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New beginnings, new choices greet UWA Spring Graduates

Some 240 students became graduates of the University of West Alabama on Saturday. Bachelor’s degrees were awarded by the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the College of Business, and the Julia S. Tutwiler College of Education.

The Ira D. Pruitt Division of Nursing awarded associate degrees, and the School of Graduate Studies awarded master’s degrees. With each degree graduates earned new paths for careers and further educational opportunities.

“You now have opened the door to more choices in fulfilling your own personal definition of success,” said UWA President Richard Holland.

UWA conferred the Honorary Doctor of Laws upon Anne Athey Payne of Ramer, Alabama and Robert J. Romine of Prattville, Alabama. Payne is Executive Director of the Alabama Agribusiness Council, and has distinguished herself through an outstanding career in Alabama state government, agriculture, and business. Romine is Vice Chancellor for Workforce Development and Adult Education for the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education, and has led an exemplary career in education, making substantial contributions to postsecondary education in several states as well as on the national level.

During commencement ceremonies three outstanding UWA educators were deemed Emeritus Professors. Dr. Roy M. Underwood, Jr., Emeritus Professor of English, retired this year as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He joined the UWA faculty in 1975. Dr. Betty Cowan, Emeritus Professor of Elementary and Early Childhood Education retired from UWA this year as professor, and joined the UWA faculty in 1987. Ms. Sharon Underwood, Emeritus Professor of Computer Information Systems, retired this year as Associate Professor and joined the UWA faculty in 1984.

The Lyon Award and the Gilbert Award for Outstanding Teaching, two of the University’s most prestigious awards, are presented during Spring Commencement.

The Ralph M. Lyon Award for Academic Excellence is given each year to the student with the most outstanding undergraduate scholastic record among those students who have completed requirements for a bachelor’s degree. For 2004, the award was presented to Kelly Crager of Silas. Crager, a chemistry major, earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average during her undergraduate studies.

The William E. Gilbert Award recognizes outstanding teaching and excellence in classroom instruction in the undergraduate programs at UWA. A student committee whose members are nominated by the Deans and the Chairperson of the Division of Nursing and chosen by the Student Government Association makes selection of the outstanding teacher. Madelyne Mack of Livingston was presented the 2004 Gilbert Award. Mack is an Associate Professor in the College of Education. The winner of the Gilbert Award is given the honor of carrying the academic mace and leading the procession of faculty during commencement and honors day convocation.

Although local traditional students made up the majority of those earning degrees on Saturday, the graduating class also included international students and students who earned their graduate degrees online and made their first visit to the Livingston campus to pick-up their diplomas.