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May 13, 2000

ULM awards degrees to first graduates of 21st century

The University of Louisiana at Monroe conferred 569 degrees during Spring Commencement Ceremonies Saturday at Fant-Ewing Coliseum. The new graduates became the University's first class of the 21st century.

Dr. Mark A. Emmert, Chancellor of Louisiana State University A&M College in Baton Rouge was the keynote speaker. As chief executive officer of the largest campus of the LSU System, Emmert is responsible for all elements of administration of the Research I, land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant university with an enrollment of 30,000.

Emmert urged the new graduating class to recognize their good luck at graduating at the start of the 21st century.

"We live in times that historians will record as a watershed time of our civilization," Emmert said. "(But) Do not spend your retirement years thinking you were too timid. Don't be afraid to take chances."

He also told the students that they were the members of "a very exclusive social club" but one that owed a debt to the community.

"You must be prepared to answer the call of your community," Emmert said. "It does not take heroic action to be a good citizen, but it does take action."

And in closing, Emmert reminded the new graduates that "your success or failure in life is ultimately dependent on you. It's you talent, your hard work and your persistence that earned your degree."

ULM President Lawson L. Swearingen, Jr., pointed out during his remarks that the new graduates had left their own legacy at the University.

"On occasions such as this, we are understandably proud of the fact that the University of Louisiana at Monroe has the highest graduation rate in Louisiana among all of our open admissions institutions," Swearingen said. "In addition, over the past year, ULM has the highest percentage of increase in graduation rates among the institutions in the University of Louisiana System. That speaks well of our graduates and our faculty.

The spring class of 2000 -- your class -- leaves here far better prepared than most young people in Louisiana today because you have earned a university diploma. This sets you apart, and gives you a real advantage in life now as well as in the future."

Swearingen awarded degrees to 168 students who finished with top honors. A total of 20 graduated summa cum laude (3.8-4.0 GPA); 59 magna cum laude (3.5-3.79 GPA); and 89 cum laude (3.2-3.49 GPA).

Bridgette Dawn Thompson of Springhill, an English major in the College of Liberal Arts, claimed "Top Graduate" honors with a perfect 4.0 cumulative grade-point average. Thompson is the 68th of more than 50,000 students in the history of the University to have ever graduated with a perfect 4.0.

Five students received advanced graduate degrees. Holly Sue Bayne Casey and Dorothy Culpepper Schween, both of Monroe, received the Doctor of Education. The Doctor of Philosophy was awarded to Conrad Wen Hua Dhing of Kuching, Malaysia; Rahnish Mishra of Bombay, India; and Mohammed Ateequr Rahman of Hyderabad, India.

In addition, Mr. James Altick, prominent Monroe banker and civic leader, was awarded ULM's 11th honorary doctorate in recognition of his many contributions to the University, community and region.

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