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Non-traditional Students take Center Stage at ULM Commencement

Today, one would not have needed to look far to find hopeful and determined graduates at the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s fall Commencement Ceremony.
Monroe -- Today, one would not have needed to look far to find hopeful and determined graduates at the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s fall Commencement Ceremony. Fant-Ewing Coliseum was filled with young men and women, ready to embark on the next chapter of their lives.

However, there were a few graduates that had already written and re-written many of their life’s chapters, and their stories were met with appreciation and respect.

ULM President Dr. Nick J. Bruno acknowledged four of these non-traditional graduates, each taking their own path to the finish line.

Jeffrey Alderman from West Monroe received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. He began as a 49 year-old beginning freshman and celebrated his 53rd birthday in September. Alderman finished his degree over the summer, and of the 179 summer graduates receiving degrees at this commencement, Alderman was the top graduate of that class.

Henry “Cisco” Richard was a member of the famous Northeast Louisiana University 1987 national championship football team. Although he was not in attendance, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in general business. Richard lives in South Lyon, Mich., and returned to school to complete his degree after an 11 year absence.

Lawanna Gilbert-Bell moved to Monroe 15 years ago with her husband. She has worked in ULM’s Office of Sponsored Programs and Research for the past five years. In August 2009, Lawanna began to pursue a Bachelors of Business degree via ULM’s online educational program, eULM. Lawanna finished her degree on time while working full-time and raising two children.

Brent Vidrine, a native of Eunice, and the current superintendent of Monroe City Schools, received a Doctor of Education degree. Vidrine was a member of the Northeast Louisiana University Baseball Team from 1983-1985, graduating with a B.S. in Education in 1986. Vidrine returned to ULM in 2010 to earn his Ed.D.

In all, 647 students received degrees as part of ULM’s summer and fall classes of 2013.

Top Graduates:

Two top graduates within the summer and fall classes were honored during commencement.

Top summer graduate 2013:

Jeffrey Alderman received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. He is from West Monroe, and is the son of Mr. and Mrs. H.H. Alderman.

Top fall graduate 2013:

Victoria Smith received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in art. She is from San Francisco, Calif., and is the daughter of Maria Smith.
Several honor graduates were recognized during the ceremony. They are designated as summa cum laude (3.900-4.000), magna cum laude (3.750-3.899) and cum laude (3.500-3.749).

Honorary Doctorates:

During the ceremony, honorary doctorates were awarded to long-time ULM supporters, George Luffey and John McCarter.
Dr. Eric Pani, Vice President for Academic Affairs, read citations honoring each recipient.

He said of Luffey, “you are an educator, mentor, community leader, and entrepreneur. Countless Louisiana lives have been enriched because of your efforts. Time and again, you have answered the call to service, pouring yourself into this institution, our local community, and the state at large.”

Luffey served as a member of the Board of Regents for 18 years and also served ULM as a member of its faculty, and coach for its football and baseball teams. Luffey led the ULM baseball team to its first championship in 1964 during his tenure as head coach; was president of ULM’s Booster Club; was voted into the ULM Hall of Fame; and received the George T. Walker Lifetime Achievement Award.

John H. McCarter was also awarded with an honorary doctorate. Pani spoke kindly of McCarter’s contributions to the university and the community.

Pani said, “For the last 55 years, you have influenced the economy of our area as an independent petroleum geologist and consultant, as well as innovator of several ‘firsts’ in oil and gas exploration and production in northeast Louisiana.”

McCarter, a Louisiana State University graduate and decorated World War II veteran, is a renowned geologist who taught at both Louisiana Tech University and ULM. McCarter was the founder and head of ULM’s geology department and holds Emeritus status with the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.
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