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Commencement ceremony marks life-changing milestones for graduates

by UofL Today last modified Dec 21, 2013 08:57 AM

Nearly 800 scholars participated in commencement Dec. 19 as they made the final transition from student to graduate.

In an address to students and their families at the KFC Yum! Center, UofL President James Ramsey talked about how the university has changed in the past four years overcoming challenges such as floods, wind storms and funding cuts to transform the campus environment and raise the bar even higher in both academics and athletics.

“You made it happen here and you will make it happen in your lives in the years to come,” he said.

Student speaker Sadiatu Musah encouraged her classmates to move out of their “comfort zone” to reach their best potential.

An honorary degree was conferred on Hardin County native Joseph Prather at the ceremony. He is known for his long career in Kentucky state government and has been an advocate for the university for many years.

Graduation day was especially poignant for former Cardinal basketball player Tony Williams. He scored 1,133 points during his 1996-2000 career at UofL but left the university without finishing his degree to play professional basketball in Europe. When he returned a decade later he resumed his studies, earning a bachelor’s degree in communications.

“I just started thinking about Plan B,” said Williams. “I know it sounds cheesy, but I really need to succeed.”

He now coaches the men’s basketball team at St. Francis High School.

Graduation day also marked a milestone for Louisvillian George Armstrong. Selected as the College of Business’s Outstanding Graduate, his story is one of perseverance. He started college in 1995 but struggled with alcohol dependency, low-paying jobs and poor grades. He eventually dropped out. Years later, he got a second chance when a temporary agency manager asked a group of job candidates if anyone knew how to use the software program Excel. Armstrong was the only one to raise his hand.

That moment led to his working as a financial analyst for Flextronics Global Services, where he tapped into the company’s tuition reimbursement program and completed a degree in accountancy. He has maintained his sobriety for years and graduated with a 3.9 GPA.

Armstrong writes that his career in finance has meant a better quality of life.

“I had a much greater satisfaction with going to work every day,” he said.

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