Three of the University of South Alabama’s pioneers – a founding legislator, the first Student Government Association president and longtime University president – will greet the graduates during the University’s 50th Anniversary Commencement on Saturday, May 11. As USA celebrates its 50th Anniversary, it will award its 75,000th degree.
The ceremony, which will be held at 2 p.m. at the Mitchell Center, marks the beginning for 1,354 graduates, bringing the total degrees awarded for the academic year to 2,845. USA has awarded 75,202 degrees throughout its history.
At the Spring Commencement ceremony, USA will award 996 bachelor’s degrees, 248 master’s degrees, 73 doctor of medicine degrees, and 42 doctorate degrees.
USA’s creation in 1963 had a transformational impact on the Mobile region by educating and training the area’s workforce in a variety of fields, including education, health care, engineering and computing, the sciences, business and commerce, public service, and the arts and humanities.
In lieu of a traditional commencement address, founding legislator Robert Edington, first Student Government Association President Richard Nelson, ’67, and retiring USA President Gordon Moulton will share their memories of USA’s early days.
USA and the Mobile County Public School System will partner again this year to provide live streaming of the University’s Spring Commencement. The live coverage begins May 11 at 2 p.m., CDST, on the University's Web site at www.southalabama.edu. Recorded video of the event will be available online at the same address following the live Web cast.
Video streaming of all MCPSS schools to hold graduation inside the USA Mitchell Center may be seen at www.mcpss.com. A high school graduation schedule is available on the same Web site. Only Citronelle High School's graduation will not be video streamed because
it is not held inside the Mitchell Center.
Robert Edington, a Mobile attorney, served 12 years in the Alabama Legislature, first as a member of the House of Representatives, where he was instrumental in passing legislation that founded the University of South Alabama.
“The creation and operation of this University is the single biggest economic development in Mobile’s history,” Edington said. “Hundreds of Mobilians have obtained college degrees who could not have graduated without this University.”
Later, as a state senator, he actively supported establishment of the College of Medicine.
“There’s a substantial number of doctors in Mobile who are graduates of this medical school who may not have gone into medicine had it not been available right here,” Edington said.
Edington is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis and the University of Alabama Law School. He served on active duty with the Navy during the Korean War and retired with the rank of Commander.
He is a member of the USS Alabama Battleship Commission and also serves as president of the CSS Alabama Association.
Edington was named Mobilian of the Year in 2007 and Veteran of the Year in 2012.
He and his wife, Pat Edington, have two children, one a Presbyterian minister in Nashville and the other director of development of the Girl Scouts of South Alabama.
Richard Nelson was the first president of the University of South Alabama’s Student Government Association.
Nelson, who grew up on the Alabama Gulf Coast, attended the University of Alabama before transferring to the newly opened University of South Alabama. Being able to take classes close to home while he worked his way through school was an affordable and welcomed alternative for Nelson.
“It gave me an opportunity to go to school,” Nelson said. “I know there are plenty of people where that was the same story.”
Nelson earned a degree in biology, finishing his studies in 1967, before getting a master’s degree in counseling and guidance.
He worked at USA as director of the Student Center before a successful career in the insurance industry and then finance.
Nelson has five children, four of whom graduated from USA. Two also earned master’s degrees at the University. Nelson and his wife, Christie Nelson, live in Mobile.
Arriving when the University of South Alabama was just three years old, Gordon Moulton joined USA’s business faculty in 1966 and has served the institution for more than 46 years, the last 15 as president. He will retire on July 1.
Before becoming president in 1998, he served as director of the USA computer center, founding dean of the School of Computer and Information Sciences (now the School of Computing) and vice president for services and planning.
During Moulton’s presidency, USA has dramatically enhanced its educational, health care, research and economic development contributions to the state and the Gulf Coast region. Under Moulton, USA’s enrollment has grown by more than one quarter to 15,000, and the number of degrees awarded has almost doubled to more than 75,000.
Moulton led the development of the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute – the largest research endeavor in the institution’s history. The USA Health System, which consists of USA’s College of Medicine physician practice, USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, the USA Medical Center, and the Mitchell Cancer Institute, now treats more than 250,000 patients annually.
USA’s external funding for research has reached record levels under Moulton, who also led the creation of the USA Technology and Research Park, home to 16 private high-technology firms and 600 private sector employees.
USA now employs more than 5,500 and has an annual economic impact of more than $2 billion. USA generates $7 for every dollar appropriated to it by the state. Moulton’s tenure as president has included the University’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, as well as a $500 million campus building program that supports USA’s teaching, research, service and health care missions.
Among other enhancements to academic and student life, USA under Moulton created an NCAA football program and a marching band program.
In addition to more than 46 years of service, the Moultons have supported USA with more than $7 million in gifts toward numerous institutional priorities.
Moulton was awarded the Civitan Mobilian of the Year award in 2002, and the Moultons’ service is commemorated with the naming by USA’s Board of Trustees of the Gordon and Geri Moulton Bell Tower and Alumni Plaza.
A native of Donalsonville, Ga., Moulton earned his bachelor's degree in industrial management from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his master's in business administration from Emory University.
Parking and Shuttle Info:
For graduating students, there will be reserved parking in the parking lot located behind the Mitchell College of Business on Jaguar Drive. Admittance to the Physical Education Building lot 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.
Guests entering at Stadium Drive should park in the Gamma Residence Hall Parking Lot.
Parking signs are posted throughout the campus and shuttle service will be available to park in the posted areas. Directional parking signs will be displayed.
The shuttle service will run from noon-6 p.m. It will deliver guests to the Mitchell Center.
Shuttle pickup and drop-off points are University Commons, Gamma Residence Hall parking lot, Humanities Building parking lot, Administration parking lot and Jaguar Drive.
Sonia Savani will be available for media interviews from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 at the Waterman Globe at the Mitchell Center.
Sonia Savani, USA’s first undergraduate to have scored a perfect 36 on the ACT, is the senior class vice president at the USA College of Medicine and a member of the Arnold P. Gold Humanism in Medicine Honor Society and the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.
Savani was granted admission to the medical school through the University’s Early Acceptance Program.
As an undergrad, Savani was president of the Council of International Students Organization, Mortar Board Honor Society and Honors Program Organization. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science.
Savani, who is from Ocean Springs, Miss., spent the summer between her first and second years of medical school volunteering in Quito, Ecuador, as part of Manna Project International, a nonprofit community development agency. There, she planned and taught classes in English and nutrition, worked and shadowed in local clinics, and ran a public lending library and teen center.
“I have had an absolutely phenomenal experience at medical school at USA,” Savani said. “The faculty and administration are outstanding student advocates, and my classmates are amazing people who will make fantastic physicians. Such a personalized, hands-on medical education coupled with the supportive environment is truly a rare opportunity, and I consider myself very fortunate to have been given the chance to begin my journey as a physician here at the USA College of Medicine.”
Following graduation, Savani will head to Charleston, S.C., for her residency in medicine-pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“I'm really excited. It's such a wonderful program, and I know that South has done a great job preparing me for whatever I might encounter in residency,” Savani said. “No matter where my career takes me, I will always be a USA Jaguar.”