CLEVELAND, Miss. — Delta State University held its 96th Commencement Friday, May 5, 2023 with ceremonies at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Degrees were awarded to two students receiving doctorates, 11 earning Educational Specialist degrees, 99 Master’s degrees, and 237 Bachelor’s degrees.
The morning ceremony recognized those receiving graduate degrees, and those receiving undergraduate degrees from the School of Nursing and the College of Business and Aviation. Dr. Beverly Moon, Dean Emeritus of Graduate and Continuing Studies and Professor Emeritus of English introduced Interim DSU President Dr. E. E. Caston welcomed the graduates and their guests.
He said, “Every day is a great day here at Delta State, and I know our degree candidates will fondly remember this day in particular.”
Dr. Caston spoke to the contributions of family, friends and the DSU faculty to the success of the graduates. He then brought Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Andrew Novobilski to the podium, to recognize special guests and present awards. The S. E. Kossman Outstanding Teacher Award was presented to Professor of Music Dr. Jung-Won Shin. Dr. Shin has taught in the Music Department for 15 years and is the 41st recipient of the Kossman Award.
The Provost then presented the 30th H. L. Nowell Outstanding Staff Member Award to Mrs. Ann Giger. “For 33 years, Mrs. Ann has devoted herself to the advancement of Delta State University, serving in various capacities. A phenomenal ambassador for her alma mater, she perceives the good in everyone, and can easily find silver linings in all situations. Her lasting legacy, including her infamous ‘Delta State Handshake’ – which is a hug – will be her compassion and her willingness to help others.”
Dr. Novobilski then introduced the commencement speaker, Dr. Billy Moore. Dr. Moore is the outgoing Dean of the College of Business and Aviation, and has been a DSU employee for over 37 years. Dr. Moore began his remarks by saying, “I am humbled, honored and grateful for being included in the conclusion of one chapter in your life, and the commencement of another.”
Dr. Moore shared his keys for achieving the goals that the graduates have set for themselves. “The spotlight has been placed upon you, as an individual. But for a few moments, I want to encourage you not to assume that the next part of your journey will be business as usual.”
He continued, “I want to encourage you by using two terms – the ‘me’ and the ‘we.’ I want to emphasize the importance of moving away from a culture that emphasizes the primacy of the individual and competition, to a relational culture that emphasizes collaboration and cooperation.”
Dr. Moore spoke to the necessity of taking care of oneself when contemplating the next step after graduation. “I encourage you to be open to opportunities. Don’t close the door simply because that’s not the area your degree was in. I want to encourage you to be conscious of your choices. I want to encourage you to be purposeful in your actions and intentional about your results.”
He implored the graduates to be wise about money management, and to avail themselves of the knowledge and wisdom of those who might have different viewpoints or backgrounds. “Learn how to respect the ideas and suggestions of others,” he said.
Closing with an anecdote about a circus performer being in a cage of tigers when the lights went out, he said, “When the light goes out, just keep on talking to God, cracking your whip, talking to other people, and I promise you, the lights will come back on.”
Dr. Novobilski thanked Dr. Moore for his message, then brought forward Dr. Caston to present honorary degrees. “Delta State confers honorary doctoral degrees for outstanding scholarly work, distinguished leadership or service, significant accomplishments, or exceptional philanthropic support. Today we pay tribute to two of Delta State’s finest.”
Tim and Nancy Cash Harvey have supported numerous student awards and made substantial financial contributions to campus facility renovations and special funding projects. They have contributed more than $1.9 million to support Delta State University academics and athletics, and through their efforts have generated more than $3.5 million for Delta State. In 2019, the Delta State University baseball stadium was named in their honor — the Tim and Nancy Harvey Stadium. Mr. and Mrs. Harvey continue to make outstanding contributions to Delta State University and significant impacts to the lives of students and have demonstrated distinguished leadership and service.
