May 4, 2024

FMU Celebrates Spring 2024 Graduates

Francis Marion University celebrated spring 2024 undergraduate and graduate degree recipients in two ceremonies held in the Smith University Center on campus. 353 graduates received their degrees, with 294 receiving undergraduate degrees and 59 earning graduate degrees. 90 percent of the graduating class was comprised of South Carolina residents. 

On Friday night, students from the Schools of Business and Health Sciences were awarded their degrees. Graduates from the School of Education and College of Liberal Arts received their degrees Saturday morning.

FMU President Fred Carter congratulated the graduates on all of their successes and gave them words of wisdom to carry with them into the next step of their journeys.

“In our society, a university degree defines you not only as an educated person, but as one who will continue to grow and mature intellectually,” said Carter. “Your education is both broad and deep – grounded in the liberal arts and enhanced with the knowledge drawn from one or more academic disciplines. It will provide you with a successful career and a purposeful life. But you need to work hard at continuing this journey after graduation.” 

He also recognized the faculty during each ceremony and thanked them for the ways they nurture and cultivate scholarly growth in their students.

On Friday evening, Donna Isgett, President and CEO of McLeod Health, delivered the commencement address and received an honorary Doctor of Humanities from the university.

Isgett was named President and CEO of McLeod Health in 2021. Prior to this role, she served in numerous capacities at McLeod, including as Chief Operating Officer. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Georgia State University, her Master’s in Nursing from the Medical University of South Carolina, and the Master of Business Administration from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

During her address, Isgett shared lessons in wisdom for the graduates to take with them into their next step. She reminded the graduates that they should search for meaning in work that is greater than themselves and that they are better together. She also encouraged them to remember that resilience and tenacity matter, and that they should dream big. 

“Stay tenacious. Stay thirsty for that next step and for the things that can make a meaningful difference. Dream big, but always outwork your dreams. It only comes with work; just the dream won’t make the difference. So dream big, but always outwork your dreams.” 

Also during Friday evening’s ceremony, the Honorable Debra O. Jackson received an honorary Doctor of Humanities. Judge Jackson recently retired as the Chief Administrative Judge for the City of Florence where she served from 2009 until 2024. During her tenure with the city, she created both the Livability and Homeless courts for the City of Florence. Jackson is a graduate of Francis Marion with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and received a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Representative G. Murrell Smith, Jr., Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives delivered the commencement address and was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humanities during Saturday morning’s ceremony.

Speaker Smith was first elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2000 to represent the people of Sumter County. In 2022, he was unanimously elected to be the 61st Speaker of the House. Throughout his tenure in the SC House of Representatives, he has served on numerous committees including the House Ways and Means Committee, House Ethics Committee, and South Carolina Judicial Merit Selection Commission. In addition, he is a founding partner of the Smith Robinson Law Firm in Sumter. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Government from Wofford College and his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

In his remarks, Speaker Smith urged graduates to embody the spirit of resilience and determination of the university’s namesake, General Francis Marion.

“Embrace the obstacles before you not as barriers, but as opportunities to demonstrate the depth of your resolve. Remember that no matter how daunting the journey may seem at times, you possess within you the same spirit that drove Marion to victory against all odds.”

He also reminded the graduates that their learning is not over just because they have received a degree.

“As you pursue further higher education, enter the workforce, or embark on other paths, I hope you remain open to the continuous pursuit of knowledge. Education is not confined to the walls of a classroom – it is a lifelong pursuit that empowers us to create meaningful change in our lives and society.”

Dr. E. Lorraine de Montluzin, professor of history, emeritus, at Francis Marion University was also presented with an honorary Doctor of Humanities during Saturday’s ceremony. de Montluzin was a professor at Francis Marion from 1974 until her retirement in 2005. During her tenure at the university, she received numerous accolades including being named the Distinguished Professor in 1987, Board of Trustees Research Scholar in 2002, and winner of the Shared Governance Award in 1999. She currently lectures part-time at the university. de Montluzin earned her Bachelor of Arts in History from Newcomb College of Tulane University and both a Master’s and Doctor of Philosophy in History from Duke University. 

Five students were honored with the William H. Blackwell award which is named in memory of the founding chairman of the Francis Marion University Foundation. This award, presented each spring, is given to graduates who exemplify excellence in scholarship and who have attained, in all academic work, the highest academic achievement among those receiving the baccalaureate degree. The 2023-2024 Blackwell Award recipients are Jordan F. Hinson (Chester, SC), Kasandra M. Clark (St. Stephen, SC), Lila G. Dixon (Florence, SC), Savannah L. Collins (Mullins, SC), and Whitney Lynch (Johnsonville, SC).

Twenty-seven students graduated Summa Cum Laude (“with greatest praise”) after completing degree requirements with a cumulative GPA of 3.9 or higher. They are Jillian S. Buffkin (Marion, SC), Kasandra M. Clark (St. Stephen, SC), Savannah L. Collins (Mullins, SC), Cullen C. Dore (Myrtle Beach, SC), Alexander C. Elliott (Mullins, SC), Jordan G. Elliott (Nichols, SC), Riley M. Floyd (Myrtle Beach, SC), Julia R. Fulmer (Marion, SC), Connor A. Garris (Marion, SC), Kaylee Gillespie (Pickens, SC), Kennedy Alexis Hartfield (Johnsonville, SC), Katherine R. Harward (Coward, SC), Eli T. Hellmig (Darlington), Jordan F. Hinson (Chester, SC), Ky’daisia Holmes (Walterboro, SC), Noah W. Lewis (Mullins, SC), Whitney N. Lynch (Johnsonville, SC), Adam Mays (Florence, SC), Mallory G. McKenzie (McBee, SC), Tabitha M. Modrell (Lamar, SC), Sofia M. Montes (Ladson, SC), Allie Elaine Moore (Pamplico, SC), Maya J. Peeples (Barnwell, SC), Ashlynn B. Perry (Hemingway, SC), Hanna E. Purvis (Pamplico, SC), Paula Sanabria Diaz (Barbera del Valles, Spain), and Thinh X. Tran (Florence, SC).

