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May 17, 2008

Record number of degrees awarded at ULM Spring Commencement

With Fant-Ewing Coliseum packed almost to capacity, the University of Louisiana at Monroe awarded a record 718 degrees at the 2008 Spring Commencement Saturday, May 17, the largest degree total in ULM’s history. This tops the previous record of 680 degrees awarded at Spring Commencement in 1999.

ULM President James Cofer began by assuring the graduates that, “You are now and always will be a part of the ULM family.

“Serving you as president has been my greatest honor. There’s a new day beginning at ULM. We’re expanding programs, building new classrooms and laboratories, adding faculty, upgrading our technology. Today I make a promise to you – we will be relentless, we will change and grow, and improve every day of every year.

“But I want a promise from you. I ask you to always remember the pride you feel right now, how hard you worked, how much you learned, what this place means to you…Remember and envision what ULM has done for you, and what it can do for others. We celebrate today who you are, and who you will become,” Cofer said.

Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and ULM alumnus Robert Barham delivered the commencement address.

Barham opened his commencement speech by proclaiming what a treat it was to return to a place he would always consider his home. Remarking on the large audience, he humorously said that his wife and ULM alumnae Melba Pipes Barham was the only one attending just because he was the speaker.

He congratulated the graduates for entering one of the most rewarding times of their lives. “I hope many of you will make a commitment to stay in Louisiana, look at Louisiana first, and help us to make Louisiana the shining star of the South.”

A commencement speaker could get carried away while addressing the largest graduating class ever at ULM, he noted. After sharing a personal story that always helped him keep perspective about who he was and where he came from, he said, “Graduates, you are so fortunate, and so lucky, and so special in today’s world.”

As great as their achievements are, and as much respect is owed them for what they’ve accomplished, each of the graduates owed much to others as well, including many who were in the coliseum today, cheering them on, Barham said.

Barham acknowledged ULM professor Dr. Perry Jones as one of the greatest teachers he’d ever had, and used their shared love of poetry to make his final point to the graduates, encouraging them to build bridges for the generations that would follow, as many people had done for them.

“Now you have all the tools you need to go out and pay them back, pay tribute to them. Go out, and build us bridges.”

There were four top 2008 spring graduates, each with a 4.0 grade point average:

Several honor graduates were recognized during the ceremonies. They are designated as summa cum laude (3.900-4.000), magna cum laude (3.750-3.899) and cum laude (3.500-3.749).

Army ROTC ULM Student Cadet Jaciel Javier Guerrero of West Monroe was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Friday, May 16 at 2 p.m. at the ULM Student Union Building Ballroom (second floor). Guerrero, a construction major, received his diploma at the ULM Commencement May 17.

John Tyler Collins, an aviation major from Murray, Ky., was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps at the Bayou Suites Conference Room immediately following Commencement May 17. He has been the recipient of several scholarships, has a private pilot’s license and an instrument rating, and has a flight slot for pilot school with the Marines. His grade point average is above 3.5. Collins is a member of the national award-winning ULM Water Ski Team.

Aviation major Caleb Peacock of Monroe is one of 27 students in the nation selected to receive a commission in the U.S. Coast Guard program. He was also the ULM Flight Team captain during his senior year. After ULM’s Commencement May 17, Peacock will ship out for Officer Candidate School Thursday, Aug. 7.

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