The record-breaking number of graduates at the University of Louisiana at Monroe was perhaps only matched by the record-breaking crowd, as family and friends were packed to the rafters at Fant-Ewing Coliseum on Saturday, May 22, to see ULM President James E. Cofer Sr. confer 762 degrees to 757 beaming graduates of the university.
“You are about to take part in a 1,000-year-old tradition,” Cofer told the graduates, in his final commencement speech for ULM. “Now and always, you will be a member of the ULM family.”Commencement exercise keynote speaker State Senator Neil Riser, a ULM alum, conceded that much had changed since he left his alma mater following his own graduation from then-Northeast Louisiana University in 1984.
Riser said that serving as a state senator, he and his colleagues spend much time discussing how to make Louisiana a better place for future generations. He said the goals are achievable, but are also dependent on the class of 2010 and the choices its members will make.
“Those choices will affect each of us,” said Riser. “When you leave here today, I want you to do your part in helping make our communities and state the best place in the world.”
Riser said his father told him when he graduated that he had “paid for (his) experience” and that his father explained there’s a price to every experience a person has in life. Riser agreed it was great advice then, and continues to be great advice now as the graduates contemplate the journey ahead.
“Your education does not end here today,” he said. “It’s only beginning … with each of these things comes new experience, new lessons.”
Riser told the graduates he hoped they would remember two key points when faced with hard life choices in the future. “First,” he said. “Know yourself! Know your values, your strengths, your weaknesses.”
He told the graduates that the second point he hoped they would remember is to know their mission.
“What is your passion?” he asked them. “When you identify that, pursue it with a ferocious tenacity … that’s when the remarkable occurs.”
Riser shared the story of Dr. Glenn Cunningham, a record-breaking distance runner who attended college on a track scholarship in spite of a childhood accident that left him badly burned and led physicians to predict he would never walk again.
“Dr. Cunningham, as a child, identified what his mission would be,” Riser said. “He pursued it with fierce tenacity. In spite of those who told him he couldn't and shouldn't, he remained true to himself, relied on the support of his family, and pursued his passion. In so doing, he achieved the remarkable. You, too, can achieve the remarkable.”
Riser told the graduates to think beyond themselves and into their communities and state.
“Think about how you can help make it a better place for your fellow citizens,” he said, reminding them that many were “Louisiana born and raised,” but even those from other states often fall in love with Louisiana.
“And I hope you'll choose to spend your lives here,” Riser added, “It's going to take good leadership from people who know their values and are committed to their mission in life to steer Louisiana forward.”
Riser said that ULM’s commencement represented “tomorrow's leaders” as he stressed the importance of deciding “right here today that you will do all that you can to make our state a better place for those who come behind you. You deserve nothing less.”
He closed by urging the new graduates to be the best individuals they could be and to “leave the world better than you found it.”
The graduates were met with thunderous applause from those assembled as they moved their cap tassels from left to right, designating their achievement.
The ceremony featured 129 Latin honor students, designated as summa cum laude (3.900-4.000), magna cum laude (3.750-3.899) and cum laude (3.500-3.749), and including bachelor’s degree and Pharm.D.
The top graduates included 4.0 grade point average students: