Delta State graduates encouraged to make a stand in the world
by Courtney Warren
May 10, 2014 | 3399 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Delta State Hall of Famer and athlete Luisa Harris-Stewart speaks after being conferred an honorary degree during Saturday’s commencement.
Delta State Hall of Famer and athlete Luisa Harris-Stewart speaks after being conferred an honorary degree during Saturday’s commencement.
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The coliseum filled quickly with Delta State University graduates, faculty, staff, family, and friends on Saturday.

As students filed in to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” DSU President LaForge held his cell phone up and snapped a quick photo.

"You are now my tweet for the day. And you can follow me at @presidentDSU," he said to a laughing audience.

After a brief introduction, LaForge gave out the awards for exceptional teacher and staff member.

The S.E. Kossman Outstanding Teacher Award went to Dr. Mary Lenn Buchanan who has taught in the department of music for 25 years.

The H.L. Nowell Outstanding Staff Award went to Jacquelyn Dillard, who worked in the student union as a custodian for 12 years.

The commencement address was given by William Bell, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs, the nation's largest operating foundation focused on foster care.

Bell is also a DSU graduate and 2012 DSU Outstanding Alumnus and is in the DSU Hall of Fame.

"He's a son of the Delta and a loyal statesman," said LaForge.

Bell took the stage and addressed the graduates emphasizing the importance of Delta State University.

"You are the Delta State University brand and you shouldn't take that lightly. You are the future doers, future leaders, the future change makers. You have an open road of opportunity ahead of you right now," said Bell.

Bell said when he told a colleague he would be speaking at his alma mater's commencement, the colleague said the grads probably wouldn't remember him or even his name so don't stress about the speech.

"Even if you don't remember that William Bell spoke I hope you remember two things: this is your world; your world to influence, your world to help, your world to shape. Second, I hope you will pause, remember, and reflect on your answer to this question. How will you create your path and a path for others towards hope and opportunity? This is your world, what are you going to do with it," said Bell.

Bell told the graduates their lives would be dependent on how they work through three different worlds, the world you came come, the collective world around us, and your personal world that you live in alone with your mind.

"The world around us is ever changing … nothing happens in this world that you don't have the opportunity to touch today… as we celebrate here today, there are children in the nation and the great state of Mississippi that are denied a quality education, children in the nation and the great state of Mississippi that don't have access to life-changing healthcare, children in the nation and the great state of Mississippi and families that work full time and can't make enough. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere … if you don't like something in your life do something to change it," said Bell.

"You may not remember who spoke at your commencement but I hope you remember that in the face of injustice you stood, you answered the call, you answered the bell. This is only the beginning. You are the keepers of the Delta State University brand. Make it happen," he said.

After Bell received his applause the time came for the conferring of the honorary degree.

This year's recipient was Luisa Harris-Stewart.

Harris-Stewart scored the first basket ever in Women’s Olympic Basketball history, which is a record that can never be broken.

As she was hooded and given her degree, she was also given a standing ovation, reminiscent of the cheers she received while running up and down the court of the coliseum during a Delta State game.

One of the greatest centers ever to play women's basketball, Harris-Stewart is considered to be one of the pioneers of women's basketball.

During her four-year career at DSU, where she played under Hall of Fame Legendary Coach Margaret Wade, Harris-Stewart led her team to a 109-6 record and three straight National Championships, where she was named Most Valuable Player all three years.

"It's a great honor to back in Walter Sillers Coliseum. I won't say I ran the floor this time. I'm very honored for receiving this award today. I do remember the days when we played here in Walter Sillers Coliseum. The coliseum was packed in those days. Those were glorious days and I look forward to coming back again to witness the coliseum being packed again with the basketball teams. I was honored to have played and for my teammates to have given me the ball and allowing me to score. Because that's what I like doing best," she said with a smile.