Wheelan Encourages Gordon Graduates to Give Back

Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, Ph.D., President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, addressed students in Gordon State College's Fall Commencement.
Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, Ph.D., President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, addressed students in Gordon State College's Fall Commencement.

Nearly 300 Degrees Awarded in Fall 2019 Commencement

BY: KATHERYNE A. FIELDS, Gordon State College Director of Marketing

Sharing her own lessons in life, Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, encouraged graduates to laugh more, be angry less and always give back in her keynote address at Gordon State College’s Fall Commencement ceremony Monday.

Wheelan is the first African American and the first woman to serve in SACS this capacity. Wheelan’s career spans over 40 years and includes the roles of faculty member, chief student services officer, campus provost, college president and Secretary of Education.

“Most of you are probably like I was when I graduated from college that I had no money but lots of time,” Weelan said. “Over the years I grew to understand that time is much more valuable than money. You don’t understand that now. I started volunteering by reading at elementary schools to demonstrate the importance of reading or visiting nursing homes to let them know they were not forgotten. pres nooks

“As I got older and more money, ultimately I was able to give money back to the foundation of the college I attended because I realized I was able to go to school because someone was generous enough to pay back. I encourage you to do that same thing. It is important to give back, but more than anything, it feels good to give back.”

In a crowd of family, friends, faculty and staff, President Kirk A. Nooks awarded a total of 293 bachelors and associate degrees to 284 graduates with nine students earning a double degree. Sixty-nine percent of the class graduated with an associate’s degree while 31 percent earned baccalaureate degrees.

Thirty four percent of the graduates identified as adult learners, defined as a person who is 25-years or older and has delayed entering college for at least one-year following high school. First-generation college students, defined as the first person in the immediate family to attend college, made up 52 percent of the graduates.

Twenty-two students earned the honor of Cum Laude (3.5 to 3.79 Grade Point Average), three students received the honor of Magna Cum Laude (3.8 to 3.89 GPA) and 11 students earned the distinguished honor of Summa Cum Laude (3.9 to 4.0).

The graduate with the closest zip code included Barnesville while India claimed the notoriety as the most distant location. Thirteen out of 14 of Gordon’s 14-country primary service region participated with graduates in the ceremony.

Bagpiper Michael Grest led the procession for Gordon State College’s 45th year of undergraduate commencement ceremonies held Monday in the Student Activity Recreational Center (SARC) followed by Mace Bearer and Grand Marshal Dr. Erik McCarthy, members of the administration, faculty, and students.

Student representatives from the Class of 2019 included Elizabeth Clinton, who delivered the invocation, Lisa Amis, who addressed her peers, and Hunter Jones who encouraged his class to embrace their purpose in his benediction.

GSC’s Chamber Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Justin Carteret, opened and closed the program in song, including the institutions Alma Mater.

Honored guests included Barnesville Mayor Peter Banks, Forsyth Mayor Eric Wilson, GSC Foundation Chair Lucinda Dallas plus Foundation members Andy Bush, Jim Granum, Don Neuner and Dan White.

“The Power of WE is demonstrated every time Gordon State College has the chance to recognize our students for their accomplishments and achievements,” Nooks said. “Once our students step on campus we partner with them to develop the Highlander EDGE. As faculty and staff, we aim to create Engaged Innovators, Dedicated Scholars, Gifted Communication, and Ethical Leaders. This culminating event allows us to celebrate as they enter into their next chapter.”

After the main program, five graduates of Gordon's School of Education gathered with family and friends for the Book and Bell presentation. Each graduate received a school bell and a McGuffey's Reader, the two tools most used by teachers at the turn of the 19th Century.

Shalecia Katarah Jones of Clayton County graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She transferred into Gordon from Savannah State College as a sophomore and said that she was proud of her self for completing the program.

“The journey has been an experience,” Jones said. “Gordon helped me with that process.”

Fifty one Graduates of Gordon's School of Nursing, Health and Natural Sciences held a pinning ceremony for the Associate of Science in Nursing’s program during which each graduate received their pin and lighted their Nightingale Lamp.

A wife and mother of three children, Amanda Arnold Akins of Pike County said earning her degree and getting pinned the same say was “super special.”

“My family has sacrificed with me,” she stated.