Nearly 2,500 people packed Finis Horne Arena on May 15, 2019, to see 343 graduates receive degrees at Lander University’s 159th commencement.
It was one of Lander’s largest graduating classes, just under the mark set in spring 2014.
Representing the 2019 class were students from 10 foreign countries including China, Venezuela, Sweden, Norway, Canada, England, Egypt, Finland, Netherlands and Zimbabwe.
Students also hailed from 15 U.S. states, such as Texas, Utah, Illinois, Georgia, Michigan, and Massachusetts.
“I transferred to Lander in the fall of 2016, and the last three years seem to have flown by,” said Quinton Amick, a senior from Clinton, S.C., who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems. “In some ways, it feels like I just started – but at the same time it feels good to graduate.”
Delivering the commencement address was third-term State Treasurer Curtis M. Loftis, Jr., who told the graduates that the most important thing in their lives going forward will be having the courage to say “yes to your dreams.”
Loftis, first elected in 2010 by all 46 state counties, manages, invests and retains custody of tens of billions of dollars in public funds.
Now in his ninth year of office, Loftis spoke about the often difficult but necessary ability to say ‘no’ to many things in order to achieve “the extraordinary life that’s in all of you.”
“Each of you possess dreams – some you’ve told your friends about, some you haven’t, and some of them are just fragments,” he said. “But knowing, and knowingly and willfully saying ‘yes’ to your dreams, is the only way to pursue that which is bigger than you.”
Lander President Richard Cosentino then recognized academic and faculty honors, student veterans, and a special group of 15 Golden Graduates, class of ’69 – honored on the 50th anniversary of their graduation from Lander.
Leading the roll of honors, however, was senior Kaitlynn Aleeya Strahl of Elgin, S.C., the winner of the annual Thayer Award, Lander’s highest academic honor.
“Eight students were finalists for the Thayer,” Cosentino told the gathering. “Congratulations to Kaitlynn and all eight of you.”
Once all degrees were in hand, graduates and parents and friends erupted in celebration with shouts, smiles, hugs, tears, picture taking – and above all, relief and excitement that this part of their journey was over.
“I’m going to Florida State University in the fall for my Masters in Business Administration,” said Robertson Arthur Hoyt from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. “But being here at Lander and playing baseball here has been the best four years of my life.”
And Stephanie Ahn, from Clinton, S.C., added that her “third walk across the Lander graduation stage” may have been the best.
“Lander has been a wonderful place for my educational pursuits,” said Ahn, who completed her Masters of Science in Nursing as a Clinical Nurse Leader. “I will assume the duties of a CNL at Self Regional Healthcare here in Greenwood – and because of the solid foundation Lander provided, I am ready and excited for this chapter in my life.”