It's one of life's major milestones, an occasion rife with giddy excitement, where years of effort end with a nervous walk across a stage, a handshake and a degree bestowed- it's commencement day.

Many Sam Houston State University students are only beginning to believe they'll be graduating Saturday in Johnson Coliseum, where the ceremony starts at 10 a.m. With final exams ending just this Wednesday, it's a time when graduates can forget the stress of deadlines for a while before the unpleasant chore of moving is faced and job hunting starts in earnest.

Aside from getting that sheepskin, the most memorable part of many a graduation ceremony is the commencement speaker's stirring sentiments. This semester's honored speaker, state Attorney General Dan Morales, will impart words of wisdom to around 1,000 graduates along with their well-wishers, who generally fill the coliseum to capacity.

Morales is far from a novice at public speaking, having begun his public service career in 1983 as assistant district attorney of Bexar County two years after earning a law degree at Harvard University. Another two years saw Morales win the first of three straight elections to the Texas House of Representatives, where he was prominent in passing crime-related legislation.

During his legislative career Morales labored to pass "truth-in-sentencing" laws, he championed the rights of crime victims and sponsored legislation addressing family violence, still considered a model for such laws.

Morales could fill a good-sized trophy room with the awards showered upon him. Some of his more prestigious honors include; the Outstanding Texas Leadership award from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the Outstanding Freshman award from the Dallas Morning News, the Outstanding Leadership award from Texans War on Drugs and he's a two-time winner of the Good Guy Award from the Texas Women's Political Caucus.

Following Morales comes well-deserved recognition of retiring and outstanding faculty members.

Receiving the Excellence in Service Award will be William Fleming, professor of English; the Excellence in Research Award is going to William Kilbourne, professor of marketing; and Victor Sower, assistant professor of management, will get the coveted Excellence in Teaching Award.

Four retiring faculty members will be honored for years of service: Paul Gentry, instructor of management and marketing and a faculty member since 1982; Hugh Hall, professor of physics at SHSU since 1967; and Carl Harris, professor of education and former dean of education who has served the school since 1970.

Then comes the conferring of degrees by interim President Bobby K. Marks to as many as 1,020 students who have applied for degrees. "Auld Lang Syne" and the Henry Purcell recessional played by the Sam Houston Brass Quintet will conclude the ceremony.


Written by Paul Sturrock.

May 7, 1996