UMMC’s 57th commencement sets another record for size, pride
By Tom Fortner
You could say this about the 57th commencement of the University of Mississippi Medical Center May 24: It was big.
A record number of graduates earned their degrees: 681. That bested the 2011 record total of 634. And as class sizes keep getting bigger in some programs, those records should continue to fall.
The crowd was big. More graduates means more parents, spouses, aunts and uncles, children, grandchildren and friends. Within five years, the Mississippi Coliseum may not even hold them all.
And the emotions were big. Some people gave a shout-out to their loved ones as they walked across the stage. Some families even joined in on a coordinated cheer. Most, including School of Medicine graduate Ben Horton’s family, watched with quiet satisfaction as he received his diploma and ceremonial hood.
Ten members of Horton’s family came to celebrate his achievement – his grandparents from Clarksdale, his parents and family from the town of Ringgold in northwest Georgia.
Horton’s father, Dr. Bill Horton, is a doctor of osteopathy himself, so he knows what it took for his son, a Mississippi College graduate, to reach this moment.
“He’s endured a lot to get to where he is and we’re very proud,” he said.
Horton will begin a residency in internal medicine at University Hospitals this summer.
If the parents felt pride, their children were most likely filled with gratitude, said University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones, who presided over the ceremony.
“You’ve reached your educational goal through hard work and determination. I suspect that you’ve done so with the support, and many times sacrifice, of parents and spouses,” Jones said, asking the graduates to give all those who pitched in a well-deserved round of applause.
Dr. James E. Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, bestowed on the graduates his four “pearls” – bits of wisdom – he reserves for this occasion:
- This day is but a milestone on a lifetime journey of learning.
- Be respectful of the differences in the people you meet.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to be part of the solution to our nation’s health-care challenges.
- Remember to have some fun along the way.
- Dr. Kimberly Simpson, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences, was recognized as the first recipient of the Regions Bank TEACH Prize for outstanding accomplishment in education.
- The six students who received top honors during the ceremony were:
- Haley Routh Clark of Ridgeland, who received the Waller S. Leathers Award for the medical student with the highest academic average for four years;
- Lacey Michelle Harris of Kiln, who received the Wallace V. Mann Award for the dental student with the highest academic average for four years;
- Paul Thomas Munn of Mendenhall, who received the Christine L. Oglevee Memorial Award as the outstanding School of Nursing baccalaureate graduate;
- Ottis Lee Brown Jr. of Flowood, who received the Dr. Virginia Stansel Tolbert Award for the highest academic average in the School of Health Related Professions; and
- Daniel Forrest Lyons, who received the Charles Randall-Trustmark Award for outstanding research achievement.
“We’ll follow your careers with interest and take great pride in the many contributions you will make in your chosen disciplines and to the communities in which you live” Jones said.