News and Updates

SGSC Graduates Encouraged to Keep Looking Forward During 2023 Commencement Ceremonies

Posted on Jul 12, 2023

South Georgia State College celebrated its graduates during SGSC’s annual commencement ceremonies May 11 on the Douglas Campus and May 12 on the Waycross Campus. Family members and friends gathered on each campus to cheer on a portion of the 339 graduates from summer and fall 2022 and spring 2023.

Dr. Jim Cottingham, Vice President Emeritus for Student Affairs and Professor Emeritus of Education & Psychology for SGSC, served as the commencement speaker for the Douglas ceremony. Dr. Cottingham reflected on the historical significance of the college and the time-honored traditions observed as part of the commencement ceremonies.

Dr. Cottingham assured the graduates that communities near and far need their skills, their commitment, and their capacity for service.  And we all benefit from encouragement.  He cherishes a moment of encouragement on a similar day some 50 years ago when Ruby Smith, a longtime family friend, extended her arthritic hand and said, “Keep on Keeping On.” And, as if he had missed it, she repeated: “Keep on Keeping on!” Dr. Cottingham said, “And that’s what we wish for you as we celebrate your accomplishments and challenge you to stay on track for future growth and development.”

In his conclusion, Dr. Cottingham gave these words, “From one alumnus to another.  You have been congratulated and you have been challenged to keep growing and keep building meaningful relationships and keep staying connected.  My closing words take the form of a prayer, that the Lord will bless you and yours, our Alma Mater, our Country, and this planet we all call home.  Congratulations.  Keep Commencing.  Keep on keeping on.”

Mr. Taylor Hereford, Director of Advancement & Waycross Campus and the Executive Director of the James M. Dye Foundation, provided the commencement addresses at both Waycross Campus ceremonies.

Mr. Hereford shared with the graduates a story dating back to 1937 with the launch of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs film. He explained how a man named Elias, later known as Walt Disney, took a fledging company and pushed through challenges and obstacles to produce his project, the first-ever full-length animated motion picture, which generated $6.5 million by May 1939, making it the highest grossing American film at the time.

Mr. Hereford expanded on the story by expressing the challenges during his recent journey through graduate school. He explained, “While I don’t know the specific degrees each of you will be awarded today, I have a feeling you experienced some of the same challenges here at SGSC that I did in my graduate program. You may have needed to balance work and school or the ultimate trifecta – family, work, and school. I’m sure there was some frustration, you might have shed a few tears, and you may have been looking for the finish line – only to see that it was still many, many miles away.” He continued, “But look at you now. You began your journey at SGSC with the goal of completing something that may have seemed impossible, but you did it!”

In conclusion, Mr. Hereford asked the graduates to never settle for the status quo, to keep pushing and to keep pursuing their dreams. He explained that even though Walt Disney had a successful career, there were many bumps and detours, but he never lost sight of what he wanted to accomplish. “Just like with Walt, the sky’s the limit for you. Don’t let today be the final accomplishment. Keep looking forward. Pursue your dreams,” said Mr. Hereford.

SGSC Interim President Dr. Greg Tanner greeted guests and spoke words of encouragement at the ceremonies. Following the ceremonial moving of the tassels, Dr. Tanner offered his congratulations to the graduates.

“Congratulations, you are now alumni of South Georgia State College,” Dr. Tanner told the graduates. “I wish you the very best on your future endeavors and for you to have continued success. As you move forward with your personal and professional lives, always take time to remember your alma mater and what South Georgia State College has meant to you.”


Dr. Greg Tanner, SGSC Interim President, and Dr. Jim Cottingham, Douglas Commencement speaker

Mr. Taylor Hereford, Waycross Commencement speaker and Dr. Greg Tanner, SGSC Interim President