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Lamar to confer more than 1,550 degrees May 14

Paul Fregia

Lamar University is scheduled to confer 1,551 degrees at spring commencement Saturday, May 14, in the Montagne Center. Lamar distinguished alumnus Paul Fregia, founder and president of Grandma Maud’s Inc., will be the keynote speaker.

The ceremonies will begin at 9:30 a.m. for the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business and Engineering and at 1:30 p.m. for the Colleges of Education and Human Development and Fine Arts and Communication and the Center for General Studies. Graduates hail from 18 countries, 17 states outside Texas and 302 cities and towns in Texas.

During the morning ceremony, Lamar will present the honorary doctor of humane letters to Charles Lewis Garrett of Garland, founder, president and chief executive officer of Garrett Metal Detectors Inc. Garrett is a 1959 electrical engineer graduate of Lamar, which honored him as a distinguished alumnus in 2003.

Lamar is scheduled to award the 1,551 degrees to 1,540 graduation candidates – 20 for doctorates; 771 for master’s degrees, one of whom will earn two degrees; 722 for bachelor’s degrees, 10 of whom will earn two degrees each; and 38 for associate degrees. The master’s candidates include 563 who will earn degrees in education as part of Lamar’s academic partnership.

President James Simmons will present Plummer Awards, recognizing the top academic graduates. Students graduating summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude with bachelor’s and associate degrees will be recognized as they accept their diplomas. Steve Doblin, provost and vice president for academic affairs, will certify degree candidates.

Both ceremonies will begin as Valentin Andreev, associate professor of mathematics and president of the Faculty Senate, leads academic processionals. He will conclude both programs by leading the recessionals. Paul Hemenway, professor of communication, and Victoria Price, professor of modern languages, will present the graduates in both ceremonies.

The Lamar University Wind Ensemble, conducted by Scott Deppe, director of bands, will perform the processionals, recessionals and musical preludes. Two faculty members will lead in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Lamar Alma Mater: Noel Turner, an adjunct faculty member in music, in the morning and Angela Pickering, instructor of music, in the afternoon.

Keynote speaker Fregia is a 1981 graduate of the university whose achievements range from manufacturing and engineering to information systems and finance. With extensive experience in entrepreneurial and corporate management, he is also active as a community volunteer.

After graduating from Lamar in 1981 with a degree in electrical engineering, Fregia earned a master of business administration at Purdue University. His company was inspired by his experiences growing up in the South, where he learned to appreciate the food his maternal grandmother, Maud, simmered, stirred and served from her kitchen. In 1994, he began Grandma Maud’s Inc. as a tribute to her memory and in response to the increasing popularity of Southern-style “comfort food.”

Before establishing Grandma Maud’s, Fregia gained 10 years of food-industry expertise as a vice president of one of McDonald’s national suppliers. He has held management positions with Damron Corp., Container Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Corp. He is the recipient of the Chicago Tribune’s Good Eating Award and is an inductee in the National African American Culinary Arts & Hospitality Museum. In addition to being honored as a Lamar distinguished alumnus in 2009, he has been recognized by the state of Illinois, U.S. House of Representatives, Purdue University and the food-service industry for his achievements.

The honorary doctorate will recognize a man whose passion for treasure hunting and desire to create a better metal detector led him and his wife, Eleanor, to establish what is now the world’s largest manufacturer of virtually all types of metal-detection equipment. The Garretts’ company provides walk-through scanners and hand-held detection wands at airports all over the world and has furnished security equipment to all summer Olympic games and most of the winter Olympics for more than 25 years. Garrett has received patents for innovative equipment and features and has served as president of the American Metal Detector Manufacturers Association and the International Treasure Hunting Society.