Cooper, Kemp speak at Piedmont commencement ceremonies


Undergraduate Commencement

Undergraduates receiving diplomas

Graduate Commencement

Graduate students receiving diplomas

Two commencement speakers at Piedmont College on May 5 gave the 476 new graduates the message that if they take steps to “own their future” then the State of Georgia is still a land of “unimaginable” opportunities for their future success.

The Johnny Mize Athletic Center at the Demorest campus was twice filled to overflowing on May 5 as the college held separate commencement ceremonies for the 155 students receiving bachelor’s degrees in the morning and then again for the 321 students receiving master’s, specialist, and doctoral degrees in the afternoon.

Piedmont President Dr. James Mellichamp and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Thomas A. “Gus” Arrendale III also presented an honorary doctor of divinity degree to the Rev. David C. Fisher, minister of historic Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., who delivered the senior’s Baccalaureate address on May 3. During his 40-year career in the ministry, Fisher has also served churches in Minneapolis and Boston.

At the undergraduate commencement, Shan Cooper, Vice President and General Manager of the Marietta, Ga., branch of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Com­pany, spoke first, telling the undergraduates that it was important for them to “own your future.” 

“For too many people, the future is something that happens to them rather than something they make happen,” Cooper said. “Some people are busy with activities, but they aren’t intentional. They don’t build on what matters to them the most. They tend to miss out on their destiny. They tend to forfeit their true potential.

“I urge each of you to be a person of destiny. Don’t be passive. Don’t just accept what comes. Don’t just follow the current in whatever direction it carries you. … Be the person God created you to be. … Find the thing that makes you come alive. And find a way to apply that in the market place.” Quoting John F. Kennedy, Cooper said, “There are risks and costs to a program of actions. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp spoke at the second ceremony, telling the graduates to aim high in their future careers. He reminded the audience that the parents of Dr. Benjamin Mays were former slaves, and that Mays became president of Morehouse College and was a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Quoting Mays, Kemp said, “It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It is not a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled. But it is a calamity not to dream.”

Kemp said that despite the still sluggish state economy, as Secretary of State, “I have proof that there are opportunities springing up every day.” Just last year, his office issued 58,000 new licenses for various professions and issued 91,000 new business incorporations, he said.

“Gov. Nathan Deal announced his intention to make Georgia the number one state in the nation for business,” Kemp said. “We are implementing new policies to attract new businesses to Georgia and to help existing businesses grow. … Education and workforce development are the most critical areas of need. We must have a well educated and skilled workforce if we are going to attract 21st-century businesses to our state,” he said. “But there are opportunities and possibilities beyond anything you can imagine today awaiting each and every one of you.”