FMU graduates 3rd largest fall class

Civil rights activist empowers FMU graduates

FMU had its third-largest fall graduating class on Dec. 14, 2019 in the Smith University Center (UC) gym, where nearly 300 graduates received degrees.

Of the 298 graduates, 76 received their degrees in graduate studies; 26 Master of Family Nursing Practice, three Doctors of Nursing Practice and 37 graduate degrees from The School of Education. Among the undergraduate degrees, 40 graduated with honors, 37 of which were Latin honors and 3 university honors.

Luther F. Carter, president of FMU, gave the opening address, saying that graduation was one of his favorite parts of the school year.

“This is my 40th commencement here,” Carter said. “It is without question my favorite event on the calendar. A great number of the faculty have told me the same thing over the years. The ceremony never gets old. The process remains as exciting now as it ever was.”

Carter told graduates they should be proud of their accomplishments and how far they have come.

“When you’ve earned your degree here at Francis Marion, you have the right to be especially proud,” Carter said. “It means you have mastered a difficult and demanding curriculum taught by a faculty that imposes the most rigorous academic standards. That has been the norm at this university for half a century and will continue for as long as it exists.”

According to Carter, the students who were graduating earned their degree through many hours of hard work.

“Nothing here is given academically,” Carter said. “Everything is earned. This matriculation process involves thousands of hours of lectures and labs, hundreds of examinations, papers and presentations. Now all of this work is culminated in the knowledge that the graduates have acquired and the measure of what they have become.”

Honorary degrees were awarded to well-known auctioneer and civic leader Bill Yonce, civil rights activist Cleveland Sellers, Jr. and veteran educator Marilyn K. Chapman.

Sellers, who gave the commencement address, was the former and eighth president of Voorhees College. In the 1960s, he became active in the Civil Rights Movement; advocating for voting rights, human rights and justice.

“I was raised to believe in the power of dreams and visions,” Sellers said. “That belief has fortified my confidence and my determination on many occasions.”

Sellers told graduates it was time for them to determine how they wanted to move forward in life.

“Today, we have a chance to make the choice to go forward with courage and undaunted purpose,” Sellers said.

Sellers reflected on his time as part of the Civil Rights Movement, and told students it was time for them to work hard for the future that they want.

“Today, ladies and gentlemen, is only the beginning,” Sellers said. “Today is the beginning of your journey into excellence. Work hard. Dream big.”

Among the graduates, those who graduated Summa Cum Laude, “With greatest praise,” obtaining a GPA of 3.9 – 4.0, were Jonathan Glenn Britt, Rhyli D. Burke, Jessica Marie Garnett, Zoe Johnson, Curtis Robert Mackinson Jr., Benjamin Joel Taylor and Savannah Victoria Wright.

Those who graduated Magna Cum Laude, “With great praise,” obtaining a GPA of 3.75 – 3.89, were Luke Alexander Fennell, Graceyn Brooke Floyd, Zoe Nicole Geddie, Ryan Adele Hilbourn, Adam Lee Hill, Bailey Raelynn Hudson, Haley Virginia Hurst, Micahla Nykol Kitchen and Jacob W. Limehouse.

Graduating Cum Laude, “with praise,” obtaining a GPA of 3.5 – 3.74, were BobbiJo Ann Beach, Sha’Dai Raquel Burch, Sarah Emily Burkett, Taylor Elizabeth Byrd, Sha’angel La’faith Chandler, Megan Lynn Chapman, Savannah Katherine Cruel, Jewel Cyrus Green, Brooke Erin Dixon, Leigh Anna Driggers, Katelyn Filyaw, Lauren Blake Fuller, Mark Gavin Hafey, Makayla Dawn Hicks, Sarah Grace McFadden, Darryl Bryant Miller Jr., Hannah Elizabeth Owens, Rachel Lauren Rhodes, Darian C. Sansbury, Jonas Patrick Smith and Betty Nicole Suggs.

After receiving their degrees, graduates recessed and met their families in the lobby of the UC.

Many students visited with their family and took photos outside of the UC.