BOSSIER CITY – Commencement speaker Ronnie L. Bryant advised LSUS graduates to not make your journey a “selfish” one – to help others along the way.
That sentiment embodies LSUS graduate Khayla Pugh’s journey to her master in health administration degree.
Pugh said she couldn’t have completed the program without her family and friends.
Six of Pugh’s supporters dressed in custom-made shirts featuring a picture of Pugh, something that she’ll remember for the rest of her life.
“They’ve been amazing, and they’ve played a major part in this,” said Pugh, a Bossier City native. “Without them, I’m not sure I’d be here.
“My immediate plan is to work in a hospital in Houston with the eventual goal of opening my own mental health clinic.”
Pugh was one of 1,249 LSUS graduates to earn degrees and one of nearly 600 that walked across the Brookshire Grocery Arena stage to receive that degree in person.
Nigerian native Chukwuemeka Oguama moved to Shreveport to complete his masters in computer science, but he was surrounded by family and friends from the capital Lagos at the ceremony.
“It’s not been easy, but it’s been worth it,” Oguama said. “It’s because of the great professors and staff that I’m here. Now I want to pursue a doctorate degree.”
A total of 59 international graduates earned degrees but around 10 students from those countries walked across the graduation stage in person.
Two students hailed from the Philippines, and while Jose Asuncion traveled directly from the large chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, his family traveled a much shorter distance.
“My family immigrated to Shreveport, and mom is a special education teacher at Stoner Hill Elementary,” said Asuncion, who earned his masters in public health.
LSUS chancellor Larry Clark highlighted that students travelled from the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Nepal, India, Nigeria, Colombia and Egypt.
Jean Marie Altema and his wife made the trek from West Palm Beach, Fla., but he proudly waved the Haitian flag as he took pictures in front of an LSUS backdrop.
Altema migrated to Florida less than two years ago.
“I want to impact my community and make it better each day,” said Altema, who earned an MBA.
Louisiana still makes up the majority of LSUS graduates, both in person and online.
Louisiana residents accounted for 38 percent (505 graduates) in the spring ceremony, and the graduation had a distinctly Louisiana flavor with the Blanc et Noir Second Line Brass Band leading the graduates out of the arena. The band is headed by Shreveport native Robert Trudeau and New Orleanian Jerry Davenport.
That Louisiana feel continued into the streets surrounding the arena with an impromptu step performance from graduate Quinton Jones and his Omega Psi Phi brothers.
“We’re from New Orleans, and my brothers came up here to show camaraderie,” said Jones, who earned a masters in educational leadership and teaches photography and digital design at New Orleans’ McDonogh 35 High School. “I want to pursue my Ph.D and work my way up in administration – maybe a principal.”
Northwest Louisiana remains the heart of the LSUS student population, and Shreveport native David Craig received one of two doctorates awarded in leadership studies Friday.
Craig is a pastor with his wife at GracePointe Church of the Nazarene on Pines Road.
“This is a huge blessing, and I want to thank God, my family and my professors for the teamwork it required,” Craig said. “My wife and I want to travel around the country and teach.”
The journey to a degree for Ruth Hathorne has been long and winding.
The 48-year-old completed a 30-year journey Friday when she earned her bachelor degree in accounting.
“I went through a lot of majors – I started out pre vet if you can imagine that,” said Hathorne, whose daughter held up a poster that said ‘Geaux Mom’ with a heart on it. “I started in 1993, and most of the professors that were here when I began are either retired or dead.
“But I was in (Dr. Mary Lois White’s) first statistics class she taught at LSUS 13 years ago. I want to get into the audit side of things.”
Hathorne saw a piece of LSUS history during her time, attempting to study at the Noel Memorial Library during the filming of the movie “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” released in 2008.
Graduates blazed paths from all over the United States to attend the graduation ceremony in person.
Krista Seuell, who earned a masters in health administration, brought husband Jonathan, daughters Addison and Olivia and mom Connie from Milwaukee, Wisc.
“I earned this degree, and we turned it into a family trip,” Seuell said. “I work in revenue cycles, and I’m planning to use this degree to go up that ladder.”
Students who had never set foot on LSUS’s campus came decked out in Pilots gear.
Kymie Byrd, a Mobile, Ala., resident who painted her toenails purple, scooped her mom up in New Orleans and made the trip to receive her masters in curriculum and instruction degree in person.
Ronald Neal, who donned an LSUS T-Shirt, will take his MEDCI degree back to Charlotte, N.C., where he teaches middle school science.
Atlanta resident Andreeta Franklin put on her full regalia one day early complete with a ‘Black Girl Magic’ stole to attend an on-campus event for out-of-town graduates Thursday, and she earned an MBA on Friday. Franklin travelled in a van full of family and friends.
Chancellor Larry Clark stood in the blazing Louisiana sun in full regalia to take pictures with graduates.
Friday was his final commencement with his retirement coming at the end of June, but he redirected the attention to something he said is much more important.
“It’s about the graduates,” Clark said. “This is your day.”