LU News Archive

Lamar to confer more than 1,600 degrees

Lamar University is scheduled to confer a record 1,619 degrees at spring commencement Saturday, May 18, in the Montagne Center. President James Simmons 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. President-elect Kenneth Evans will attend the ceremonies and be among dignitaries on stage.

Graduates hail from 28 countries, 27 states outside Texas and 303 cities and towns in Texas. Lamar is scheduled to award the 1,619 degrees to 1,605 graduation candidates  – 32 for doctorates; 891 for master’s degrees; 667 for bachelor’s degrees and 29 for associate degrees.

Doctorates include six in audiology, 21 in educational leadership, four doctors of philosophy in chemical engineering and one doctor of education in deaf studies and deaf education.

Ten students will earn two bachelors degrees each; one will earn three bachelor’s degrees. One will earn both a master of education in elementary education and a bachelor of science in political science and another will earn a master of science in accounting and a master of business education. The master’s candidates include 714 who will earn degrees in education as part of Lamar’s online education program.

Lamar will award 591 degrees to 579 graduates in the morning and 1,028 degrees to 1,026 graduates in the afternoon.

Simmons said this will be his 90th commencement. As Lamar University president for 14 years, he has led the university into a new era of dynamic growth. Simmons took office on Sept. 1, 1999, bringing a wealth of perspective to the position. After stepping down from the presidency on July 1, 2013, he will return to the faculty of the Mary Morgan Moore Department of Music.

To honor Simmons for his service to Lamar, regents of The Texas State University System accorded him the title of president emeritus – the first in Lamar’s 90-year history –  and also renamed Lamar’s music building – where he began his Lamar career – the James M. “Jimmy” Simmons Music Building.  Beaumont City Council renamed part of University Drive Jimmy Simmons Boulevard.

A Lamar veteran of more than four decades, he previously served as dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication and as executive director of university advancement. Simmons began his Lamar career in 1970 as an instructor and director of the marching band. He quickly rose through the ranks, serving as director of bands and as chair of the music department. He earned his doctorate in music education from McNeese State University, master of music from the University of Houston and bachelor of music education from Memphis State University.

Momentum has been the watchword of Simmons’ administration. Examples of excellence abound, including record enrollments, campus enhancement, significant strides in academics, online degree programs, enhanced admissions and retention initiatives and a focus on scholarships for exceptional students. The university’s designation as a Doctoral Research University by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is a powerful affirmation of Lamar’s high level of research activities.     Even in the wake of Hurricanes Ike in 2008 and Rita in 2005, Simmons and his team kept classes and graduation on schedule, restoring the campus after substantial damage, as well as adding state-of-the-art facilities.

In spring 2008, the university launched its first comprehensive campaign, “Investing in the Future,” which is approaching the $125 million goal. Impact of the campaign is far reaching – including endowments for four named academic departments, funds for faculty enhancement, establishment of a major student fellowship program, substantial growth in scholarship funds and gifts to support revival of the Cardinals’ football tradition. Simmons implemented a master plan to transform the campus through landscaping and buildings, most notably the new residence halls, dining hall, recreational sports center, athletic complex, football suites and renovated buildings.

Simmons has earned scores of accolades in areas of education, leadership, community service and music.  These include the Chief Executive Leadership Award from District IV of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education; Newsmaker of the Year (1999 and 2009) and Newsmaker of the Decade from the Press Club of Southeast Texas; and induction into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame.

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 introduce Simmons as speaker and certify degree candidates.

Both ceremonies will begin as Quoc-Nam Tran, professor of computer science 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 Wind Ensemble, conducted by Scott Deppe, director of bands, will perform the processionals, recessionals and musical preludes. Debra Greschner and Angela Pickering, instructors of voice, will lead in singing  “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Lamar Alma Mater – Greschner in the morning and Pickering in the afternoon.