Twenty-eight students graduated Magna Cum Laude (“with high praise”) in recognition of a cumulative GPA between 3.75 and 3.89. They were Alexis R. Albright (Easley, SC), Kristen M. Allen (Florence, SC), Alaina J. Blile (Columbia, SC), Collin J. Brown (Florence, SC), Camryn L. Cassetori (Plains, PA), Samuel J. Cathcart (Winnsboro, SC), Deirdre C. Currin (Hartsville, SC), Sarah M. Eaddy (Lamar, SC), Ainara Eizaguirre Irastorza (San Sebastian, Spain), Rhamey L. Floyd (Turbeville, SC), Charles J. Fuller (Rock Hill, SC), Mellet R. Garrison (Florence, SC), Ronisha Mary Lee Genwright (Mullins, SC), James E. Gray, III (Florence, SC), Haley Wrenn Lake (Lexington, SC), Julia Pinto (Santos, Brazil), Kaitlyn A. Robinson (Florence, SC), Gracie Simpson (Cheraw), Markus Skjelstad (Fredrikstad, Norway), Carleigh E. Stroud (Nichols, SC), Kara Elizabeth Tanner (Hemingway, SC), Allison P. Thompson (Timmonsville, SC), Grace Marie Trautman (Waterford, WI), Angela B. Turner (Florence, SC), Olivia Madison VanHouten (Lugoff, SC), Carlee Marie Washington (Prosperity, SC), and Emily Morgan Weaver (Olanta,SC).

Fifty-three students graduated Cum Laude (“with praise”) after completing degree requirements with a GPA between 3.5 and 3.74. They were Brianna Kaley Cogley (Florence, SC), James Connors (Florence, SC), Kendra L. Cox (Effingham, SC), Angel L. Dang (Florence, SC), Tyler M. Davis (Myrtle Beach, SC), Charles J. Debruhl (Kershaw, SC), Adam E. Ernberg (Solveborg, Sweden), Lillian R. Flamini (Florence, SC), Alyzabeth B. Floyd (Lake City, SC), Rikhya C. Ford (Florence, SC), Caroline M. Foster (Hartsville, SC), Sherly G. Garcia-Barrien (Turbeville, SC), Darius A. Goodwin (Bamberg, SC), Breshauna K. Gordon (Jonesville, SC), Alyssa R. Graves (Florence, SC), Robert H. Herlong (Marion, SC), Haizley L. Herndon (Myrtle Beach, SC), William P. Jeffords (Pamplico, SC), Kirk D. Johnson (Florence, SC), Ryan M. Johnson (Galivants Ferry, SC), Gabriel R. Karatantcheva (Bradenton, FL), Isaiah J. Lindholm (Marion, SC), Carmen I. Lowery (Florence, SC), Madison B. Lynch (Timmonsville, SC), Alexandria D. Matthews (Coward, SC), Morgan V. McCaskill (Florence, SC), Finn M. Millians (Peachtree City, GA), James A. Moore (Kingstree, SC), Layla M. Murray (Williamston, SC), Lindsay Nicole Navarro (Saint Cloud, FL), Tibalt Tung Nguyen (Marion, SC), Hedaya Olajuwon (Rock Hill, SC), MiLeia Owens (Charlotte, NC), Samiya Pinckney (Moncks Corner, SC), Jacob M. Prozzi (Hartsville, SC), Enya M. Ramos-Rodriguez (Florence, SC), Bishop W. Ridenhour (Florence, SC), Luis A. Sanchez Chavez (Moncks Corner, SC), Bonner C. Shoe (Tega Cay, SC), Lauren N. Smallwood (Waycross, GA), Morgan B. Smith (Florence, SC), Andrew L. Smith (Mullins, SC), Madison N. Smith (Florence, SC), Lauryn A. Taylor (Blythewood, SC), Nicholas Ryan Threatte (Hartsville, SC), Clayton D. Tiller (Lamar, SC), Daelin M. Tripp (Longs, SC), Madison Alexis White (Hartsville, SC), Madison O. Wilkes (Lake City, SC), Elizabeth Regina Willard (Pageland, SC), Caitlin Adair Yarborough (Timmonsville, SC), Carolyn Haylie Zeigler (Cheraw, SC), Allison T. Ziegenfelder (Florence, SC). 

Seven students also graduated with University Honors. To graduate with University Honors, students must complete twenty-one credit hours in Honors courses and maintain an overall GPA of 3.25 or higher. This year’s University Honors graduates are Camryn L. Cassetori (Plains, PA), Samuel J. Cathcart (Winnsboro, SC), Ronisha Mary Lee Genwright (Mullins, SC), Lakin S. Hanna (Lancaster, SC), Sofia M. Montes (Ladson, SC), Ashlynn B. Perry (Hemingway, SC), and Grace Marie Trautman (Waterford, WI).