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Thousands congratulate GSU graduates Saturday at Paulson
050507 GSU GRAD 09
Kasey Thompson of Roswell moves her tassle to the left after officially graduating during commencement at Georgia Southern Saturday. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

050507 GSU GRAD

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050507 GSU GRAD

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    Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a Georgia Southern University alumnus, promoted appreciation and spirituality Saturday morning as he spoke to graduates during the 79th annual Spring Commencement ceremony at Paulson Stadium.
    Citing three rules to follow, he told graduates to " Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly."
    "It is fitting we are gathered here in the football stadium," he said. "I was a student here when this field was built."
    He recalled the late Coach Erk Russell, who built the football program and led the GSU Eagles to multiple victories and national championships. "You can still feel his presence looking down from Heaven and cheering the latest Eagle victory," which he said was the student's achieving their degrees.
    Cagle spoke about milestones and appreciation for those who helped the students succeed. "You should be proud of your achievements. Georgia Southern is one of the finest universities in our state.
    "It was no small feat for you to get to this point and I am personally proud of your accomplishments," he continued.
    Cagle told graduates to reflect upon all those who "helped you on your journey - grandparents and parents ... friends ... teachers ... No one achieves success alone. "
    He reminded students there will be many paths from which to choose as they enter the working world. "Your paths to success will change over and over - as mine did," he said.
    He advised students to think of others instead of focusing on themselves and to "live justly."
    "To act justly is to understand that there are some things in life that are non-negotiable," he said. "We owe it to others to give more than we have been given."
    Students were anxious as they waited to enter the field, standing in black gowns, talking among themselves. Many were nervous; some were tired from partying the night before.
    "It's too early," said David Stone, 22, Norcross. "Way too early." He admitted having celebrated the night before, but said he was actually excited and proud to be graduating. The information technology major plans to return to GSU for his Masters degree.
    Shandrea Carswell,22, Milledgeville, was all smiles as she waited in the unusually cool weather Saturday morning.
    The exercise science major said " I hope to work in my profession, get some experience, and then apply to physical therapy school."
    Graduates posed with friends as family members snapped pictures, and drank bottled water provided by the university. The temperatures were cool and the air was damp, but the enthusiasm was bountiful.
    Natalie Petro of Atlanta had one word for the way she felt Saturday morning: "Amazing."
    The 22-year-old nutrition/food science major  said "I plan to go to grad school at Georgia State" and then pursue a career in her field.
    "I feel pretty good - elated," said Steve Frank, a 22-year-old from Woodstock who majored in construction management. "I want to get a job and make some money - live the real life."
    William Brown, 24, Lithonia, majored in electrical engineering and has a handful of interviews waiting for him after graduation.
    "I have an interview with Georgia Power .. Honda ... and after graduation I want to look for a job and work in the Atlanta area," he said. "And I do heating and air conditioning, so I can work on the side."
    Brown said it was hard to put his feelings into words. "It's like, finally," he said. "It's been a long time coming and it's been a rough road, but I made it ..."
    Graduates and visitors were able to view some of the ceremony on the video screen at the football field's end zone. During the commencement, a bald eagle named Challenger was flown. The eagle is non-releasable due to having too much human contact at an early age after being blown from its nest, and is cared for by the American Eagle Foundation based at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
   
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