After taking a momentous walk across the stage, nearly 140 graduates entered a new chapter in their lives during the summer commencement ceremonies at the F.G. Clark Activity Center. Chief student marshal Railen Parker cherished the moment to lead fellow graduates in to receive bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in several disciplines.
For Parker, a speech language pathology major, choosing an institution that had close family ties was crucial in her decision. As Parker made her journey to Southern, her sister, Raquel, welcomed her with open arms. Through her experience, she learned valuable life lessons.
“Southern has taught me that nothing will be given to me, and in some situations, I may have to work twice as hard to get it done,” Parker said. “However, in the end, it will all be worth it. I know that my future is bright because of the hard work and dedication I put forth during my matriculation at Southern University.”
Parker’s next steps include attending Xavier University in New Orleans to earn her master’s degree in speech pathology and eventually opening up her own private practice.
Southern University System Board of Supervisors chariman Domoine Rutledge served as the commencement speaker.
“Life is like climbing up a staircase,” Rutledge said. “As quoted in Langton Hughes’ popular poem, it has ‘tacks in it, splinters, and boards torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor.’”
Rutledge described his continuous climb up his own “staircase” with his first job on campus working in the F.G. Clark Activity Center preparing for various activities, including commencement. He reminded the graduates to use life’s defeats and struggles as stepping stones.
“When you get to the top of your staircase, don’t forget to give back,” he said “Make an investment in someone’s future that will help them in their journey.”
As he concluded his speech, he reminisced on college experiences that ultimately helped with life experiences that the audience welcomed with warm chuckles of familiarity.
“You have successfully completed the Southern experience,” Rutledge said to graduates. “I hope you found a valuable experience in every encounter. Walk across the stage with an immeasurable sense of pride.”
Southern University alumnus James E. Charles was awarded doctor of humane letters during today’s ceremony. Charles is the former assistant superintendent of Terrebonne Parish School Board, where he served for 33 years. His extensive list of work experience includes being a math teacher at Southdown High School, and other positions at Evergreen Junior High, Southdown Middle and Southdown Elementary schools.
In 1979, Charles began his administrative career as assistant principal of Houma Junior High School, followed by being the first-ever principal of Ellender Memorial Junior High School and the first black principal in the parish. His career continued to progress upward as he moved to the central office as supervisor of secondary, adult and vocational education. In 1996, Charles assumed his last position. Again, he was the first black person to hold the title.
“We honor Mr. Charles as a pioneer in the education realm and for his dedication to public service and for opening pathways of educational success for his community,” said Ray L. Belton, president-chancellor of the Southern University System.
As tradition has it, graduates took the Southern University Alumni Federation pledge, promising to remain committed to the university’s progress.