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Country music artist Darius Rucker addressed graduates Saturday morning
Country music artist Darius Rucker addressed graduates Saturday morning

USC celebrates commencement weekend 2013

By Megan Sexton, msexton@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-1421

Darius Rucker came home to the University of South Carolina on Saturday morning, urging his fellow Gamecock alumni to follow their dreams, be proud of their alma mater and give back until it hurts.

Rucker, speaking to graduates in the Colonial Life Arena, reminisced about his days on the Carolina campus, meeting his Hootie and the Blowfish bandmates in the Moore residence hall, rooting on the Gamecocks at Williams-Brice, dining at the Russell House, studying in the Thomas Cooper Library and refereeing intramural games to earn spending money.

“I’m standing up here as living proof that if you dream, your dreams can come true,” Rucker said. I hope from the bottom of my heart that y’all don’t just live your life, that you follow your dreams…Those people who aren’t afraid to chase their dreams, go far, far in life. The people who let their actions follow a path of their dreams create great things in our world. The combination of action and dreams opens the way to amazing advances in science, music, art, literature and every other walk of life.”

The country music artist, who was awarded the honorary degree doctor of music at Saturday’s ceremony, spoke of the thrill of playing a concert before 75,000 people, yet said the feeling paled in comparison to the experience of going into a hospital room and playing a song for a child going through a difficult medical treatment.

“Whether you go back to school or you go into the work force, I want you take some real time to find something in your life that makes you want to give up your day off to help. Find something that makes you want to give and give and give until it hurts,” Rucker said. “The more you give to others, the more you give to yourself, the better you feel about yourself.”

Noting the final line of the alma mater, “forever to thee,” he called on the graduates to be ambassadors for the university.

“I want you to speak well of your education here, speak well of the people that you met here, speak well of USC,” Rucker said. “When somebody says to you the real USC is in L.A., you tell them that we were a school before they were a state. When they say the real Carolina is in North Carolina, you laugh at them.”

“You go on. You do great things. You live your life and you be happy, happy, happy. And you be one thing -- be a Gamecock.”

At Saturday morning’s ceremony, students from the South Carolina Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences received their degrees. Benjamin B. Dunlap, president of Wofford College, received the honorary degree of doctor of education.

Among the students at commencement was Jennifer Deaton of Clover, S.C., who earned her degree in psychology. She will head to New York City in June to start an internship in public relations. On Saturday morning, she was remembering her parents, who died when she was in high school. Her graduation cap was decorated with the words “Remembering who I am because of who they were. I love you mom and dad.”

“I didn’t tell my family I was doing this until I put the cap on. I did not want them to be forgotten, especially since it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow,” she said. “This is the school my dad wanted me to go to. I started at College of Charleston, but I ended up where I belonged.”

Friday afternoon commencement

At Friday afternoon's commencement, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged University of South Carolina graduates to consider a life of public service.

Gates, who has spent nearly five decades in public life, said there is more to public service than what may seem – from the outside – to be a career filled with frustrations and inefficiencies.

“There’s another aspect to public service about which Americans hear very little. The idealism, the joy, the satisfaction and the fulfillment,” Gates said. “If you scratch deeply enough, you will find that those who serve, no matter how outwardly tough or jaded ... are at heart romantics, idealists and optimists. We actually believe we can make a difference, that we can improve the lives of others and that we can better the future of this country and this world.

“To serve your fellow Americans, to fulfill your responsibility, your obligation as a citizen, you don’t need to deploy to a war zone or move to a developing country or bury yourself in a cubicle,” Gates said. “You don’t have to be a CIA operative or a Navy SEAL. Everywhere, there are children to be taught, veterans to be healed, roads to build, communities to strengthen, especially in these challenging times.”

Gates called on the Class of 2013 to be leaders, able to make tough choices and work together on forging compromise and solutions.

“I ask the wise and honest among you to find new and inspiring ways to serve the American people.”

At Friday’s ceremony at the Colonial Life Arena, students from the Darla Moore School of Business, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, College of Nursing, South Carolina College of Pharmacy and the Arnold School of Public Health received their degrees.

Gates, who is chancellor of the College of William and Mary and the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, received an honorary degree of doctor of public service.

