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‘College is the gateway,’ Begnaud reminds UL Lafayette graduates

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David Begnaud praised University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Spring 2018 graduates for reaching a milestone the majority of U.S. citizens never will: earning a college degree.

“It's the beginning of your opportunity to change the world, or at least your little corner of it," said the 35-year-old CBS News national correspondent.

Begnaud urged graduates to use the knowledge they have acquired to help others.

"Somewhere, right now, someone, someplace is waiting on you and your potential."

Begnaud, who received a bachelor’s degree in general studies from UL Lafayette in 2005, found millions of people waiting on him last September. That’s when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, and Begnaud arrived to cover the storm.

The journalist’s broadcasts from the U.S. territory in the northeastern Caribbean spurred quicker, more efficient disaster response from local and federal agencies. They also earned Begnaud a George Polk Award in Public Service, one of the most prestigious journalism awards.

The Spring 2018 Commencement speaker reminded 1,732 men and women who made up the University’s second-largest graduating class that “college is the gateway to the rest of your life.”

That life should be built around chasing your dreams with persistence, he said.

“Find what you love to do. Do it better than anyone else can do.”

Bachelor’s degrees were awarded to 1,510 graduates. Master’s degrees were awarded to 184 graduates. Thirty-two graduates received doctoral degrees. Five graduates received graduate certificates. One graduate received a post-baccalaureate certificate.

Dr. Joseph Savoie, University president, told graduates to “remember that education enables you to envision a better world, and it empowers you. But don’t just dream about it, do something about it.”

“The world will always need thoughtful engaged citizens who are willing to understand more, to feel more and to do more.”

Electrical engineering major Matthew Furka was recognized as the University’s Spring 2018 Outstanding Graduate.

Jesse DelGizzi was recognized as the Spring 2018 Outstanding Master’s Graduate. He studied music theory and composition.

Sixteen undergraduate students were recognized as summa cum laude graduates for achieving perfect 4.0 grade point averages. They are:

  • Madeleine Elise Breaux, bachelor’s degree in history;
  • Adam Broussard, bachelor’s degree in chemistry;
  • Kaitlyn Elisabeth Craven, bachelor’s degree in secondary education and teaching;
  • Jaden Matthew Danos, bachelor’s degree in biology;
  • Matthew Joseph Furka, bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering;
  • Emily Ann Hawkins, bachelor’s degree in English;
  • Briley Rose Higginbotham, bachelor’s degree in English;
  • Tommy Hung Lam, bachelor’s degree in biology;
  • Tyler Andre Lege, bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering;
  • Mary Frances McMahon, bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology;
  • Dylan Moore, bachelor’s degree in political science;
  • Erin Elizabeth Picou, bachelor’s degree in biology;
  • Hayden D. Presley, bachelor’s degree in computer science;
  • Lane Wyatt Simon, bachelor’s degree in political science;
  • Kathryn Elizabeth Tison, bachelor’s degree in political science; and
  • Alexandra Marie Zamora, bachelor’s degree in biology.

View a list of Spring 2018 graduates.

Top photo: David Begnaud, who received a bachelor’s degree in general studies from UL Lafayette in 2005, addresses Spring 2018 graduates. His broadcasts from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria earned Begnaud a George Polk Award in Public Service. (Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Inset photo: Colorful, decorated mortarboards are always in fashion at Commencement ceremonies. (Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)