It started with Jason Howell, a PhD candidate in finance, and ended with Whitney Williams, a risk management major from Royston, Ga. In between, 797 names from the Terry College’s Class of 2010 were called out to the audience of several thousand family members and friends.
One by one, the graduates crossed the stage, shaking hands with Provost Jere Morehead, keynote speaker Dan Amos, their department heads, and Dean Robert Sumichrast, who handed each graduate a print of Brooks Hall.
It took 67 minutes to read all the names. But, in the end, that was the whole point. For the first time, students from every degree program at Terry gathered together for a couple of hours inside Stegeman Coliseum in order to have their very individual moment of recognition, fittingly adorned with pomp and circumstance.
Though degrees are officially conferred at UGA’s May 8 commencement exercises, Terry’s inaugural Graduation Convocation on May 1 accomplished what Dean Sumichrast said he hoped it would do: It gave graduating students — especially undergraduates — an occasion to be personally recognized, which is impossible to do at a campuswide commencement ceremony the size of UGA’s.
"I loved having the event with my Terry classmates," said Mike Naghshineh, a First Honor Graduate and finance major from Marietta, Ga. "It was great to see everyone together, and it made me realize just how many meaningful relationships I've formed over the past four years. It was a lot of fun."
Naghshineh and the other graduates heard remarks from Morehead, who noted that this year marks the centennial of UGA’s Graduate School and the 225th anniversary of the university’s founding, as well as a keynote speech by Amos, the chairman and CEO of Aflac Inc. and a 1973 graduate of Terry.
Amos referenced seismic events in the nation’s history like the fall of the Berlin Wall and New York’s Twin Towers, expressing amazement at all that has happened in the 37 years since he graduated.
"Throughout the triumphs and the tragedies, the misdeeds and majesties, two things have remained constant: We live in the greatest country in the world. And you cannot predict the future; you can only prepare for it," he said.
Amos told the graduates success should not be measured in material possessions. "Having a passion for what you do is the common denominator shared by all successful people, regardless of their jobs.
"I would suggest to you that in order to be happy — in order to be successful — you have to have a passion for what you choose to do. … If your heart is not in what you’re doing, then do something else."
Ultimately, Amos said, your success will be measured in the number of lives you touch.
"My message to you is that, as you seek your treasure, take the time to treasure what matters most in your life: your God, your family, your friends, the people that are close to you. Years from now, when you look back, you’ll be glad."