Courage, resilience and records: Milestones mark Commencement


University of Louisiana at Lafayette Spring 2020 graduates were recognized for academic achievement – and strength of character – during a record-breaking virtual Commencement on Friday.

The 1,905 degrees conferred are the most for a single semester in UL Lafayette history – and the milestones don’t stop there.

The Spring 2020 class is also one of the most diverse. The 1,173 degrees conferred to women are the most ever. The University also awarded 282 degrees to African American students, the fourth-largest total in history.

Eighty-eight degrees were awarded to Hispanic students, the most ever. Fifty-two Asian students, the second-most in school history, earned degrees.

Bachelor’s degrees were awarded to 1,594 graduates, and master’s degrees were awarded to 284 graduates. Both are records.

In addition, 22 graduates earned doctoral degrees. Five graduate certificates were awarded.

The ceremonies were themselves unprecedented, the first virtual Commencement in University history.

The decision to hold virtual ceremonies was made in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in a ban on large gatherings. Spring graduates will be recognized during a televised Commencement celebration on Saturday and again in-person at a later date.

Virtual ceremonies for the University’s eight academic colleges and the Graduate School were posted online. Viewers were able to see messages from graduates themselves; these personalized pages included submitted photos, videos and quotes.

Each ceremony included welcome and congratulatory messages from administrators, college deans and student leaders.

Dr. Joseph Savoie, University president, noted the effects COVID-19 had on graduates’ final semesters, but praised them with words such as courage, resilience, optimism, ingenuity and compassion.

“These traits, combined with the knowledge that you’ve gained here and the skills that you have sharpened, will ensure that a brighter and better future remains ahead for yourselves, your loved ones and for our broader community,” Savoie said.

Dr. Jaimie Hebert, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, told students that while “the circumstances that precipitated the format of today’s Commencement have been challenging to everyone, today is a great day in your life.”

“You are the (University’s) greatest success,” Hebert said.

“We will have the opportunity to gather with you at a later time, and we look forward to that day. But we simply could not allow this day to pass without formally conferring the degrees that you have earned.”

The ceremonies also recognized Spring 2020 graduates’ individual academic achievements.

Kyle Zappi was named UL Lafayette’s Outstanding Graduate. A chemical engineering major, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Engineering.

Olivia LaHaye earned the Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award. She received a master’s degree in civil engineering from the College of Engineering.

The University recognized 21 undergraduate students as summa cum laude graduates for achieving perfect 4.0 GPAs. The group tied for the second largest ever to achieve perfect GPAs. Honorees, listed by college, are:

College of the Arts

  • Caroline Marie Ferrell, interior design

B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration

  • Ashlyn Michelle Doucet, marketing
  • Miranda M. Himel, accounting
  • Ada Kathryn Marion, accounting
  • Sydney Jo Mccaulley, accounting
  • Franziska Marie Riepl, economics
  • Theresa Ann Sevier, accounting

College of Education

  • Sarah Jeanette Frey, kinesiology 
  • Kimberly Paige Sellers, kinesiology

College of Engineering

  • Joshua Ethan Worley, chemical engineering

College of Liberal Arts

  • Bria Ranae Burrell, strategic communication 
  • Madison Raye Holmes, psychology
  • Regina Marie Lowe, anthropology
  • Devin Gerard Saucier, English
  • Kayla Marie Solar, speech pathology and audiology

Ray P. Authement College of Sciences

  • Brooke Elizabeth Bocklud, biology
  • Shallon Gregg Broussard, computer science
  • Tate Jarrod Courville, computer science
  • Aidyn Dakota Mckinley Creson, biology
  • Kirsten Beth Douet, biology
  • Emily Elizabeth Frederick, biology

The virtual ceremonies will remain accessible via links on the University’s website.

Graduates will be honored again Saturday, when Lafayette’s four TV network affiliates will broadcast a commencement celebration that will resemble the traditional, in-person General Assembly. Times are 4:30 p.m. on KATC, and 6:30 p.m. on KADN, KLAF and KLFY.

View a list of Spring 2020 graduates.

Photo caption: Patti Jeane Pangborn, left, and Samantha Castleman were among a record 1,173 women who received degrees Friday from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Both, seen here in the University’s Quadrangle in the days leading up to Friday’s virtual Commencement, completed doctoral degrees in English. (Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)