May 18, 2002
Graduates of the 2002 Spring Class of The University of Louisiana at Monroe shared their commencement ceremony with the formal investiture and confirmation of Dr. James E. Cofer, Sr., as ULM's new president. Dr. Sally Clausen, President of the University of Louisiana System, presented Dr. Cofer, and the Honorable Benjamin Jones, 4th District Court, confirmed him. The Commencement and Investiture ceremonies were held on May 18, at 2:00 p.m. in Fant Ewing Coliseum.
In her presentation of the President, Dr. Clausen commented on the comprehensive selection process last fall that led to Dr. Cofer's appointment. "We were convinced then that we had made an excellent choice; today we are even more certain that he possesses exactly the combination of skills and experiences that ULM needs at this time in its history," said Dr. Clausen. "ULM faces some extraordinary challenges, of course, but these challenges are not unique to ULM alone. Universities across America are facing financial difficulties and must rethink how to best address these challenges in innovative ways."
Judge Jones admonished the new president and all in attendance to remember that the investiture was much more than just the confirmation of one individual. "Let all gathered here understand that this is not only your day, Dr. Cofer," said Jones. "This day belongs to all of us who love this institution and wish it well. This is ULM's day, for by this action we proclaim the University's greatness and affirm our faith in its future."
President Cofer delivered the Commencement address immediately following his investiture and thanked the graduates and their families for sharing their special day with him. "You, the 2002 May graduates, and I are sharing today, the opening of a new chapter in our lives. For this is not the end of college, it is the beginning of a whole new and wonderful time for you, as it is for me," said Cofer. "You and I will always share this special bond of starting our new adventure together."
Students were the centerpiece of President Cofer's address. He stated that he had three priorities: current students, former students, and future students. "Recruitment of new students has to be one of, if not the top priority of every member of our faculty and staff, every administrator, every graduate and friend of this University, and every member of this community," said Cofer. He pointed out the impact that ULM has on both the economy and quality of life within the region.
Cofer complimented the University and its mission and defined his role as president. "The best and highest values of American higher education are represented here," Cofer said. "We offer advanced learning to men and women regardless of their background, we are responsive to the problems of the people of our state, and we offer a haven for free and open inquiry into both the unpopular and the liberating ideas. My task is to protect and preserve these strengths, to ensure that all who come to ULM have what they need to grow to the extent of their abilities."
In a ceremony marked by historic "firsts" for ULM, 597 degrees were conferred, including 77 post-Bachelors, or graduate, degrees. In addition to four PhD's conferred, this year's Class included ULM's first graduates in its Pharm. D. program. Saturday's 64 Pharm. D. graduates were awarded the first professional doctorate to be given by a publicly supported university in Louisiana.
Two students were recognized as tops in the Class, each earning
a perfect 4.0 grade point average as undergraduates. Only 73
students have previously earned this distinction in the history
of the University. The top honor graduates were Brandy Lynn
Pelletier of Bossier City, Louisiana, and Jamie Frances Perry
of Monroe. Pelletier is an Early Childhood Elementary Education
major in ULM's College of Education and Human Development. Perry
is a Biology major in ULM's College of Pure and Applied Sciences.