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May 22, 2004

ULM Spring 2004 Graduates Receive Diplomas

The Spring 2004 commencement was held today at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The ceremony began at 2 p.m. in Fant-Ewing Coliseum on the campus of ULM. Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance, Robert Wooley, addressed the 592 graduates.

Wooley, a graduate of Northeast Louisiana University (now ULM), talked to the students about how much his life and the world around him has changed since he graduated from their school 30 years ago. He described to them an early university computer class in the 1970's that worked on a program called Fourtran Four.

"Computer class often involved a bunch of us students huddling around the university's one and only computer, a huge metal mainframe that housed all of the school's information."

"We would use these little punch cards to develop our computer program, and then feed the cards into the computer. If you made a mistake and punched the wrong hole on your punch card, the computer would stop "computing" and spit your card back out with a "syntax error." That meant you messed up and had to start all over again. No Microsoft Word with spell checkjust Fortran Four and punch cards."

There is obviously a change in the world of computers and they way technology is taught, but he told them the basic principles of education they learned at ULM would never change.

"What your education has bought you is the ability to learn how to study problems and break them down piece by piece to develop a solution. Your education has taught you how to studylike how you learned to study for exams in college. Real life, life after college, whether it takes you into the job force, graduate school, or somewhere else, is like studying for a test. You're faced with problems and you have to figure out the solutions."

He also spoke of one of the issues he faces in his role as the state's commissioner of insurance. He said, "One of the first problems I was faced with when I took office was a lack of companies writing homeowners insurance in Louisiana. While this is still a challenge, I have used the basic principles of education to address it."

He said this was no simple or easy task, but the concept of achieving this goal is quite simple. "Identify your problem, break it down into parts, figure out a solution and then work to reach that solution."

He has been successful so far saying that five companies have agreed to write new business in our state, with several more companies close behind.

The commissioner ended with a quote from a famous Louisianan, Julien Poydras (Poydras Street in New Orleans in named after him). Poydras was a soldier in the Spanish Army. He was also a peddler, which is how he began his merchant life, and how he made his fortune. He was also a poet, the director of Louisiana's first bank and the president of Louisiana's first Constitutional Convention. He was also a public benefactor and made a large monetary donation to Pointe Coupee Parish for the founding of a school.

"In a speech to the Legislature in 1809, Poydras ended his talks with this thought, "I shall at least enjoy the consolation of having neglected nothing that could contribute to success.' What Poydras was saying in 1809 was true in 1974, and it's still true today."

Robert Wooley was elected Commissioner of Insurance in November 2003. He is Louisiana's 11th Commissioner of Insurance.

Wooley enrolled in Northeast Louisiana University in 1971 with two honors scholarships. He was a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and was chosen by the faculty as the Outstanding Graduating Senior in the College of Business. Wooley graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1974 with a degree in Business Administration. In 1977, he received his law degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

After graduation, Wooley entered private law practice in Ferriday, Louisiana. He later served as Executive Counsel and First Assistant in the Secretary of State's office. He was a sole law practitioner and a political and governmental relations consultant before returning to state government in 1999 as Chief Deputy of the Department of Insurance.

ULM President, Dr. James E. Cofer, Sr., also addressed the graduates today.

Cofer promised the graduates that the university will be relentless in its pursuit of change, growth, and improvements. He said, "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."

He continued, "But I want a promise from each of you, too. I ask you to remember always the pride you feel right now. How hard you worked, how much you learned, what this place means to you. Remember the instructor who inspired you, the classmates who helped you, and the people you saw as you walked campus. Remember the everyday things. The man in Schulze who always asked how your day was, the woman in Admin who sang while she cleaned, the librarian who could find anything. Remember how alma mater, our foster mother, changed you. Remember and Envision. Envision what ULM can do for others. The lives that will be transformed right here ­ next month, and next year. So we celebrate today ­ who you are, who you will become, and the great tasks placed before you. Go out from this place well prepared, confident, and eager for every challenge the new day will bring. And have no doubt that unto whom much is given, much will be required."

Two graduates were recognized this Spring for their academic achievements at ULM. Joanna Dawn Johnson, from Monroe, is the daughter of Larry and Ginger Johnson. Joanna is a General Studies major in the College of Arts and Sciences. She completed her coursework at ULM with an overall grade-point average of 4.0. Kathaleen Elizabeth Ragle, from Mantua, Ohio, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Warren Ragle. She is a nursing major in the College of Health Sciences. She completed her coursework at ULM with an overall grade-point average of 4.0.

These two graduates are only two of 77 graduates who have earned a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and Top Honor recognition at this university since its inception.

There were 75 who graduated in the pharmD program and received the doctor of pharmacy. There were also 29 master of arts degrees awarded; 4 received the master of arts in teaching; 15 received the master of business administration; 22 received the master of education; 6 received the master of music; and 18 received the master of science degree. James Daniel Nevala received the specialist in school psychology and Shamima Khan received the doctor of philosophy in pharmacy.

Two ULM graduates, Michael James Poche and John Francis Robichaux, were commissioned as 2nd lieutenant the United States Army earlier this week.

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