Also at the Friday ceremony, J. Brady Anderson, a former ambassador to Tanzania and the former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, received a doctor of public service honorary degree. Leo Twiggs, one of South Carolina’s preeminent artists and arts educators, received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

The university will award 4,863 degrees on its Columbia campus this weekend, including 3,098 baccalaureate degrees.

Among the graduates Friday afternoon was Aerialle Crawford of Mullins, S.C., who was receiving a degree in marketing and human resources management from the Moore School. She has accepted a job as an executive team leader with Target Corp.

Sitting in the first row were eight members – including three generations – of the Crawford family. They left home early Friday morning and waited at the door for 90 minutes before the arena opened, determined to get the best seats.

“USC has been so wonderful to us,” said Sylvia Crawford, Aerialle’s mother. “She was a Wachovia Scholar and a Jackie Robinson Scholar. She was able to meet Darla Moore before she came to Carolina and Darla took the time to talk to her. Aerialle said, ‘I’m just from the little town of Mullins, I’m not sure I belong.’ But Darla said, ‘Girl, we can do it. We’re the women of the future.’ ”

Both mother and daughter stood beaming in the crowd before commencement began.

“I texted Aerialle this morning that there are so many times I’ve been proud of her, but today, ‘proud’ is not a strong enough word.”

Heather Sweeney of Summerville, S.C., earned her bachelor of science in nursing on Friday. She said she has a job interview Monday in the labor and delivery department at Summerville Medical Center. She spent her senior capstone semester in labor and delivery and decided that was the career for her.

New graduate Allison Clinton of Rock Hill, S.C., also earned her nursing degree, and has accepted a job at Palmetto Health Richland, where she will be working with post-surgery cancer patients.

“My dad had cancer last year and that got me interested,” Clinton said, adding that her father has fully recovered.

Phanes Barno of Spartanburg, S.C., was on the arena floor, decked out in gold boots with purple laces, to honor his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. The business major has accepted a job as an international trade specialist with AFL Global in Greenville.

“These were the best four years of my life – friends, experiences, football, Columbia,” Barno said. “It’s hard to leave.”

Saturday afternoon commencement

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Philip Lader urged graduates to not lose sight of the important questions in life and to look closely at how they set their priorities. “Graduation commemorates how successfully you and your families have managed to juggle the many, many balls in your lives.”

He told graduates they need to work to understand which of the balls they juggle are the most important – including health, family, faith and security. Those are the fragile items of life, the pieces that must be handled with care so they won’t shatter.

“At the end of our lives, how have you laughed and learned and loved will depend less on our degrees or our resumes… than our answer to one question,” he said. “Which of the balls we juggle are made of glass?”

Lader, whose career has included positions in government, education, law and business, addressed graduates of the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computing, the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, the Fort Jackson Military Base Program, Interdisciplinary Programs, Palmetto Programs, the School of Music and the College of Social Work.

Also at the Saturday afternoon ceremony, Kessel Stelling Jr., chairman of the board and CEO of the Georgia-based Synovus Financial Corp., received the honorary degree doctor of business administration.

The Saturday afternoon ceremony concluded a weekend of commencement at the university, where 4,863 degree candidates were celebrated on the Columbia campus.

Philip Alexander of Greenville earned his degree in mechanical engineering Saturday afternoon. He described his time at Carolina as “awesome. I definitely made the right decision between here and Clemson. They were the only two schools I applied to. I met interesting, cool people and built relationships that will last the rest of my life.”

Katherine Kea of Irmo, S.C., earned her degree in early childhood education Saturday afternoon, and is hoping for a job teaching first graders. She said her Carolina experience was everything she imagined it would be.

“The atmosphere, the sports, all the many ways to get involved. It was wonderful,” said Kea, who was involved in the Omega Phi Alpha service sorority.

Gail Burnes of Beaufort, S.C., has spent 14 years teaching elementary school. She earned her master’s in education Saturday.

“It was always a goal to get my master’s. The idea is that I’ll go back to my school now and mentor other teachers. What I’ve learned has helped me change the way I’ll teach science.”

School of Law

Stephen Zack decided to become a lawyer when his family was being held in solitary confinement after they attempted to flee Cuba for the United States.

“We sat there for a night wondering whether we were going to live or die and whether we were ever going to see our family again,” Zack told 211 graduates from the University of South Carolina’s School of Law on Friday in the first of several ceremonies planned for commencement weekend.

