Civil rights leader Sellers tells FMU grads to aim high, reach for goals

FLORENCE — Francis Marion conferred degrees on 298 graduates at its fall commencement ceremonies Saturday on the FMU campus.

The graduating class was the third-largest fall class in FMU history, buoyed by 76 graduate students who received their diplomas.

FMU’s recent growth has been fueled by students flocking to new graduate programs, particularly within the School of Health Sciences, and that trend was evident at Saturday’s ceremonies. The grads included 26 new Master of Family Nursing Practice graduates and three Doctors of Nursing Practice.

The School of Education also awarded 37 graduate degrees.

The undergraduates marching included 40 from the FMU School of Business, 39 new nursing graduates and 28 future teachers.

FMU also awarded honorary degrees to civil rights activist Dr. Cleveland Sellers, Jr., veteran educator Marilyn K. Chapman, and well-known auctioneer and civic leader Bill Yonce.

Sellers, the retired president of Vorhees College and a groundbreaking leader in the civil rights movement in South Carolina, delivered the commencement address in which he recounted the struggles of his generation while battling for basic rights and lamented the fact that 50 years after the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre at South Carolina State University there has still not been any official reconciliation.

“We are still not at a post-racial period in our state and community because we are not yet able to talk about the issues of race,” said Sellers.

Sellers said, however, that for him the struggle represented a worthwhile life endeavor, and urged graduates to follow similar paths of commitment. Citing the writing of former Morehouse College President Benjamin Mays, Sellers said, “A tragedy in life lies not in not reaching your dreams, but having no dreams to reach… It’s not failure, but low aim that is a sin.”

Dr. Fred Carter, FMU’s president, lifted up all three honorary degree recipients as examples to the graduates.
“Model your life on what you do for others, just like our three friends here,” said Carter, “and you’ll enjoy success beyond your dreams … and you’ll also sleep pretty darn well every night.”

FMU also recognized 37 graduates who earned Latin honors, and three students who earned University Honors.

Graduating Summa Cum Laude (“With Greatest Praise”), meaning they attained a cumulative graduate point average of 3.9 to 4.0 were: Jonathan Glenn Britt, Rhyli D. Burke, Jessica Marie Garnett, Zoe Johnson, Curtis Robert Mackinson Jr., Benjamin Joel Taylor and Savannah Victoria Wright.

Graduating Magna Cum Laude (“With Great Praise”), meaning they attained a cumulative graduate point average of 3.75 to 3.89 were: Luke Alexander Fennell, Graceyn Brooke Floyd, Zoe Nicole Geddie, Ryan Adele Hilbourn, Adam Lee Hill, Bailey Raelynn Hudson, Haley Virginia Hurst, Micahla Nykol Kitchen and Jacob W. Limehouse.

Graduating Cum Laude (“With Praise), meaning they attained a cumulative graduate point average of 3.5 to 3.74 were: BobbiJo Ann Beach, Sha’Dai Raquel Burch, Sarah Emily Burkett, Taylor Elizabeth Byrd, Sha’angel La’faith Chandler, Megan Lynn Chapman, Savannah Katherine Cruel, Jewel Cyrus Green, Brooke Erin Dixon Leigh Anna Driggers, Katelyn Filyaw, Lauren Blake Fuller, Mark Gavin Hafey, Makayla Dawn Hicks, Sarah Grace McFadden, Darryl Bryant Miller Jr., Hannah Elizabeth Owens, Rachel Lauren Rhodes, Darian C. Sansbury, Jonas Patrick Smith and Betty Nicole Suggs.

Those receiving University Honors included Rhyli D. Burke, Luke Alexander Fennell and Micahla Nykol Kitchen.

Students receiving University Honors have completed 21 hours of Honors-level course work with at least a 3.25 GPA, and have an overall GPA of at least 3.25. University Honors’ graduates receive FMU’s Honors Medallion.

Author: Rachel Howell

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