During the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith’s 102 commencement ceremony held Saturday, December 14, UAFS Alumnus Tony Jones encouraged graduates to carry forward the lessons learned on campus, both academic lessons and life lessons, in all they do.
“This campus, this town, and this community hold a special place in my heart because of our shared story as UAFS Lions,” Jones, a 2016 UAFS alumnus and University of Arkansas School of Law Juris Doctorate candidate began. “We came here, we learned here, and now we are off to the next step – not forgetting where we came from.”
“The lessons that you learned on campus will carry you into the next chapter of your life,” Jones continued. “For some of you, these lessons will be used to mold young minds, for others, they will be used to comfort a patient in a tough time or to move the gears of industry forward. They will help you grow a family and strengthen the one you have. Because of these lessons, you will be able to go out there and make this world better. Because of this place, you will know how to face adversity, stand up and promote justice, and spread a little kindness when the world needs it.”
“And as you move away from this season, always strive to go the extra mile in a way that will uplift your family, your job, and your life,” he said, inviting graduates to find their own meaning of that ‘extra’ mile. “Foster better relationships with people in the community. Expand the UAFS embrace across the world. Volunteer on campus or be a mentor. Serve the less fortunate, or just be a respectful human being.”
Looking out into the crowd, Jones concluded, with a smile, “I speak from experience when I say because you are a UAFS lion, you are well on your way.”
UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley, in her first commencement ceremony as chancellor, applauded students for their hard work and dedication in reaching this milestone in their educational journey. She noted the incredible commitment it takes to complete classes and also the drive students must have to do so while running homes and businesses, serving in organizations and volunteer positions, playing sports, and creating art.
“When you graduate today, you are more competitive than your peers who will be going up against you for jobs or admissions into graduate and professional programs,” Riley beamed. “You’ve sacrificed much to be in this place today and to earn the degrees that undoubtedly will open so many doors and allow you to achieve your personal and professional goals and dreams.”
“It is the great privilege of our faculty, staff, and administration to have accompanied you on this wonderful educational journey, and we are so proud of all that you’ve achieved,” Riley said. She welcomed graduates to stay in touch with the university, “so that as you fulfill your dreams and accomplish great things, we will be here to celebrate you.”
“And we hope you remember: Once a Lion, Always a Lion.”
The 10 a.m. ceremony honored 610 students completing graduation requirements during the second summer and fall semesters, including six masters degree candidates, 419 bachelor’s degree candidates, 109 associate degree candidates, 20 technical certificate candidates and 47 certificates of proficiency candidates.
Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, also spoke briefly, welcoming and congratulating students for their place among the elite percentage of the population who have earned college degrees. “I’m very excited about the future that lies in front of you as you leave this institution,” he said, reminding graduates of the incredible advantage a college education gives professionals. Thirty-three million Americans began a college program and never finished, he said, so to have completed the courses and earned a degree is even more extraordinary.
In addition to Riley, UAFS administrators presenting candidates were Dr. Georgia Hale, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs; Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology; Dr. Ashok Subramanian, dean of the College of Business; Dr. Paulette Miekel, associate dean of the College of Communication, Languages, Arts and Social Sciences; Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and interim dean of the College of Health Sciences; Dr. Norm Dennis, senior associate dean for the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; and Wayne Womack, registrar.
Christopher Cluck, chair of the UAFS Alumni Advisory Council, welcomed new graduates into the alumni association after alumni director Rick Goins presented each with a bell tower pin signifying their new alumni status. Dr. Susan Simkowski, chair of the Faculty Senate, chief marshal, and bearer of the mace, gave the call to order and adjournment.
The UAFS Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Alexandra Zacharella, director of bands, and soloist Kody Goad, UAFS music major, provided the music.
Pre-ceremony music and a post-recessional bell peal were performed on the Donald W. Reynolds Bell Tower Carillon by Dr. Stephen Husarik, head carillonneur.