Thousands poured in and out of Georgia Southern University’s Hanner Fieldhouse Friday, where nearly 1,300 students were honored during three ceremonies for the school’s 20th Annual Fall Commencement.
The burgeoning Eagles are spreading their wings in a recessed economy with a meager job market, yet have plenty to look forward to, according Dick Escue, keynote speaker for a 1 p.m. ceremony recognizing students of the school’s Business Administration, Health and Human Sciences and Information Technology colleges.
Escue told students that there is a definite reason to maintain hope moving forward, as their generation stands to capitalize most from an ongoing technological revolution in the world market.
“There is something happening right now that is going to have a big impact, a very positive impact, on all of you. There is an I.T. revolution going on,” he said. “There is an old expression that you win in the turns. Well, we are in a turn right now.”
Escue, senior vice president and chief information officer for RehabCare Group, is considered an expert at leveraging the use of new technologies to promote efficient business. Friday, he said that the growing importance of technologies in industry results in a very bright horizon for the tech-savvy youth.
“Just a few short years ago — in 2001 — Facebook did not exist, Twitter was just a sound, the cloud was something in the sky, 3G was a parking space, Skype was typo, and applications were just something you sent to colleges,” he said. “You guys have grown up with this technology. It is just a part of your everyday lives. You are better qualified than anyone to leverage the areas industry needs right now. You may not have work experience, but you do have relevant experience.”
He also encouraged the group to not forget key principles that he says will always lead to success.
“Yes, these are hard economic times. But remember this,” Escue said, “no one can outsource passion or innovation.”
After a round or two of “Georgia…Southern” chants and an appearance by Freedom, the university’s live bald eagle mascot, students met outside with friends and family to celebrate the occasion.
Most graduates were all smiles — some tears — and exuberant to wrap things up.
“It has been a long road and I am ecstatic to graduate,” said Mark Fletcher, who received a masters degree in accounting and will start work in Macon within the month.
“It feels good. I feel awesome,” said Schakne Thomas, 22. Thomas said she looks forward to attending graduate school, but does not yet know if it will be in Statesboro.
“It is a relief,” exclaimed Casey Henry, 26, who will leave Statesboro with an Information Technology degree. “I’ve been here the better part of the decade!”
While a release for some and joyous for others, graduating was a bit sobering for all, according to students, who had to bid farewell to their beloved school.
“I am going to miss (Georgia Southern) like crazy,” said Fletcher. “I love this place.”
“It has grown on me,” said Laurie Stephens, a member of Georgia Southern’s swim team, and recipient of an interior design degree. “I used to be so ready to get out of school, but I know now that I’ll definitely miss the atmosphere here.”
“I love GSU,” said Thomas. “I’ll miss it.”
The Honorable Judge Faye Sanders Martin and Lynne Weisenbach served as speakers for the day’s other ceremonies. Morning commencements honored students in the Allen E. Paulson College of Science and Technology, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, College of Education and Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454