Robertson keynotes commencement; urges graduates to MAP out their path forward
Southwest graduates were handed a “MAP” on what to do next after graduation. President and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber Beverly Robertson, who delivered the keynote address at Southwest’s 21st Annual Commencement on May 11 at the FedEx Forum, told the graduates that now that they had worked hard to earn their degree and learn their trade, three factors will determine their future success: Mind, Actions, and Plan or MAP.
“You must determine what opportunities there are and where to look for them,” Robertson said. “You know your map guides you from one place to another to ensure that you arrive safely at your destination. So just know this. You are great. With the right MAP - mind, actions, plan - followed by the right keys to success, there is nothing that can stop you.”
Southwest conferred degrees and/or certificates to 1,468 graduates. Those receiving degrees included 405 candidates for the Associate of Applied Science degree, 11 candidates for the Associate of Science in teaching degree, 157 candidates for the Associate of Arts degree, 589 candidates for the Associate of Science Degree, and 307 candidates for technical certificates. Of this number, 33 distinguished themselves academically by maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
President Tracy D. Hall welcomed faculty, special guests and family members to the ceremony and thanked them for supporting the Class of 2019 in attaining their degrees.
Hall said it was an honor to celebrate their accomplishments and recognized the graduates’ perseverance, dedication, and commitment in achieving their academic goals.
“Your commitment and talent are most deserving of recognition,” Hall said. “In academia, we believe that higher education transforms lives, families, and communities.”
Hall also recognized three special graduates: Simone Malone, and Andrea and Kari Staggs. Malone is a mother of five who began her studies at Southwest in 2006, but was forced to delay her academic plans due to several life and health obstacles including two strokes, which weakened her mobility and impaired her speech. She returned to Southwest in fall 2017 after a ten year hiatus and graduated with an Associate of Science in health work. Andrea and Kari Skaggs are mother and daughter graduates who started together in 2017 and earned Associate of Applied Science degrees in allied health sciences through the physical therapy assistants (PTA) program with honors. They are the youngest and oldest students to complete the program this year.
This year’s student speaker was Brandon Johnson. Johnson began his studies at Southwest in the fall of 2017 after an unfortunate car accident derailed his freshman year at Western Kentucky University. He returned to Memphis where he underwent six surgeries in the course of a year and slowly regained his ability to walk again. During his recovery he worked in the hospitality industry as a bookkeeper and accountant. It took him seven years to recover physically from the accident before he could return to college. Johnson excelled academically and maintained a 3.75 GPA, and was an active member of the campus. He served as a student ambassador and in Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and Project M.O.S.T. (Men of Southwest Tennessee). He is the first in the Johnson family to earn a college degree. He was awarded an Associate of Science in cccounting and plans to return to Western Kentucky University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in management and then a Master of Business Administration.
Quoting French poet, journalist, and novelist Anatole France, Johnson said in order to accomplish great things, the Class of 2019 had to not only act, but also dream, plan and believe.
“We’ve worked. We’ve believed. We’ve remained faithful,” Johnson said. “And look at us now! We have made it to the end of our journey at Southwest.”
Johnson shared three things to remember as they go forward: to build a solid foundation, not be afraid to fail, and the importance of serving others.
“As you venture into your prospective career paths, I encourage you to stay ambitious, while not being afraid to fail,” Johnson said. “But most importantly, always be willing to serve.”
During the ceremony, awards were handed out to Charles Edward Baker, JD, who received the William W. Farris Faculty Service Award for his commitment to excellence in teaching, and to Tameka Perry, Esquire, who was recognized as the Alumnus of the Year.
Baker played a critical role in the establishment of the Blue Path Program, a partnership with the Memphis Police Department that provides a pathway to the police force for area graduating high school seniors, and also helped to implement a new, unified Associate of Applied Science Degree in criminal justice. He has served on multiple college and statewide committees, as faculty advisor to the Paralegal Studies Program, lead coordinator for a 10-year accreditation report, interim department chair, vice president for the faculty Senate, and on the academic and career advising committee.
Perry is a distinguished legal professional who earned an Associate of Applied Science in business administration from Southwest in 1993, and then moved on to earn a bachelor’s in business administration and a Juris Doctorate from The University of Memphis. In 2002, she joined the law firm of Glassman, Edwards, Wade and Wyatt, where she worked in civil tort litigation, contract disputes, malpractice and other claims. She is currently in private practice, but prior to that was counsel for Shelby County/Memphis City Schools, the largest school district in Tennessee, during the historic merger of the Memphis City School District with the Shelby County School District in 2011.
Congratulations to the class of 2019! The Southwest family wishes all of you continued success.