For Jabari Levi, walking across the stage at Augusta State University’s commencement ceremony Saturday was about more than getting his second diploma. It was about his team.
The Josey High School men’s basketball coach said he would use his personal accomplishment of graduating with a master’s degree in special education as motivation for the young men he coaches in the high school gym.
“I want to show them what’s possible,” Levi said. “It’s a wonderful feeling.”
ASU graduated nearly 1,100 students, ages 21 to 64, at the James Brown Arena. The graduates were the last for the school’s president, William Bloodworth Jr., and the last for ASU before merging with Georgia Health Sciences University.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Joyce Jones, the dean of students. “(Bloodworth) has done so much for ASU. The retiring and merging brings tears to my eyes. But it’s also a happy time. The merger is going to be great.”
As the master of ceremonies and keynote speaker, Bloodworth dominated the stage for his last commencement as president. He noted the accomplishments of the graduates of 2012, including the 10 valedictorians. He also noted how much the support of loved ones can help students.
“My goodness there are a lot of people here,” Bloodworth said, addressing the thousands of graduates’ friends and family who filled the 8,500-seat arena. “(The graduates) are here because of you.”
Bloodworth told the new graduates that his job as president is reflected by the students who come through the school and make a difference after graduating.
“Your accomplishments from this moment forward is the best indicator of my time as president,” he said. “I’d really like to have a good evaluation.”
Bloodworth noted the graduates were 69 percent female, which he said was up to the men to change.
“Women are more successful at getting degrees than men,” he said.
He also said the class was made up of students from 24 countries including Bosnia, Nigeria and Romania. He said the world influence was good for the school, considering the country’s move toward globalization.
He lastly touched on the financial issues graduates might face after receiving their diplomas.
“Most of you will be graduating with student loans,” he said. “Loans look like easy money but they are not easy to pay off.”
As college graduates, they are in a good position to face these challenges, he said.
Graduating from ASU is not simple, he said, but the accomplishment will last generations. Their children will benefit from being born of college graduates.
“If your feet are still a little warm from being held to the fire, that means they’re a little tougher,” he said.
The idea of more school does not scare graduate David Martin, who said he is going to continue school in the fall. He will pursue a masters degree in public health after earning his bachelors of science Saturday.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “It is beautiful to finally have this part finished.”
For Bloodworth, his 30th and last commencement ceremony as ASU’s president was a moment of triumph.
“I’m extremely proud of what you have done,” he said to the sea of black caps and blue and yellow tassels. “Best wishes to all of you and God bless. Thank you so much for being our students.”