Zack is a former president of the American Bar Association and the first Hispanic-American to hold that position.

“I asked myself, ‘Where are people who care about us, me and my family? Where is justice? Where is the law?’ So that moment I decided that I never wanted to feel helpless again. I decided to put on the armor of the law.”

Zack encouraged the class of 2013 to strive for greatness.

“A good lawyer will make a living. A great lawyer will make a difference,” Zack said. “Your law degree means that you have the ability to right a wrong wherever you find it. And when you do that, you truly will be a great lawyer.”

Daniel Allen Craig, a Woodruff, S.C., native and 2010 graduate of the Darla Moore School of Business, is among this year’s graduates who aspire to greatness. He earned the Hugh L. Willcox Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award and a Bronze Compleat Lawyer Award.

“Pro bono means ‘for the public good,’ ” Craig noted. “That is the essence of what a lawyer should do. I am excited to embark on my career as a lawyer and make the public and our state a better place. The law school has prepared me perfectly to be a lawyer for the public good.”

Pam Robinson, director of the school’s promo bono program, calls Craig an “amazing student.”

“Daniel is well respected by everybody at the law school,” she said. “He has been our go-to guy for any issue or need. He has the highest level of professionalism and is the cream of the crop, a natural leader.”

Graduation isn’t the only bit of happy news for Craig: He will begin working as a staff attorney at the South Carolina Supreme Court this summer and, on the eve of commencement, he became engaged to USC alumna Melissa Hyatt.

School of Medicine

Graduates of the USC School of Medicine shared laughs and a few tears at the Koger Center during Friday afternoon’s commencement.

In all, 84 students earned their degrees and many, like class president Joey Helm, will be leaving Columbia to begin their residencies at hospitals throughout the country.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling, but also a little bittersweet. It’s exciting to be moving on, but it’s sad to be leaving all my classmates and friends,” said Helm, who will be heading to Milwaukee to complete a residency in general surgery. “Patients’ lives are going to be in our hands and that’s a tremendous responsibility. With all we’ve been through to train, though, we’re ready.”

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief medical correspondent and former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control, addressed the graduates and told them they will face many unexpected challenges in the medical profession. For him, those included delivering a baby via C-Section in a remote Himalayan village and donning a biohazard suit for coverage of an Ebola outbreak in Uganda.

“Don’t lose track of what brought you to medicine in the first place, and when you are faced with a new challenge, embrace it. The bigger the challenge, the better. If you do that, you will be happy and you will make the world a better place,” Besser said.

Conferring of doctoral degrees

The Koger Center for the Arts hosted one of the most colorful commencement exercises on campus: the doctoral hooding ceremony. Modern academic costumes trace their origins to medieval European universities, and include a gown, headpiece and hood. At Saturday’s ceremony, each graduate was accompanied onstage by his or her thesis adviser, who helped hoist the hood over the newly minted doctor’s shoulders to complete the doctoral attire.

Charles Bierbauer, who became dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies in 2002 after a distinguished, award-winning career in broadcast journalism, addressed the doctoral recipients, quoting Yogi Berra’s advice that “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

“What I have truly relished about both of my related careers in journalism and academia are the forks in the road,” Bierbauer said. “The joys and the trepidation, even the thrills of uncertainty, lie along the roads less taken.”

News and Internal Communications

Posted: 05/10/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 05/15/13 @ 9:43 AM | Permalink

USC degree candidates, Spring 2013

Total, all campuses: 6,456

Total, Columbia campus: 4,863

Total, Regional campuses: 1,593


   USC COLUMBIA

   Baccalaureate: 3,098

   Law: 211

   Medicine: 84

   Pharmacy: 110

   Graduate certificate: 38

   Master's degree: 1,098

   Specialist degree: 33

   Doctoral: 191


   USC AIKEN

   Baccalaureate: 323

   Master's: 14


   USC BEAUFORT

   Associate: 2

   Baccalaureate: 185


   USC LANCASTER

   Associate: 117


   USC SALKEHATCHIE

   Associate: 178


   USC SUMTER

   Associate: 56


   USC UNION

   Associate: 50


   USC UPSTATE

   Baccalaureate: 663

   Master's: 5

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