BOSSIER CITY – Paul Whitman wasn’t one of the 458 graduates that walked across the LSUS graduation stage Friday at Brookshire Grocery Arena as part of the summer commencement ceremony.

But he did assist multiple students in making that walk as a helpful classmate.

Whitman, 65, passed away in December and was awarded a computer science bachelor’s degree posthumously.

“Paul always had time for other students,” said Dr. Richard Watson, chair of the LSUS Computer Science Department. “If they were struggling in class, he would help them by answering their questions and organizing study sessions.

“A few students wrote letters after his passing, saying that they don’t think they would have graduated if it wasn’t for him. He was an incredibly wonderful student, and he’s terribly missed.”

Starting the program in 2015, Whitman often took one class per semester as he worked toward the bachelor’s degree. He recorded an A in every class.

Whitman, an Air Force veteran who spent 21 years at aerospace company Lockheed Martin, didn’t limit his help to the classroom and to students.

“We had one student who was having trouble with transportation, and Paul would go pick them up from their home and give them rides to and from school,” Watson said. “He also made every class he was in better because he was willing to ask questions that other students were afraid to ask.

“When you’ve taught for a long time, you teach them the how, but sometimes you forget that students don’t know the why. He would ask those why questions, and you step back and say, ‘Oh yeah, let me tell you why we’re doing this and how that fits in the big picture.’”

Whitman’s siblings Crystal, John and Heather walked across the stage for their brother while his 92-year-old father watched from the audience.

“This is the last time we can celebrate an accomplishment of his,” said John Whitman. “When he was at technical school at Lowery Air Force Base, he did such a good job that they made him an instructor.

“He went on to repair weapons systems like the javelin and worked on Apache helicopters. At Edwards Air Force Base in California, there was a group of 12 laser target designator bots that the Air Force couldn’t fix. He repaired 11 of those 12.”

The Bossier City native traveled the world in his career, and he and John planned to go to some of his favorite spots when they retired.

Lithuania, Spain and Middle East locales were on the list.

“When you come from a place like Shreveport, sort of a small town in a way, most people don’t break the barriers to get out. He did, he wanted to.

“He wanted to go see more, do more. We both loved to experience different foods and cultures. We want to see a different perspective on life.”

Paul became the second person in his family to earn a college degree with John being an engineer in Atlanta.


LSUS graduates more than 1,100 students in summer ceremony

Bolstered by robust online graduate programs, LSUS conferred 1,106 degrees Friday in the summer graduation ceremony.

More than half of the 458 graduates in attendance are first-generation college graduates, meaning that neither parent holds a four-year degree.

LSUS has graduated more students than all but two Louisiana universities over the last two years, and the Pilots have awarded more graduate degrees to African American students that any Louisiana college.

“We’re incredibly proud of those facts,” said Chancellor Dr. Robert Smith, who participated in his first LSUS commencement ceremony Friday. “You’ve worked incredibly hard to get here, and you’ve had tremendous support systems along the way.”

Support systems were a key facet of commencement speaker Dr. Anil Veluvolu’s address to the graduates.

Veluvolu, an oncologist at Willis-Knighton whose spent his entire higher education and medical career in Shreveport, recalls an encounter with a doctor the night before his medical school graduation.

“I was nervous, and he could sense that,” Veluvolu said. “He gave me his cell phone number and told me to call it any time day or night.

“We still talk 24 years later and consult with each other on our patients. Keep your eyes open and be willing to accept help as well as offer it. If you live by the principle of trying to do good for others, you’ll succeed in whatever field you enter.”