Sam Houston State University’s 2008 spring commencement exercises may be long remembered as the busiest in recent years.
The first group of a record number of candidates received their diplomas Friday night at Johnson Coliseum amid cheering and applauding.
SHSU President James Gaertner conferred degrees for 310 candidates in the College of Arts and Sciences, including master’s and bachelor’s degrees.
The 310 graduates are among a record 1,654 students who applied for degrees, surpassing last spring’s group by around 200.
The remaining 1,344 students in the Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences and Business Administration and Colleges of Education and Criminal Justice will receive their diplomas today.
The first ceremony starts at 10 a.m. when 630 candidates are scheduled to walk across the stage, while 714 are on the list for the 2 p.m. ceremony.
Trisha S. Pollard, a 1974 SHSU graduate who later earned her law degree and is now a member of SHSU’s board of regents, will speak at the two ceremonies.
Friday night’s ceremony opened with the SHSU Brass Ensemble performing Pomp and Circumstance as the candidates took their seats and cheers erupted from all corners of the coliseum.
Parents, family and friends waved with enthusiasm as they got a glimpse of their candidate, hoping they would notice the hand-waving and cheers.
“We’re very pleased that you’re with us tonight to celebrate this commencement event,” Gaertner said.
He later went on to thank those who played roles in assisting the graduates during their time at SHSU, even asking them to stand and be recognized by a round of applause for their efforts.
Further acknowledging the effort involved with the spring graduating class, Gaertner reported that more than half of the students are first generation graduates, and their ages range from 20 to 71 years old.
Guest speaker Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout, curator of anthropology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, paid his respects to those graduating this year.
“You’ve achieved a hard-earned degree. Here’s looking at you,” he said.
At that, the crowd’s applause again burst through air.
The native of Belgium reassured students that their future was a promising one.
“Yes, you can find a job,” he said. “You need to make a difference, but remember to have fun.
“It’s never bad to say, ‘I don’t know; let me find out for you,’ because it shows that you know your limits.”
Van Tuerenhout then gave students their final instructions.
“Say thanks to those who support you,” he said. “Turn around and embrace them. Tell them how proud you are, and how much you appreciate them. I salute you. I congratulate you. Thank you, and good luck.”
The students received their diplomas and friends and family in the crowd showed their jubilation for those completing another task in their lives.
“I love you baby!” was screamed out from somewhere high up in the stands.
A father literally raced down the stairs to the railing so he could take a picture of his quickly passing daughter on her way back to her seat. He made it just in time.
And as she passed and he turned to walk back up the stairs, he wiped the sweat from his brow, and a proud, loving smile came slowly to his face.
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