KENNESAW — Nearly 3,000 friends and family members streamed into the Kennesaw State University Convocation Center on Thursday to see about 280 students graduate from the school’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
College President Daniel S. Papp recognized the solemnity of the occasion during his welcome.
“This ceremony represents a major milestone in the lives of the men and women who are being recognized for their academic achievements,” he told the doctorate, specialist and master’s degree candidates. “Those of you who are about to graduate at this afternoon’s ceremony learned many things while at KSU. But most importantly, you gained the courage and the dedication to make your dreams reality and the wisdom to become a leader.”
Papp said a college degree has great value in terms of health, economics and quality of life.
“As college graduates, the chances are that you will live longer, have a fuller life and make more money than if you did not graduate from college,” he said.
Conducting a “final final exam,” Papp asked the candidates to stand if besides being students, they held down one or more jobs, served in the military, hailed from other countries, volunteered at nonprofits or were parents.
“Obviously, you are an impressive and diverse group of candidates,” he said.
The diversity continued to the podium, where his last question — “Are you tweeting now?” — garnered laughter as several college deans stood, waving their smartphones.
Historical school traditions, including bagpipe music from Marietta musician Tom Crawford and the singing of the alma mater “Kennesaw, Dear Kennesaw,” mixed with references to new technology and live video streaming over the Internet.
In keeping with school customs, its newest dean, political science head Dr. Robert H. “Robin” Dorff, gave the commencement address.
He said although each graduate matriculated on the same campus, each had a unique and personal experience.
“You graduates are not here today having done exactly the same things in exactly the same ways over the same amount of time,” Dorff said. “Each of you has a different story.”
In a speech heavy with automotive metaphors, Dorff urged his listeners not to “text while driving through life” and not to live life looking only through “the rear view mirror.”
“Remember the rear view mirror as you plan,” he said. “It’s not as often a clear path as the one seen out the front windshield.”
Dorff reminded his audience of the importance of excellence, even during short jaunts through employment, volunteer service or other opportunities.
“Do your best,” he said, “even if you think what you’re doing at that moment is just a short side trip along the way.”
Using examples from history — President Abraham Lincoln, 1936 Olympic medalists Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf, Microsoft founder Bill Gates — Dorff encouraged graduates to find their niches and flourish there.
“It’s not about what you’ve done or not done,” he said. “It’s certainly not about continuing to live in the rear view mirror. It’s about finding something at each step you have a passion for, being confident new doors will open.”
Ken Harmon, provost and vice president for academic affairs, presented the candidates for degrees.
“I congratulate you for your dedication and persistence, which helped you achieve your educational goals,” he said. “My sincere wish is that you have had a very positive KSU experience and that you see graduation as one stop in a very long and prosperous life journey.”
Harmon introduced the deans of the other schools.
Then, led by the student marshals, the graduates filed by rows of 12 toward the stage.
Executive Director of the Center for Election Systems Merle King read the graduates’ names to varying responses from the audience — cheers, applause, whoops and musical instrument bursts.
With a handshake from Dorff and receipt of their booklet-bound diploma, the gold-ribboned graduates switched the sides of their tassels from right to left on black mortarboard hats, some of which were customized with legends like “Next Stop, Law School.”
Rena Ead, an east Cobb native who earned a degree in psychology, said she wrote “Veni Vidi Vici” on her mortarboard for a reason.
“Because I struggled so much in school, that particular phrase means everything because it’s true,” the Lassiter High School graduate said. “I came to school, I saw what I needed to accomplish and I conquered it.”
Ead, 25 and a Roswell resident, said she took five years to earn her bachelor’s degree.
“I took my time because I wanted to make sure I passed all my classes, and I was working at the same time,” said the manager of Roswell pottery studio My Playground. “I recommend to other people to take their time in school.”
In addition, Ead, who will pursue graduate school and is interested in pet-assisted therapy for human patients, recommends a support network like she had with Marietta resident Lauren Stine.
“She was a backbone for me,” Ead said. “We freaked out together during papers and tests.”
More than 1,700 students will participate in winter commencements this week. The Coles College of Business and Bagwell College of Education will graduate today at 10 a.m. The College of the Arts, WellStar College of Health and Human Services, College of Science and Mathematics, University College, will get their diplomas today at 3 p.m.