In his address to the Spring 2016 Gordon State College graduating class, University System of Georgia Regent Larry Walker advised grads to "…treat all people with dignity and respect - even those with whom you disagree, for after all they are entitled to their opinions just as you are to yours."
He also asked the grads to "…listen to people that are smarter than you are, they will teach you something. Listen to people that are not as smart as you, they will teach you something. Keep an open mind, control your emotions and be humble."
One of the 252 students to participate in Friday's ceremony was Kerianne Luger of Pike County who was presented an associate degree in Nursing.
"This is so very special," she said. "Two solid years of studying and working hard have finally paid off."
Luger will work at the Medical Center of Georgia in Macon in the med-surg oncology unit.
For Shelia Pryor of Jonesboro, the day was made even more special because family members from eight states and at least one from a foreign country turned out to celebrate as she was presented an associate degree.
"I decided upon retiring from Delta after 37 years that the senior citizen centers were great, but not a good fit for me," Pryor said. "Everyone in my family and most of my friends have degrees and I decided that I wanted one too."
Pryor, who is in her late 60s, wants everyone to know that "it's never too late to go back to school."
"I'm now going to come back and earn my degree in Human Services," she said. "Why stop now."
During the Bell and Book Ceremony for students graduating education degrees, Kaitlyn Ballew and Madelyn Mount were awarded the first Jerry Stinchcomb Founders Ward for having the highest grade point average in their class.
Stinchcomb was Chair of and helped develop the Early Childhood Education Program 10 years ago. He has since retired.
"To be associated with this school of education and with students of this caliber, this has to be the highlight of my career in education," Stinchcomb said.
An "awwww" moment came during the procession of graduates of the biology program when service dog Indy, decked out in his own mortar board was recognized by Gordon State President Max Burns. Burns presented Indy a bone tied with blue ribbon and his human, Maria Pesce, a Bachelor's Degree in Biology with secondary teaching certification.
Pesce said that Indy has been with her since high school and has attended all of her classes and internships with her.
"I feel that he is as much a student at Gordon as I am since he has shared in my experience as a student there. Service animal are an extension of the people they assist and they become a part of us."