FLORENCE — Francis Marion University awarded 351 degrees at its fall commencement Dec. 19, including a record 98 graduate degrees, a sign of the continued growth of the university’s advanced professional programs.
U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach, who represents South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House, and longtime FMU administrator Rannie D. Gamble, received honorary doctorates of humanities at the ceremony. Rice delivered the commencement address.
Rice told the graduates that they were “blessed to live in a country that gives us such incredible opportunities, that is known as ‘the land of opportunity.’”
“Now, let me be clear about one very hard truth,” Rice added. “This is the land of opportunity, not the land of guarantees. But you know that. You took the hard road and earned this degree that will serve you all your life. Opportunity will avail itself to those who are prepared. That’s why we have gathered here today, to celebrate your preparation.”
Rice was first elected to Congress in 2012 and was re-elected to the post in 2014. The 7th Congressional District includes all of Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Marlboro, Marion, Horry and Georgetown counties, and most of Florence County.
Rice was recently appointed to the prestigious House Ways and Means Committee and to the Oversight, Social Security and Human Resources subcommittees.
Gamble, who also received an honorary doctorate, has worked at FMU for more than 32 years and has been vital cog in the provost’s office. according to university officials. Gamble currently serves as the administrative manager/senior administrative associate for that office. In that capacity, Gamble manages the general operations of the office, working very closely with department chairs, deans, faculty and students.
The record number of graduate degrees were spread across FMU’s professional programs. Then almost 100 master’s degrees were awarded to graduates in business, education, nursing and psychology.
Two FMU students completed degree requirements with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.9 or higher and received their degrees summa cum laude (with highest honors). They were Melody Leanne McColl of Clio and Kayla Joyce Staley of Florence.
Receiving degrees magna cum laude (with high honor) were 11 students who completed degree requirements with a cumulative GPA between 3.75 and 3.89. They were Lindsay Jayne Baldridge of Surfside Beach; MaryAnn Collins of Pamplico; George Cameron Dodge, Austin Reed Jones, Hallie Catherine Prosser, and Michael David Yokim; Dana R. Gulledge of Ruby; Santanna Kadeedra Johnson of Columbia; Matthew Coy Price of Timmonsville; Emily Langsford Sear of Ashburn, Virginia; and Janil Lavey Seegars of Camden.
Seventeen students completed degree requirements with a GPA between 3.50 and 3.74 and received their degrees cum laude (with honor).
They were Jamie Marguerite Brock of Wallace; Mary Lane Cox of Pamplico; Jamesa Mariah Dunham of Hamer; Chelsea Norris Etheredge, Joshua Thomas Skelton, Lindsay Elizabeth Smith, Rebecca Imogene Whitten, and Jeffrey Ryan Zimmers; Nkili Olabisi Gause of Loris; Hiba Ghasham of Beirut, Lebanon; Amber Nichole Griffith of Greenville; Hannah Taylor Harber of Hartsville; Brittney Nicole Merck of Lexington; Anna Louise Moore of McBee; Tiana Shontal Rogers of Cheraw; Carolyn Causey Smith of Lake View; and Brooke Hilburn Tanner of Georgetown.
Nkili Olabisi Gause of Loris and Amber Nichole Griffith of Greenville received cords. The cords are presented to graduates who compile a minimum grade point average of 3.25 for all academic work and for a minimum of 21 hours in honors courses.
Degree recipients at the commencement came from six countries, 14 U.S. states and 34 South Carolina counties.
Francis Marion University graduates from Chesterfield County are:
• Lindsay Brooke Caulder, Chesterfield, bachelor of science, economics
• Dana R. Gulledge, Ruby, bachelor of business administration, accounting, magna cum laude
• Sharika Onyea Hooks, Patrick, bachelor of arts, visual arts
• Ashley Michelle Koval, McBee, bachelor of science, elementary education
• Anna Louise Moore, McBee, bachelor of science, early childhood education, cum laude
• Shakeeka Demetrics Myers, Chesterfield, bachelor of science in nursing
• Tiana Shontal Rogers, Cheraw, bachelor of science, psychology, cum laude
• Sara Jessie Scott, Cheraw, bachelor of science in nursing
FMU graduates from Marlboro County are:
• Kentrina Motique Bridges, Bennettsville, master of education
• Jamie Marguerite Brock, Wallace, bachelor of science, early childhood education, cum laude
• Sydney Elise Dubreuiel, McColl, bachelor of science in nursing
• Shanda Johnson Graham, Bennettsville, bachelor of science in nursing
• Amber Nicole Hendrix, Clio, bachelor of science, psychology
• Jessica Leigh Martin, Bennettsville, bachelor of science, biology
• Melody Leanne McColl, Clio, bachelor of business administration, accounting, marketing, summa cum laude
• Ashley Louise Miller, Bennettsville, master of education
• Jazziman Ja’Mesh Parker, Bennettsville, bachelor of science, elementary education
• Patricia Isaac Rogers, Bennettsville, bachelor of science, elementary education
• Taylor Brooke Tingle, Bennettsville, master of education
Angela Crosland works in communications for Francis Marion University.