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Delta State celebrates one of the largest commencement exercises in schools history

Delta State University’s commencement speaker, Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, President of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools delivered an uplifting and inspirational keynote address that drew a standing ovation. Delta State University celebrated its 80th Spring Commencement this morning inside Walter Sillers Coliseum with one of its largest graduating classes in the school’s history.

Dr. Patricia A. Thrash is hooded by Dr. John Hilpert, Delta State University President, after being awarded an honorary degree at Delta State University’s 79th Spring Commencement, Saturday, May 13, inside Walter Sillers Coliseum. Delta State University’s commencement speaker, Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, President of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools delivered an uplifting and inspirational keynote address that drew a standing ovation.

It was a historic day inside Walter Sillers Coliseum this morning, as Delta State University celebrated its 80th Spring Commencement with one of its largest graduating classes in the school’s history.

 
Close to 500 degrees were conferred in front of a capacity crowd, as one doctor of education degree and 12 educational specialist degrees were conferred during the commencement exercise. Numerous master’s and bachelor’s degrees were awarded through the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the College of Education and the School of Nursing.
 
Commencement speaker, Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, President of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools delivered an uplifting and inspirational keynote address that drew a standing ovation. The first African-American and first woman to serve as President of the Commission, Wheelan’s distinguished career spans 32 years and includes the roles of faculty member, chief student services officer, campus provost, college president and Secretary of Education. 
 
She opened her address by asking the graduates to put their programs on the floor, to sit up tall on the edge of their seat, and when she said, to stand up and scream “Hallelujah.” Wheelan, then, laughed, “In the years to come, you may not remember your commencement speaker’s name, but you will remember she had you on the edge of your seat, screaming ‘Hallelujah.’”
 
In what she titled, “The Last Lecture,” Wheelan delivered her own Top 10 List of “things to remember now that you are in the top two percent of the world (as college graduates). You have an awesome responsibility ahead of you as future leaders. You will be in charge and I would hope you would remember the following,” she urged.
 
“One, keep dreaming. The minute you stop dreaming, you die, so always keep dreaming,” Wheelan charged. “Two, lighten up. Learn to laugh. Did you know it is biologically impossible to get an ulcer while laughing, so why not laugh? Laugh loud and laugh hard.
 
“Three, live with no regrets. Four, be as kind to the janitor as you are the President of the Board. Five, say thank you. If we lose our civility, we lose the war,” she cautioned. “Six, please continue to ask questions. Just because you are graduating today does not mean you have all the answers. Ask questions.
 
“Seven, give back. Eight, keep learning, as it is a life-long project. Nine, keep playing, and finally, ten, overcome the road blocks. Remember, we are all Americans, and American ends with ‘I can.’ You ‘can’ do it,” she ended.
 
Also, on the day, Delta State bestowed onto two of its alumni the University’s highest honor – an honorary degree. Dr. James (Jim) T. Rogers and Dr. Patricia (Patsy) A. Thrash – two leaders in the field of higher education – were conferred with the fourth- and fifth-ever honorary degrees presented by Delta State. Each received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, for which they were unanimously approved by the Institutions of Higher Learning’s Board of Trustees.

The pair has dedicated nearly their entire lives to the advancement of higher education, having served a combined 96 years. Until their retirements, they sat atop two of the nation’s six accrediting agencies in higher education.

“It is amazing that one institution produced two of the most important higher education leaders in the nation,” Dr. John M. Hilpert, Delta State President noted. “At one time, these two Delta State graduates led regional associations that accredit institutions in 30 of the 50 states.

“We are proud of these two successful alumni and thrilled that we can honor them at our Spring Commencement. Furthermore, we are proud of the history of quality education at Delta State University,” he concluded.
In response, both Rogers and Thrash showed their deep appreciation, as Rogers said, “I appreciate you allowing me to be a part of this important day.”

Thrash seconded, offering, “This is an extraordinary honor from an institution that means the world to me.”
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