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Speakers set for LU Spring Commencement programs

Commencement speakers representing diverse fields have been chosen to address students at Lamar University’s Spring 2017 commencement ceremonies held May 11 and 12 in the Montagne Center.

James Bell, program manager at United Space Alliance, will address around 538 graduates and their guests during the College of Arts and Sciences ceremony, May 11 at 7 p.m. James Bell is a retired program manager at United Launch Alliance (ULA), headquartered in Denver, Colorado, a 50-50 joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corporation and The Boeing Company. The Alliance designs, manufactures, integrates and launches Atlas and Delta launch vehicles that have successfully delivered to orbit more than 120 satellites. Launch service customers include the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the U.S. Air Force, and commercial organizations. A native of Port Arthur, Bell is a graduate of Lamar University where he earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in drafting technology in 1977 and a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering in 1984. While at LU, he was active in the National Society of Black Engineers where he developed lifelong friends with fellow classmates and his faculty mentor retired mathematics professor Richard Price. He was the featured speaker at the 5th annual Lamar University STEM Conference in October 2017. Graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences will also hear from classmate Lauren Konjoyan, a biology major from Nederland. 

Kathleen Jackson, member of the Texas Water Development Board, will address the 264 graduates of College of Engineering and their guests during commencement exercises May 12 at 8:30 a.m. Jackson has a diverse background representing agricultural, environmental, industrial, and wholesale-supply interests, which includes developing and implementing water management strategies for Southeast Texas. As a registered professional engineer, Jackson served as public affairs manager for one of the world's largest petroleum and petrochemical producers. Additionally, she was involved in production agriculture with her late husband, who ran a cattle operation and farmed rice. She served as a past member of the Lower Neches Valley Authority Board of Directors, the Texas Water Conservation Association, and participated on the Sabine and Neches Rivers Bay and Estuary Environmental Flows Assessment Program Stakeholders Committee. She is also a board member and past president of the Lamar Institute of Technology Foundation, a sustaining member of the Junior League of Beaumont, a member of the Texas Farm Bureau, past president of the American Cancer Society of North Jefferson County, and a past board member of Junior Achievement of the Golden Triangle. Jackson received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from North Carolina State University. Graduates of the College of Engineering will also hear from classmate Louis Bemberg, an industrial engineering major from Pully, Switzerland.

Enrique “Henry” Venta, dean of the College of Business, will address 149 graduates and their guests at the College of Business commencement May 12 at 11 a.m. in the Montagne Center. Venta has been dean and professor of management at LU since 2002 with teaching and research activities are in the areas of strategic issues in operations and managing the service sector. Before joining LU, he was dean of the School of Business Administration at Loyola University Chicago, 1999 – 2002, and chair of Information Systems and Operations Management there, 1996-1999. His first academic teaching experience was at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Before beginning his teaching career, Venta worked for Argonne National Laboratory, Rock Island Lines, and Tenna, Inc. He holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees from Northwestern University and a B.S.I.E. degree from the University of Puerto Rico. He has published more than 40 articles, chapters and monographs and serves on the boards of several civic and service organizations. Graduates of the College of Business will also hear from classmate Celine Do, majoring in Management Information Systems, from Groves. 

James M. Simmons, LU’s president emeritus, will address the 121 graduates and their guests at the College of Fine Arts and Communication commencement program, May 12 at 2 p.m. in the Montagne Center. Simmons served as president of the university for 14 years (1999-2013), leading the school into a new era of dynamic growth before returning to the Mary Morgan Moore Department of Music as faculty, retiring from the faculty at the end of this month. During his tenure as president, Simmons earned numerous awards in education, leadership, community service and music, including the Chief Executive Leadership Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, Newsmaker of the Decade from the Press Club of Southeast Texas, and the induction into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame. Under his leadership, LU launched its first comprehensive campaign, “Investing in the Future,” which raised over $132 million for LU by Simmons’ retirement. Graduates of the College of Fine Arts and Communication will also hear from classmate Rebekah Gonzales, a Theatre and Dance major, with a dance emphasis.

John Hayek, chief academic affairs officer of the Texas State University System, will address the 750 graduates and their guests at the commencement program for the College of Education and Human Development May 12 at 5 p.m. in the Montagne Center. As the Texas State University System's chief academic affairs officer, Hayek oversees academic program planning and review, curriculum development, and academic standards and policies for the System and its eight component institutions. Hayek has higher education leadership experience at the university, system, and state level. Prior to joining TSUS, he served as the associate vice chancellor and chief of staff for academic affairs at the University of Texas System. A social scientist by training, he previously held leadership positions with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, where he conducted research on student success and helped launch the National Survey of Student Engagement. He holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Indiana University, as well as a master’s degree in Sports Administration from St. Thomas University, and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago, where he lettered in baseball and football.

For more information about graduation and commencement programs at Lamar University, visit https://www.lamar.edu/students/commencement/info-for-graduates/index.html. For individuals unable to attend the graduations, an online broadcast is available at lamar.edu/graduation-live.