Along with memories and diplomas, more than 400 graduates at Augusta State University’s fall commencement Thursday took with them a part of history.
They will be known as the last graduating class of ASU, which will consolidate with Georgia Health Sciences University on Jan. 8 to become Georgia Regents University.
“Today is indeed a special memory,” said University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby. “ASU will live on in each of you, as well as the growth and development of the new university.”
Speakers used the ceremony to honor the graduates’ hard work and bright futures, but also to remember ASU’s evolution over the decades.
President Emeritus William Bloodworth, who led the school for 19 years and stepped down in summer to return to teaching, said it was an honor to make sure every student received the best education possible.
He remembered when critics would refer to the campus as Harvard on the Hill, meaning to insult the school’s high standards and insistence on quality education. To Bloodworth, it was just confirmation they were doing something right.
“I’ve always taken ‘Harvard on the Hill’ as a historical compliment, that evidence of an education earned at ASU has great value and is a source of great pride,” he said.
Keynote speaker Judy Woodruff, an Academy of Richmond County graduate and national broadcast journalist, said the education the graduates have received gives them the tools to serve others and help the world.
The challenges the nation is going through, from economic troubles to the pain from last week’s school shooting in Connecticut, are only fuel to do better, she said.
Though the world is now wrapped up in social media and technology, she reminded graduates that the Internet can never affect society in the same way a person can by reading to an underprivileged preschooler or playing ball with an at-risk teenager.
“Americans are always striving, and this often anxiety about what comes next ... is the energy that drives us forward,” said Woodruff, a co-anchorwoman and senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour. “We always want to do better, to do more. That is the history of who we are.”
It is time for those graduates to look for jobs so they can make that impact.
Ben Peterson, a psychology graduate, has been applying for jobs in clinics around Augusta, hoping to get his dream job. With no luck yet, he filled out an application at a car dealership, adding that there is a lot of psychology in sales, too.
“It’s an exciting time, but now it’s about finding a job,” he said.
Jessica Hanson, graduating with a degree in public relations, is also on the hunt, but she said the process is exciting and full of hope – especially now that she can add another line to her résumé – a member of ASU’s final graduating class.
“I’m just really honored,” Hanson said. “I think this is significant to all of us here.”