles away. The way I saw it from overseas, America's passion remains as strong today as ever," he said.

In pushing students to find their own paths, he talked of his early years, when his initial passion was to be a rock ‘n’ roll musician. He left high school early -- with his Rod Stewart-shaggy hair and super skinny jeans -- to tour with the band Wizard.

”I thought it was my ticket to fame,” he said. "One of my favorite bands is Ben Folds Five," he said. "I love this lyric: 'I don't get many things right the first time…. In fact, I am told that a lot. Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls brought me here. And I know that I am the luckiest.' "

His last bit of advice: Never forget to rock ‘n’ roll. For the graduates, Saturday morning was a chance to look back -- and ahead. Dusty Baker, a biology major from Bishopville graduating from the South Carolina Honors College, will attend medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“This is probably one of the proudest moments of my life,” Baker said. “I grew up a Gamecock fan. I’m ecstatic to be here today.”

His friend, Hudson Harper, a math major from Birmingham, Ala., who was graduating from South Carolina Honors College, will head to Boston University to pursue a doctorate in math.

“I came here because they had a great recruiting program. It was friendly and organized. I think it’s the organization that impressed me the most,” Harper said.

Jillian Michaud of Philadelphia, who graduated with a psychology degree, plans to move to Argentina, where she will work for Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Buenos Aires.

Mia Matos, an English major from Charleston, will start law school at the Charleston School of Law in the fall and hopes to become a district attorney. “I want to work with juveniles. I love kids; they are our future. If we can get it right when they are little, we need to do that.”

Bachelor’s and master’s Ceremony (Third of Three)

Business leader Edward Sellers told University of South Carolina graduates he wasn’t going to offer them any inspirational stories as their commencement speaker Saturday afternoon (May 7). Instead, he offered a few skill sets:

Develop an actual awareness of the passage of time.

Learn the power to develop critical thinking and “viciously seek the truth.”

Be able to do the uncomfortable thing and spend time with people who are different.

“I believe the most dangerous numbing thing you can do is to simply spend time with your own tribe, with your own clan, and with your own group,” he said. “If you don’t have the courage to go beyond your tribe, to go beyond your clan, you will not even understand what in fact you don’t know. You have to do the uncomfortable thing and spend time with folks that are so different from you it makes you uncomfortable.”

And a little humbleness goes a long way, too.

Sellers is chairman of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and chairman of New Carolina, a non-profit council of leadership in business, academia and government whose mission is to drive a long-term economic development strategy for South Carolina. He also received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

He closed his remarks with three wishes for the graduates:

“I wish for you the power and energy that come from a clear and critical mind. It is immeasurable. It is freeing. It is liberating and it will help you…I wish you the courage that flows from a joyful commitment to uncertainty,” he said. “And I wish for you the beauty of many, many, many rising full moons. May you pause for a moment and have that soft light shine on you and take from it the quickened step that gets you down the road to where you so deservingly need to be.”

About 1,100 graduates received their degrees from Carolina’s College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computing, the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, the Fort Jackson Military Base Program, Interdisciplinary Programs, Palmetto Programs, the School of Music and the College of Social Work.

Among the students receiving degrees were the first graduates of the university’s Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work program, which began in fall 2009.

One of those graduates, Terence Johnson of Aiken, will begin working on a master’s in social work as a path to helping people.

“To me, the appeal of being a social worker is being able to help people,” Johnson said. “Everybody needs help, and some people don’t have a voice. I have a voice, and I’ll be able to use that voice to advocate for the people who don’t,” Johnson said. “I’ll sleep better at night knowing that I’m helping.”

Kellie Middleton of Augusta, Ga., was receiving her master’s in social work at Saturday’s commencement. She plans to get her clinical license and work with military families. “I’m prior military, and I know how important they are to the community. I’m passionate about that,” said Middleton, who spent five years in the Army before starting college.

Taylor Young of Lexington graduated with a degree in physical education and athletic training. He will attend graduate school at N.C. State University on his way to being an athletic trainer.

Jordan Bright of Union was receiving her degree in middle level education. She said she has had a promising interview and is hoping to land a job teaching seventh-grade science.

“These have been the best four years of my life,” she said.

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 05/06/11 @ 6:20 AM | Updated: 05/18/11 @ 1:57 PM | Permalink