College awards 286 degrees
May 15, 2010

Under a bright blue sky on a late spring morning, a crowd gathered Saturday on the College’s Residential Quad for the 179th Commencement ceremony. Families, friends and supporters staked out the best possible positions from which to cheer on their own graduates. Anticipation filled the air.

Promptly at 8:30 a.m., the sounds of the John Mohr Mackintosh Pipes and Drums rang out across the grassy lawn, announcing the entrance of the 286 members of the Class of 2010. As each graduate marched across the lawn, a college career was ending and a world of opportunity was beginning.

Most of the class was made up of Georgians, but it also included students from Mexico, the Republic of Georgia, the United Kingdom and Venezuela. From the Albany Campus, Sara Khalil Wari, 20, was the youngest graduate. At almost 62 years old, Mary F. Bailey-Mitchell was the eldest member of the class.

LaGrange College President Dan McAlexander welcomed the crowd by noting that 150 years ago, after relocating to the Hill, the College community gathered to celebrate Commencement.

“At the heart of the occasion and the soul of the college were the students,” he said. “And that continues to this day.”
As McAlexander introduced the Commencement speaker James Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, he praised Leach’s qualities.

“James Leach has intellectual distinction, independence of judgment and personal integrity, all things we hope to instill in our own graduates,” McAlexander said. “We are honored to have him on our campus.”
Leach returned the compliment.

“It is an honor to address graduates of a college that transforms lives through a faith-based, liberal arts education,” he said.

He went on to note a disturbing trend in our country.

“America owes its greatness to honor, dignity and love, or at least respect, for our neighbors near and far,” he said. “But we are facing a crisis of civility. We are becoming increasingly polarized in both the political world and in our culture. We’ve become angst-ridden and disrespectful of our leaders and each other.”

He urged the graduates to slow down and set aside time to reflect.

“Strive for decency, know who and what you are and form a community of love,” he said. “Go forth in faith and confidence that you can make a difference.”

Dr. Linda Buchanan, vice president and dean for student life and retention, presented the Waights G. Henry Jr. Leadership Award to Morgan De Ann Shields.

“There is no more deserving recipient,” Buchanan said, as she turned the podium over to the honoree.

“I was told to keep this around three minutes, but for the first time in four years I can disregard instructions without it impacting my GPA, so enjoy,” she said, to great laughter from the crowd.

She used Charles Dickens’ first sentence to his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” to describe her LaGrange experience.
“It was the best of times, getting to know our professors. But it was the worst of times when those same professors would advise us to take classes where the finals were scheduled at the same time.  It was the age of wisdom, when we thought we were getting good grades, and it was the age of foolishness when we learned we weren’t as smart as we thought we were.

“ ‘We had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.’ Well, that pretty much says it all. Congratulations, Class of 2010. We made it.”

Honorary doctorates were presented to four individuals. Commencement speaker Leach was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree. Scott D. Hawkins, longtime supporter of the College, received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree, and Andrea Lovejoy, retired journalist, was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree.

Bill Hodges, chairman of the College’s Board of Trustees, was named the Distinguished Service Alumni Award.

During the presentation of the degrees, students could be seen handing something to McAlexander, who then would place the items on a table. In his final comments, the president remarked with a chuckle that several students had “lost their marbles.”

He then congratulated the class and wished them well.

“Each of you has a story, and we are pleased to have shared them with you.”

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