SU grads told to select jobs they are passionate about

Author Ernest Gaines given honorary doctorate

Southern University graduates were told Friday to use their educational gifts for the betterment of others and to choose professions that they are truly passionate about.


“If you have passion for what you do, you will work harder. You will work smarter,” said John S. Wilson, Jr., the executive director of the White House Initiatives on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.


Speaking to 636 graduates and an audience of about 5,000 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center, Wilson warned the graduates that should continued the learning process because the rest of world is building four-year colleges and community colleges that will place more people into the U.S. job market against them.


“They (other countries) are building colleges and you are cutting them in Louisiana,” he said.


As executive director, Wilson partners the White House, 32 federal agencies, private and philanthropic entities to work to assist 105 HBCUs across the country.


He told the spring grads that those that entered Southern four years ago did so when the United States was about to elect its first African-American president. The audience applauded when he said they are now graduating “before the first elected black president is re-elected.”


Southern also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to world famous author Ernest Gaines.  The Oscar, La., native is celebrated throughout the literary world for his writings, “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” “A Gathering of Old Men,” “In My Father’s House,” and “A Lesson Before Dying.”


His writings have earned him the MacArthur Foundation “genius” Award, the National Book Critics Award along with National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller and Guggenheim grants.


Leah Peoples, a psychology major from Wilmington, Del., was the chief student marshal for the 2012 Spring Commencement with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Peoples' classroom efforts were almost derailed by something that happened outside of the classroom.


In the fall of her sophomore year, a storage facility she was using caught fire. Everything that she had worked for during the summer was a pile of ashes. Furniture, a laptop, clothes, photographs, textbooks and a television were lost.


Her determination, however, was still intact.

Starting over after the fire did not become an issue for Peoples as she stayed focus on the goals she set for the upcoming semesters. She managed challenging classes, was president of the SU chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and she joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.

Peoples’ mother helped with what she could and was proud that her daughter was able to continue so strongly after the difficult semester set before her.

“I had to stay focused in order to accomplish my goals. Besides, there was nothing I could do but recover,” she said.

Visit Southern's Facebook page to view photos from the 2012 Spring Commencement.

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