University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations

April 15, 2008
Contact: Jennifer Z. Ekman, Office of Public Relations, (251) 460-6360

Dr. Benjamin Carson to Offer His Inspiring Story of Hope and Determination to USA Graduates at Commencement May 3

Dr. Benjamin  Carson
 Dr. Benjamin S. Carson

Dr. Benjamin Carson, who overcame many obstacles to achieve his dreams and help others, will offer his inspiring story of hope, courage and determination to University of South Alabama graduates at the University’s spring commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 3 at the USA Mitchell Center.

The ceremony marks the beginning for 1,208 graduates. USA has awarded 2,598 degrees this year and 62,325 throughout its history.

At the spring commencement ceremony, USA will award 839 bachelor’s degrees, 248 master’s degrees, 13 educational specialists degrees, 65 doctors of medicine degrees, 33 doctors of physical therapy, six doctors of audiology, and four doctors of philosophy degrees.

USA will honor Carson with a doctor of humane letters degree.


Dr. Benjamin S. Carson: A Lifetime of Achievement and Service

Benjamin S. Carson had a childhood dream of becoming a physician. But growing up in a single-parent home, and being challenged by dire poverty, poor grades as an elementary school student, a horrible temper, and low self-esteem appeared to preclude the realization of that dream, until his mother, with only a third-grade education, challenged her sons to strive for excellence. Young Ben persevered, completing his baccalaureate degree at Yale University in 1973 and his medical degree at the University of Michigan School of Medicine in 1977. Today, he is a full professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, where he has directed pediatric neurosurgery for nearly a quarter of a century.

Carson’s career highlights include the first separation of craniopagus (Siamese) twins joined at the back of the head in 1987, the first completely successful separation of type-2 vertical craniopagus twins in 1997 in South Africa, and the first successful placement of an intrauterine shunt for a hydrocephalic twin. Although Carson has performed numerous surgeries of noteworthy medical skill, he believes that every case is uniquely deserving of maximum attention. He is interested in all aspects of pediatric neurosurgery, and has a special interest in trigeminal neuralgia (severe facial pain) in adults.

Carson is a nationally and internationally respected surgeon, teacher and medical scientist and is the author of numerous scientific books and book chapters. He holds 46 honorary doctorate degrees. Carson is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, the Horatio Alger Society of Distinguished Americans, and many other prestigious organizations. He sits on the board of directors of numerous organizations, including Kellogg Company, Costco Wholesale Corporation, the Academy of Achievement, and is an Emeritus Fellow of the Yale Corporation, the governing body of Yale University. He was appointed in 2004 by President George W. Bush to serve on the President’s Council on Bioethics. He is a highly regarded motivational speaker who has addressed various audiences from school systems and civic groups to corporations and the President’s National Prayer Breakfast.

In 2001, Carson was named by CNN and Time magazine as one of the nation’s 20 foremost physicians and scientists. That same year, he was selected by the Library of Congress as one of 89 “Living Legends” on the occasion of its 200th anniversary. He is also the recipient of the 2006 Spingarn Medal, which is the highest honor bestowed by the NAACP, among literally hundreds of other awards and honors. In 2007, the Christian Booksellers presented him with their Platinum Award for selling 1 million copies of his autobiography “Gifted Hands.”

Carson is also president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, which recognizes young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments. The fund operates in 12 states and the District of Columbia. He also co-founded Angels of the OR, which provides grants to assist families with non-covered medical care expenses. Both programs are expanding nationally.

His four books, “Gifted Hands,” “ THINK BIG,” “The Big Picture” and “Take the Risk: Learning to Identify,” “Choose and Live with Acceptable Risk,” provide inspiration and insight for leading a successful life. Carson has been married for more than 30 years to his wife, Candy, and is the father of three sons.


For the graduating students, there will be reserved parking in the parking lot across from the Student Recreation Center on Jaguar Drive, which is located behind the Mitchell College of Business. Admittance to the Physical Education Building is limited to graduating students only.

Handicapped parking will be limited but is available for students, family and friends. Entrance to this parking lot will be from Old Shell Road only (behind the Mitchell Center). Proper tags must be visible for access to this lot.

SHUTTLE SERVICES (for family and guests)

Lighted (LED) signage will be set up on University Boulevard and Old Shell Road, which will direct traffic to the shuttle/parking areas.  In addition, yellow directional parking signage will be displayed. 

SHUTTLE TIMES: Shuttle services will run from noon to 6 p.m.

SHUTTLE PICKUP POINTS: University Commons, Gamma Residence Hall parking lot, and the parking lot east of the Computer Science Building.

These featured students will be available for media interviews prior to commencement, as well as between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 3, at the Waterman Globe in the MitchellCenter.

As president of the Student Government Association at the University of South Alabama, Jennifer Edwards has been an instrumental leader in bringing football to USA.

She led a student petition drive, resulting in more than 2,300 students signing their names in support of football. She organized a "History at Halftime" pep rally in early November to support football and addressed our Board of Trustees several times about the subject.

Edwards has been an important student leader and tireless advocate for the students to the administration this year. USA administrators can discuss Edwards' organizational and people skills.During her years at USA, she honed her political skills through an internship at Rep. Jo Bonner's Washington office in May 2007.

She graduated from Cleburne County High School in 2004. Her parents are Richard and Kelley Edwards.

On May 3, 2008, she will receive an interdisciplinary studies degree in business, political science and history. She plans to work in Mobile after commencement.

To reach her, call (251) 408-7619.

Tiffany Daniels receives her second degree from the University of South Alabama on Saturday, May 3.

A 2006 alumna with her undergraduate degree in speech and hearing sciences, Daniels will complete her master's in speech language pathology.

A native of Chatom, Ala., Daniels plans to move to Dallas after graduation. While in the Texas metropolis, she plans to work in the public school system as a speech therapist.

During her years at USA, Daniels has been involved in a variety of activities including the African-American Student Association, the Student Government Association, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Women of Excellence, National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, and intramural sports teams. She and two other USA alums launched IMPACT, a mentoring program for minority freshman in the fall 2007. It stands for Integrity, Motivation, Power, Achievement, Courage, and Tenacity, characteristics the program emphasizes.

After a few years of work experience, her future plans include a return to graduate school for a Ph.D. in the education field.

Daniels is the daughter of Darlene Daniels and Gary Daniels.

To interview her, call (251) 509-3717.

After growing up at the popular local Kirkland’s Barbeque, Charles Kirkland went into the restaurant business after he received his undergraduate degree in business in 1992. For the next 12 years, he owned and operated Kirkland’s Hitching Post in Gulf Shores.

Once Kirkland married a family practice physician and they had their first baby, he realized that a busy restaurant practice and a busy medical practice left them little family time. He worked at night; she worked by day. By that time, he had become interested in medicine, and he decided to make the commitment to enter medical school. It took two years of undergraduate work to take the science courses he had missed during his time as a business major, and then four years of medical school.
“The road is so long,” he said. “But I had decided I wanted to do it.”

Dr. Kirkland receives his medical degree on Saturday, May 3, and will begin a three-year residency in family medicine at the University of South Alabama Medical Center in July. He and his wife, Lynne, now have two children, 6-year-old Kirk and John Will, 3.

To interview him, call (251) 402-0688.

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