Louisiana Tech held summer commencement exercises today, and 303 graduates were rewarded for the mettle.

Dr. Jo Ann Dauzat was the keynote speaker for summer graduation.

‘You are academic Olympians, the intellectual Olympians,’ said Dr. Jo Ann Dauzat, dean emeritus of Tech’s College of Education, who delivered her first commencement address. ‘You are the ones who can compete internationally.’

She reminded the graduates, however, that they did not ‘achieve this gold medal diploma’ on their own. In addition to many years of studies, they all have a support system of family members and friends who helped them achieve this dream.

Dauzat encouraged graduates with ‘Four Ps in a Pod.’ She admonished them to take on all their endeavors with purpose, pride, passion and principle.

For Kimberly Gragg Taylor, 27, of DeRidder, her purpose was clear even when obstacles in her life made her take a three-year sabbatical from her studies for marriage and work.

Taylor earned her B.S. in kinesiology and health promotion with a clinical concentration. She said she is the youngest of three siblings and the first to earn a college degree.

Kimberly Gragg Taylor said she received support from friends and family as she pursued her degree.

‘It was very important to me to come back and finish,’ she said. ‘It’s bittersweet – finally being done but also having to go out into the real world.’

Taylor said, though, that she has moved to Ruston so she knows she won’t be far from Tech. Her husband, Stephen Taylor, graduated from Tech in November with a sociology degree and has been a great supporter of her education and dream to work in the sports medicine field.

Like Taylor, Nalinkanth Veerabadran is also a ‘first’ in his family. His first, however, required relocating half a world away from his biggest supporters. But, he said, it was well worth it.

Veerabadran, 28, of India, has lived in Ruston for the last four years working toward his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. He earned his bachelor’s in India and decided to come to Tech because of the pride the university has in being a leader in the field. He is the first in his family to come to the United States to pursue education.

Three hundred three students received diplomas from Tech on Aug. 14.

He doesn’t know where he will go from here, but he is passionate about biomedical engineering and is open to go anywhere he will be useful, he said.

‘My family is proud, more than proud,’ Veerabadran said, adding his only brother in the United States drove from San Francisco to celebrate his graduation.

Another proud brother, Brad Lacy, of San Antonio, Texas, came to honor Matt Lacy, 25, of Longview, Texas, who graduated with a B.A. in sociology. Matt Lacy chose to attend Tech on a baseball scholarship, following in his father’s footsteps (who also attended Tech on a baseball scholarship and graduated in 1978).

Matt Lacy, who was No. 11 on the baseball team, ironically fell in love with and married Kristin Rupp, No. 11 on the softball team, last Nov. 11.

‘We’re proud of his perseverance,’ Brad Lacy said – speaking for himself and his mom, Phyllis Lacy, of Longview, Texas. ‘He left and went to work but did correspondence and finished his last three hours to graduate. To be a student athlete, too, that takes so much time.’

Dauzat congratulated all graduates on their achievements but encouraged them not to rest on their laurels but to take responsibility in their workplaces, in their communities and their world and find solutions for the betterment of all.

‘Make this world great because you do your work – whatever that may be – by releasing the Four Ps in a Pod,’ she said. ‘Do it with purpose. Do it with passion. Do it with principle, and do it with pride.’

By Elizabeth Christian

Written by Judith Roberts