DSU Athletic Director and former teammate of Tim Harvey, Mike Kinnison, placed the hoods on the Harveys. Dr. Tim Harvey then took to the podium. “Thank you so much. Nancy and I humbly
but proudly stand before you today and accept this prestigious honor. We want to thank Dr. Caston, all the leadership of Delta State University, as well as the IHL board of trustees for bestowing this distinction upon us. However, this is not our day. This is a day about celebrating the achievements of our graduates and all those that instructed and supported you along the journey. So we thank you for allowing us to share this special day of recognition. Thank you.”
Degrees were then presented to the graduates. Doctoral students were first, followed by Education Specialists, Master’s degrees, then Bachelor’s. Dr. Caston then addressed the graduates. “Upon the recommendation of the Provost, and by the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning in the State of Mississippi, I confer upon each student, subject to the completion of all requirements, as certified by the Registrar, the appropriate doctoral, Educational Specialist, master’s and bachelor’s degree, with all traditional rights, privileges and responsibilities. Congratulations, graduates.”
Director of Alumni Affairs Corley Mullins then spoke to the graduates. “I’m honored to be one of the first to congratulate you on the tremendous achievement of earning your degree from this great university, and to welcome you into the Delta State alumni family.” Mullins then implored the graduates to take advantage of the network of over 35,000 alumni in every state across the country and invited the graduates to stay involved and committed to their alma mater.
“We believe that the Delta State experience is a life-long one,” she said. “That is why we are gifting each graduate here today your first year in the Delta State Alumni Association.” She then invited the graduates and their guests to a reception at the Alumni House following the ceremony.
Dr. Caston returned to the podium for one last time. “I encourage you to view your college education as a trust that commits you to a lifetime of learning and of service. Thank you for being an integral part of this university and know that we will always welcome you back with open arms.”
The 2:00 p.m. ceremony recognized all graduates receiving undergraduate degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education and Human Sciences. It followed a similar program to the morning ceremony. Prior to the presentation of the degree candidates, Dr. Novobilski asked Dr. Moon to call forward the students eligible for the Doyce Stallings Mitchell Honor Diploma by graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Christina Taylor Alford of Greenwood, Bailey Renee Didon of McComb, Kelly Wells Foster of Flowood, Ariana Spaulding of Horn Lake, Katie Huff of Brandon, Deniz Sari of Germany, and Catherine Elizabeth Simpson of Canton were recognized for this honor.
Dr. Caston again congratulated the graduates, and Director of Alumni Affairs Mullins welcomed them to the Alumni Association. Dr. Edward Lovin, Vice President of Student Affairs led the recessional and the ceremony was concluded.
Before and after each ceremony, graduates visited with guests and classmates, and reflected on their time at Delta State. Graduating with a Master’s in Sport and Human Performance, SGA Vice President Madison Lavoie said, “It’s going to be very hard to leave. This is a DSU family, so, no matter what, even after graduation I’m definitely coming back and supporting my family.”
Director of Career Services Nakikke Wallace graduated with an Educational Specialist degree. She said, “I’m happy to be graduating. I’m graduating out of this program as one of two, with my colleague Tiffany (Gaskin). Delta State is a great place to be.”
Dominique Killins, a Business Administration major from Jacksonville, FL, and a member of the DSU football team said, “It’s been a tough time with the schoolwork, but the fact that I’m done, finished…it’s a relief off my shoulders. Football got me through it. I’m just happy to be here.” When asked what’s next, he said, “I’m coming back to grad school to get my graduate degree in Healthcare Administration and I’m coming back for football to get another ring.”
Rayford Jones, an Interdisciplinary Studies major from Clarksdale said, “My time at Delta State has been an eye-opening experience. It opened me up to a lot of different opportunities that I didn’t see at first and it gave me an outstanding view of life and I would recommend to anybody that they should come to Delta State.”
Deniz Sari, a psychology major from Kadeneach, Germany, said, “I enjoyed my time here. I appreciate the campus, the community…it’s like a family here.”
To view the recording of the ceremonies, visit livestream.com/deltastateuniversity.