December 16, 2023

FMU celebrates graduates at Fall 2023 commencement ceremonies

FMU celebrates graduates at Fall 2023 commencement ceremonies

Francis Marion University celebrated the accomplishments of its Fall 2023 graduating class in two commencement ceremonies held in the Smith University Center.

Over 200 degrees were awarded to undergraduate and graduate students, with 96% of the graduating class comprised of residents from South Carolina. 

This commencement also marked the fiftieth FMU Commencement for President Fred Carter. During his tenure, nearly 16,000 students have graduated from Francis Marion.

On Friday night, graduates from the School of Business and School of Health Sciences were recognized; the School of Education and College of Liberal Arts graduates received their degrees Saturday morning.

President Carter congratulated the graduates on their degrees and urged them to make their degrees count.

“You owe yourself a life of purpose and significance,” said Carter. “This degree will help you make discriminating decisions about the causes you’ll pursue and the battles you’ll fight. Make it count.”

He also offered one final word of advice.

“You are entering into a society today that is politically and socially divisive – sometimes bitterly so,” he said. “Never let anyone bully you – ideologically or culturally. You are educated men and women. Insist – no demand – that when others engage you, they do so with balanced, thoughtful, and informed dialogue, and you reciprocate in kind. That’s how educated people resolve disagreements and reconcile differences.”

Senator Thomas C. Alexander gave the commencement address during Friday evening’s ceremony and received an honorary Doctor of Humanities. 

Senator Alexander was elected to the South Carolina Senate in 1994 and became President of the Senate in December 2021 when he was elected by his fellow Senators to serve as the presiding officer of the body. Alexander serves on the Senate Finance, Legislative Oversight, Labor, Commerce & Industry, Banking & Insurance, Ethics, Medical Affairs, Interstate Cooperation, Joint Bond Review, and Public Utility Review committees. 

A native South Carolinian and a businessman, Alexander resides in Walhalla, SC, with his wife, Lynda. He holds an associate’s degree from Anderson College and a bachelor’s degree from Clemson University. 

During his remarks, Senator Alexander reminded graduates that success comes before work only in the dictionary and urged them to never give up. He also shared with them that some of the most enriching moments in his life have been instances when he has been able to help someone.

He also encouraged them to reflect on their purpose.

“You have come to an inflexion point in your life as a graduate of Francis Marion,” said Alexander. “I challenge you to reflect on just what your purpose in life is as you move beyond this campus. Whatever your purpose is – my challenge to you is to consider service to others as a part of your life.”

Saturday’s commencement address was given by Senator Katrina Frye Shealy. Shealy also received an honorary Doctor of Humanities. 

Elected in November 2012, Shealy was the only woman in the South Carolina Senate at that time, and is now one of only five women in the SC Senate. She serves as Chairman of the Family & Veterans’ Services Committee and sits on the Finance, Corrections & Penology, Rules, and Labor, Commerce & Industry committees. 

Shealy is the founder of Katrina’s Kids, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which works with foster care and group homes to give “Every Chance to Every Child.” She has been a champion of children’s and women’s issues for many years.

She has been in the insurance industry for the past forty years. She and her husband, Jimmy, reside in Lexington, SC, and have three daughters and five grandsons, and are active members of St. James Lutheran Church. 

Senator Shealy urged the graduates to have courage and shared with them the impact of believing in themselves.

“I have found that fighting for what you believe in is the most rewarding thing you can do in life,” said Shealy. “Sometimes, what you fight for might not be the most popular thing, but oftentimes, it’s the right thing. Be the courageous voice.”

She also reminded students that their visions for the future are now realized and that they are prepared for their next steps.

“A kaleidoscope of life-changing choices has prepared you to go out into the world to live productive lives, become good citizens, and become some of the best in your field.”

Daniel S. Dukes, IV, also received an honorary Doctor of Humanities during Saturday’s ceremony. 

Dukes, a native of St. George, SC, served as the Legislative Liaison for Francis Marion from 2002 until 2023. During this time, he was instrumental in obtaining funding and legislative support for FMU. In 2023, he endowed a scholarship at the university that will provide life changing opportunities for deserving students.

Dukes earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and his master’s in public administration from the College of Charleston. He was named the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by the College of Charleston in 2007 and was inducted into the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015. 

Dukes is involved with adoption and foster care as a board member and benefactor of Lifeline Children’s Services and serves as an elder at East Cooper Baptist Church. 

Dukes and his wife, Vicky, reside in Mount Pleasant, SC, and have two daughters.

Eight students completed degree requirements with a cumulative grade point average of 3.9 or higher and received their degrees summa cum laude (with greatest praise). They were Emily Faith Cooper, Lila Grace Dixon, Austin Lee Freeman, Jordan L. Higbe, Ariana L. Prete, Lauren E. Taylor, Madison L. Tripp, and Lane H. Ward.

Eleven students completed their degree requirements with a cumulative grade point average between 3.75 and 3.89 and received their degrees magna cum laude (with great praise). They were Mackenzie L. Gregory, Abigail Fay Grosick, Deanna Paige McBrayer, Johnera R. Miller, William J. O’Neal, Haven S. Owens, Jacob Prete, Savana A. Rosson, Taylor E. Tanner, Cienna F. Turner, and Samuel Fred Wachter.

Nineteen students completed degree requirements with a cumulative grade point average between 3.5 and 3.74 and received their degrees cum laude (with praise). They are Gary A. Altman, Summer L. Bailey, Cameron M. Bell, Mary K. Bey, Anna Elise Boyce, Sydney M. Corley, Brooke A. Dickerson, Melanie E. Dozier, Richard H. Frazier, Cassie D. Gray, Jared J. Ivey, Alexandria E. McKnight, Morgan A. Morris, Kristin Lynn Mullens, Ravin Norris, Meredith Kay Outlaw, Paula L. Patron-Garcia, Germany C. Sinkler, and Emily T. Thigpen.

Three students graduated with University Honors, a distinction achieved for graduating with an overall grade point average of 3.25 or above and completion of 21 hours in Honors courses. They were Paula L. Patron-Garcia, Ariana L. Prete, and Jacob Prete.