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Dec. 20, 2003

Fall 2003 Commencement at ULM

The University of Louisiana at Monroe awarded diplomas to 475 students during fall commencement exercises held at Fant-Ewing Coliseum on campus Saturday (Dec. 20). ULM President James E. Cofer Sr. conferred degrees and awarded diplomas. Dr. Charles R. McDonald, Louisiana State Representative from District 14, delivered the commencement address.

Cofer, speaking to the students about their new role in life, his commitment to them and to the university, said, "Serving you as president is my great honor, for there is a new day dawning at ULM, too. We're expanding programs, building new classrooms and laboratories, adding faculty, and 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. We will give until we're spent so that every student may have the best education. I know that the future will bring challenges and to you I say we will neither flinch in the face of struggle nor fade when great effort is required. We will not fail to lead."

McDonald then addressed the candidates. He began by saying education was the first step toward a better life.

"It is an opportunity that requires much cultivation, but always flowers with more and greater prospects. With our education, we may seek the truth, as we are called to do by the motto of our university, or we may do nothing. We may turn inwards and act only for ourselves, or we may ply our efforts to something greater. The choice is yours. When you are bold and choose to pursue your vision, do so knowing the ULM family of 50,000 alumni stands with you," said McDonald.

He went on to say, "At every step of your life, success will demand study and hard work. There is a peace that comes from investing everything you have and concentrating all your efforts to make the most of your education opportunity."

"What matters is using your unique talents and skills not just to get things for yourself, but to give things to others. As an alumnus, I know that the education you have received is not a right, but a privilege. And great privileges come with responsibilities. For too many people, no matter how far they reach, no matter how much they struggle, a college education seems always a treasure hanging just out of reach.

Every one of you has grasped that treasure, and now you have the opportunity to help others do the same. I challenge each of you to give back to ULM." Said McDonald.

Finally he congratulated the graduates and told them that the best way they could show gratitude to those who have supported them on this journey was to "make the best of your opportunities."

McDonald, a Holly Ridge native, has been an educator and is now a legislator in Louisiana. He has taught and been an administrator at the elementary, secondary, and university levels. McDonald was one of the architects of TOPS and has chaired the education committee in the Louisiana House of Representatives. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 1961 then received his M.Ed. in 1969 and his Ed.D. in 1973. McDonald then worked at ULM until he won his seat in the state legislature in 1991.

Amber Martens of West Monroe was the top graduate of the Fall 2003 class with a grade point average of 3.974. Martens, who received a bachelor of arts in elementary education, is the wife of Brandon Martens and the daughter of Marshall and Melonie Whitson.

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).

The Military Science Department commissioned two candidates as well earlier in the day. They were Joshua Wayne Culp, and Mark Anthony Skipper. They also graduated from ULM today.

Students earning advanced graduate degrees are: Kaylon Thompson French, S.S.P. (Specialist in School Psychology); Karla Griffin, S.S.P.; Ashley Sandino, S.S.P.; Allie Harris, Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) in Curriculum and Instruction; Kimberly McAlister, Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction; Rebecca Watts, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership; and Florencetta Hayes Gibson, Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) in Marriage and Family Therapy.

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