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State school board chairman speaks at Georgia Southern graduation Friday
Mike Royal to keynote event
W Mike Royal
Mike Royal - photo by Special

Mike Royal, who will be keynote speaker for Georgia Southern University’s fall commencement, 1 p.m. Friday at Paulson Stadium, is a Georgia Southern alumnus and the Georgia State Board of Education’s chairman.

This is the first time fall graduation has been held at the stadium, although many spring graduation ceremonies have been held there. In recent years, indoor fall commencement at Hanner Fieldhouse required three separate ceremonies. With one unified ceremony at Paulson, there will be one keynote speaker.

Royal also serves on the Board of Advisors to the university’s College of Education.

“I am honored as a Georgia Southern alumnus, board member and parent to be selected as the commencement speaker,” Royal said in an email. “I made lifelong friends during my time in the Boro as a student and return often.”

Royal has served on the State Board of Education since 2012, when Gov. Nathan Deal first appointed him to represent the 7th Congressional District.

The appointed board, along with the elected state school superintendent, is responsible for policies and decisions affecting educational opportunities for the nearly 1.8 million children in public schools in Georgia. The state board helps oversee a kindergarten through 12th-grade education budget of $11 billion, and more than 1,000 Georgia Department of Education employees.

Royal, a lifelong resident of Gwinnett County, received his Bachelor of Business Administration in finance, with an emphasis in risk management and insurance, from Georgia Southern in 1995.

He is the founder of Partners Risk Services, a risk management and insurance firm with offices in Georgia and Colorado. A certified insurance counselor, Royal has received recognition and awards for his leadership and service to his profession.

He has held leadership positions for various professional and civic boards at the local, state and national levels. He also supports FoodFinderGA, an organization that helps connect hungry children with food resources for their families.

Royal and his wife, Lori, have been married almost 25 years. They have three daughters, one of whom is a freshman at Georgia Southern.

During Friday’s ceremony, members of the Double Eagle Society will be recognized. The incentive program and joint initiative of the university’s College of Graduate Studies and the Alumni Association is open to alumni who have earned two or more degrees, including one undergraduate and one graduate degree or two graduate degrees, from Georgia Southern. For more information on the Double Eagle Society, visit

The relocation of fall commencement to Paulson Stadium averts the use of a ticket system, limiting each graduate to four guests, which would have been implemented had the services remained at Hanner Fieldhouse. No tickets are required for Friday’s ceremony.

Guests may want to dress for a cool breeze. As of Wednesday, the National Weather Service forecast for Friday in Statesboro called for fair skies but a high of 51 degrees and a 7 to 9 mph northwest wind.


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