Despite rain and a tropical storm brewing in the nearby Gulf, approximately 800 Columbia Southern University (CSU) graduates and more than 3,500 of their friends and family gathered today to celebrate the 2019 CSU commencement ceremonies at the Foley Event Center at OWA.
“Although each of your stories is surely different, your dedication is shared,” said Ken Styron, CSU president. “As a student, employee, spouse and parent myself, I can relate to your stories. And, I couldn’t be more proud to stand with you today to celebrate your success. But, your story doesn’t end here. Maybe it’s a promotion at work or new career entirely. We can’t wait to watch it unfold.”
Styron introduced keynote speaker and Women’s National Basketball Association All-Star player and team co-owner Lisa Leslie.
Leslie challenged graduates to volunteer in their communities, mentor others and help others whenever they can. She also offered several pieces of advice to graduates by encouraging them to maintain their integrity and optimism.
“You may have those one or two people or circle of friends that you can share your aspirations with who will help lift you and push you forward. Make sure you continue to find those people and let them infuse your spirit,” said Leslie.
Taking this all in with an excited grin was Becky Thomas from Biloxi, Mississippi, who just earned her Master of Business Administration degree. She said the best part of her graduation was having her niece and nephew present.
“My niece was a baby when I first got my bachelor’s degree. Now that I’ve earned my master’s, she’s about to graduate high school,” said Thomas. “This shows them to continue to work hard, no matter how long it takes.”
Graduates were not the only ones celebrating today as professors Peter Trzop, Ed.D., and David Becker were honored with the 2019 Robert G. Mayes Sr. Distinguished Faculty Awards. The veteran educators were recognized for their outstanding achievements and contributions in aiding the university in its mission to change lives through education.
CSU also hosted an open house at its campus to welcome graduates and their families on Thursday, Oct. 17. Guests enjoyed face painting, games, building sandcastles and more. Many also decorated and filled 510 comfort bags for military men and women traveling to and from Northwest Florida as part of a service project for USO Northwest Florida.