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Berry 2019 Commencement

Mahmood “Momo” Abdellatif receives his diploma from President Steve Briggs before a huge crowd on the Evans lawn.

“Live life less filtered.”

This was the advice John Coleman (04C) offered to the class of 2019 at spring commencement.

Coleman – the 2012 recipient of Berry’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award – is no stranger to the Berry podium, having spoken at his own graduation and at Mountain Day. This time, he shared his insights with 410 undergraduates and hundreds of additional guests gathered on the Evans Hall lawn (20 graduate students received their diplomas at a separate ceremony).

Repeatedly referring to today’s social media society, the Harvard MPA/MBA graduate and Invesco executive addressed the dangers of the unrealistic expectations it presents.

“We keep our relationships superficial and unreal, so concerned with putting our best foot forward that we forget to extend a hand,” Coleman said, encouraging graduates to embrace the messier aspects of life, rather than constantly polishing and filtering the version of their story that they share with the world.

After his own graduation, Coleman faced a series of struggles: unsuccessful jobs, break-ups, small apartments and couch surfing. In sharing these experiences, he also touched on the lessons he learned and how he has grown since then. Living life less filtered, he said, means embracing and being honest about the good and the bad in life. He emphasized the importance of opening up to others, asking for and giving help when it is needed.

“Today, you’re Berry College alums,” he said. “I know that you can do this.”

Based on their accomplishments so far, we heartily agree! A quarter of this year’s graduates will move on to graduate/professional school, studying everything from law and epidemiology to computer science and poultry nutrigenomics. Others are starting work right away with companies like Nike, Chick-fil-A, The Home Depot and Disney. Our charge to them is simple …

STAY IN TOUCH! And be sure to drop us a class note for Berry magazine from time to time. Come to think of it, that goes for the rest of you as well! If you haven’t sent us an update lately, click here and do so today!

By student writer Cassie LaJeunesse

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Equestrian Commencement

COMMENCEMENT ROUNDUP: Chief of Staff Debbie Heida, center, presides over a special graduation ceremony for equestrian seniors Allie Robertson, left, and Sarah Cooper. The equestrian team was in Syracuse, N.Y., the weekend of spring commencement competing in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships.

Allie Robertson

Allie Robertson is all smiles after winning her second national championship as a member of Berry’s equestrian team. Photo courtesy of EQ Media.

Most students process into commencement to the strains of Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, but it’s not usually played on an iPhone. Then again, graduation was anything but typical for Allie Robertson and Sarah Cooper.

As members of Berry’s varsity equestrian team, Robertson and Cooper found themselves in Syracuse, N.Y., the first weekend in May competing in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) National Championships.

Robertson walked with her Berry classmates before flying to New York for two events the following day. She ultimately won an individual national championship in Novice Western Horsemanship, her second national title at Berry, to pace a sixth-place team finish.

“It was kind of a whirlwind weekend,” she said. “I didn’t really have time to process that I had just graduated college and was going to nationals.”

Cooper’s competition schedule prevented her from walking with Robertson and the rest of her class, so Chief of Staff Debbie Heida brought graduation to her, flying to Syracuse once Berry’s commencement concluded to preside over a miniature ceremony for both equestrian seniors.

“It’s a privilege to go and be part of their nationals experience,” Heida said, adding that it means a lot to her to be able to “celebrate with someone the end of a four-year academic career.”

At the ceremony, which was held in a conference room at the event center, the students processed into the room as they would at a typical graduation.

“We had caps and gowns on top and boots and spurs on the bottom half, which was so perfect for us,” Cooper said. “It really made up for the sadness of missing the real graduation. It was the perfect way to wrap up nationals and my Berry College career.”

By student writer Cassie LaJeunesse

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Graduates embrace at Berry's 2017 spring commencement.For three decades, Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson challenged, encouraged and inspired students and colleagues alike, first as a faculty member in Berry’s communication department and later as college provost. This spring, the honorary Berry alumna took a brief respite from her duties as president of Westminster College in Pennsylvania to offer words of wisdom to the Berry class of 2018, daughter Lauren Richardson (18C) among them.

Citing sources as varied as researcher and author Sherry Turkle, communication alumnus Andy Wood (94C), singer/songwriter Paul Simon, and former Saturday Night Live comedian Mike Myers (by way of alter-ego Linda Richman), Richardson encouraged the graduates to draw upon Berry-developed “soft skills” such as “clear expression, respectful listening, critical thinking, effective collaboration and creative problem-solving” as they make their way in the world.

“Trust me,” she stated. “You can learn or relearn technical skills along the way – and you’ll have to, because technologies and processes change – but you will be able to adapt to such change quickly because of your soft skills, if you continue to use them.”

Richardson placed particular emphasize on the value of earnest conversation in an increasingly technology-driven age, noting, “Civil dialogue and critical conversation may be the most effective prescriptions for social meaning, empathetic connection and professional accomplishment that we can find as a culture and as individuals.”

A total of 403 graduates earned bachelor’s or master’s degrees this spring. Click here to get a sense of where they’re off to next and to hear remarks from student speaker Payton Stone (18C).

Related coverage: Around Berry Photo Gallery; A father’s influence drives Berry graduate

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Fall GraduatesThe Berry alumni family welcomed approximately 60 new members at fall commencement. Speakers included Tyler Julian (14C), a double major in management and marketing, and Dr. Bob Frank, assistant professor and longtime chair in the Department of Communication.

Bob FrankFrank, who will be retiring after spring semester, delivered an entertaining and inspiring message to the graduates. With characteristic wit, he focused on those things he’d like them to forget, as well as one very important thing he hopes they will remember.

“I do want you to forget about the lesser worries in life immediately in front of you,” he implored. “I do want you to forget about racing to the pinnacle of success in your life, and I do want you to forget about your major determining your future. All that I ask you today is that you not forget that, at Berry, you got one of the best educations a college graduate could ever want, and I hope you … make the most of it.”

This was Berry’s last December commencement, as fewer students are opting for a fall graduation.

Additional coverage.

View the ceremony.

By Carey Blankenship, philanthropic communications student assistant

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The Berry Alumni Association welcomed a new crop of members at December’s fall commencement ceremony, and Board of Trustees Chair Karen Holley Horrell (74C) was among those on hand to help send Berry’s newest graduates out into the world.

In her remarks, Karen spoke of the gifts – both expected and unexpected – that a college experience can provide. As an example, she cited the late Steve Jobs, who never finished college but spoke passionately about the appreciation a calligraphy course inspired for the grace and beauty of fonts and how that experience contributed to the design of the many Apple devices that now populate our society.

A total of 120 graduates received bachelor’s, master’s or educational specialist degrees during the ceremony, among them Sarah Bridenbaugh (11C), an animal science major who recently interned at the Georgia Aquarium and is now in the Bahamas conducting research as part of a shark lab. Click here to read her story. More commencement coverage.

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