USA Adds Second Commencement and Speaker to Accommodate Increasing Number of Graduates


Posted on March 5, 2015 by Alice Jackson
Alice Jackson


Dr. Richard Lapchick, left, an internationally recognized sports sociologist, and U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus will be the spring 2015 commencement speakers.  data-lightbox='featured'
Dr. Richard Lapchick, left, an internationally recognized sports sociologist, and U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus will be the 2015 Spring Commencement speakers.

Graduates at the University of South Alabama’s Spring Commencement on May 9 will be the first in the University’s history to receive their diplomas in two separate ceremonies held the same day in the Mitchell Center.

The first ceremony will be at 9:30 a.m. with speaker Dr. Richard Lapchick, an internationally recognized sports sociologist. The second ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. with U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus as speaker. On Thursday, March 5, the Academic and Student Affairs Committee of the USA Board of Trustees recommended honoring both Lapchick and Mabus with an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree. The full board will consider the recommendation at their meeting on Friday, March 6.

The move to two commencement ceremonies each spring and fall has been discussed for some time. “The commencement committee, which is chaired by our registrar, Ms. Kelly Osterbind, has been monitoring attendance at our commencement ceremonies over the past several years,” said Dr. David Johnson, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Spring Commencement, in particular, has grown in attendance, and we are now at the point that the Mitchell Center can no longer accommodate any growth in the number of graduates and their guests in a single ceremony.”

Established in 1963, USA awarded 88 diplomas at its first commencement ceremony on June 11, 1967. At the 2014 Spring Commencement, there were 1,391 candidates for graduationThe number of graduates is traditionally lower at Fall Commencement, held each December, but those numbers are also increasing. Johnson said holding two ceremonies “will allow us to keep up with the growth of the University, and, in particular, in the number of graduates, for the next several years.”

The following degree candidates will participate in the 9:30 a.m. ceremony:

Undergraduate Degrees

  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • School of Computing
  • School of Continuing Education and Special Programs
  • College of Education

Graduate Degrees

  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • School of Computing
  • College of Education
  • Graduate School, master of science in environmental technology

Doctorate Degrees

  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • College of Education
  • Graduate School, clinical psychology
  • College of Medicine

The following degree candidates will participate in the 2 p.m. ceremony:

Undergraduate Degrees

  • Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions
  • Mitchell College of Business
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Nursing

Graduate Degrees

  • Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions
  • Mitchell of College of Business
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Nursing

Doctorate Degrees

  • Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions
  • College of Nursing

Dr. Richard Lapchick

Lapchick is often described as “the racial conscience of sport” for his work as a human rights activist and pioneer for racial equality as well as studies on sports and social issues.

In 2001, he accepted an endowed chair at the University of Central Florida to launch the DeVos Sports Business Management Program, named as one of the nation’s top five programs by “The Wall Street Journal,” “The New York Times,” and “ESPN, The Magazine.” In 2009, it was named the nation’s top MBA program for volunteer service.

Lapchick, who has a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and a doctorate from the University of Denver, is a regular columnist for ESPN.com and “The Sports Business Journal.” He has written more than 550 articles and given more than 2,800 public speeches, including to the U.S. Congress, at the United Nations and in the European Parliament. He is presently writing his 17th book.

Considered among the nation’s experts on sport and social issues, Lapchick has appeared numerous times on “Good Morning America,” “Face the Nation,” “The Today Show,” “ABC World News,” “NBC Nightly News,” “CBS Evening News,” CNN and ESPN as well as numerous other news broadcasts.

Ray Mabus

As Secretary of the Navy, Mabus leads America’s Navy and Marine Corps. He oversees all affairs of the Department of the Navy, including recruiting, organizing, equipping, training and mobilizing. Additionally, he oversees the construction and repair of naval ships, aircraft and facilities and formulates and implements policies and programs consistent with national security policies. Mabus is responsible for an annual budget of more than $170 billion and leadership of almost 900,000 people. 

A native of Ackerman, Miss., he received an undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi, a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from Harvard University.

From 1988 until 1992, Mabus served as Governor of Mississippi, the youngest person elected to the office in more than 150 years. He was ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 1994 until 1996. Later, he was chairman and CEO of a manufacturing company.

In June 2010, President Obama appointment Mabus to prepare a long-term recovery plan for the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Mabus’ report was released in September 2010, and it was passed into law with most of its recommendations intact by Congress as the Restore Act. Included in the legislation was a fund to aid in the Gulf Coast’s recovery by distributing 80 percent of any civil penalties awarded as a result of the damage caused by the disaster. To date, civil penalties total more than $1 billion.


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