University of South Carolina

Graduates urged to create a 'culture of us'

A self-confessed aficionado of fast cars and Elvis Presley encouraged the graduates of the University of South Carolina Saturday to make a commitment to public service and help the great institutions from which they have benefited.

Delivering the commencement address to graduates of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences and S.C. Honors College, Wayne Clough said, “Now, it is your time to give back to our society.”  

Wayne Clough
Wayne Clough

As secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the former president of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Clough has a strong background in the types of institutions that provide a constant in a changing world.

“Give your institutions your support,” said Clough, who was awarded an honorary doctorate of engineering. “Speak clearly with your voices to their enduring value, and, if you are willing, offer your time in public service at least for some time in your life.”

“We all have seen the emptiness created by greed, selfishness and a focus on ‘me,’ ” he said. “Let us leave this behind and create a culture of ‘us.’ ”

For some in the audience, the path to a degree was long and fraught with uncertainty.

Mike Davis of Columbia, a running back for the Gamecocks’ football team, proudly displayed his jersey number, 25, -- using masking tape on the back of his black robe. He’s headed to the Buffalo Bills on May 19, hoping for a coveted career in the NFL.

Few were more jubilant than Davis, who walked through the crowd shaking hands.

“It means a lot to me to be here today,” said Davis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology and plans to pursue a master’s in psychology one day. “So many great athletes have been here. So many great students have been here and are here today. To be in the same room with them is great.”

The day was one for personal satisfaction.

“A lot of people never expected me to graduate,” he said. “I’m an athlete. I went to a high school that doesn’t have a lot of college graduates. But I was determined to finish, and I did.”

Tyler Lamb of Columbia took two years off during his college career to work and focus on what he wanted to do with his education.

“Today is a relief,” said Lamb, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science.


The uncertain job market has Lamb eyeing the Peace Corps and graduate school.

“But I’m also looking for a job.”

Max Nelson of Lewisburg, W.Va., who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, has his mind set on one thing: job interviews.

“I’m looking all over the Southeast,” he said, “I never imagined that it would be this difficult.”

But Nelson is certain that his tenure at Carolina has prepared him for the workforce.

“I’m 100 percent pleased with my education and the professors that I’ve had,” he said. “They’ve all been very helpful. I’m ready.”

With a master’s degree in geology in hand, Jessica Mason of Fairfax, Va., heads out into the world with a job at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

“In this market, I’m happy to have anything,” said Mason, whose childhood fascination with volcanoes led to an interest in geology.

And although she’s not likely to come into contact with many volcanoes in her everyday life in the Palmetto State, she did get to study undersea volcanoes during a research mission near the Galapagos Islands.

“It was a once-in-a lifetime experience,” she said.

Don Fowler, an advertising executive and political consultant and former chair of the Democratic National Committee, will speak at 3:30 p.m., at the last bachelor’s and master’s degree commencement exercise.

The university will award 91 doctoral degrees at a 1 p.m. ceremony at the Koger Center. Dr. Michael Amiridis, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, will speak.

During commencement ceremonies May 8 and 9, the university will award five associate’s degrees, 2,676 baccalaureate degrees, 235 law degrees, 68 medical degrees, 120 pharmacy degrees, 33 certificates, 1,016 master’s degrees and 28 specialist’s degrees from its Columbia campus.

Saturday (May 9) schedule
At Colonial Life Arena


   3:30 p.m.

  • College of Education
  • College of Engineering and Computing
  • College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management
  • Fort Jackson Military Base Program
  • Interdisciplinary Programs
  • School of Music
  • College of Social Work
  • Palmetto Programs
  • Speaker: Donald L. Fowler, advertising executive and political consultant and former chair of the Democratic National Committee

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 05/09/09 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 05/09/09 @ 6:06 PM | Permalink