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Commencement planned for May 16th

Georgia Highlands College Commencement will be held on Saturday, May 16th, at The Forum in downtown Rome. The nursing pinning ceremony will be held at 10AM and the graduation commencement will be held at 1PM. Approximately 645 students have applied for graduation.

The faculty has chosen Mrs. Blanca Gonzalez as the 2015 Mace Bearer and Dr. Kristie Kemper as the recipient of the Wesley C. Walraven Faculty Award. Georgia Highlands College is honored to award the President’s Meritorious Service Award to WellStar Health System.

Ms. Ericia Ward-Williams, program manager of scholarships for the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, will give the commencement address.

Regent Neil Pruitt will also bring greetings from the Board of Regents.

On the floor of the Arena will be reserved seating for staff and invited guests. Free parking is available at the Third Avenue Parking Deck (adjacent to the Forum) and West 3rd Street parking lot (across the bridge from the Forum). Shuttle service will be available throughout the day from Broad Street, all the parking decks, and West 3rd Street.


Ericia Ward-Williams – Commencement Speaker

Ericia Ward-Williams is the Program Manager of Scholarships for the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.  She received her Bachelor of Business Administration and her Master of Business Administration from Mercer University.  After several years in media sales, Ericia was presented with the opportunity of becoming a member of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation team, leading her to find her life’s passion of assisting future leaders realize their dreams. 

As Program Manager of Scholarships, Ericia manages the selection process for the Foundation’s flagship program, the Coca-Cola Scholars Program, a four year-award for high school seniors. In addition to other programming, she also oversees the Foundation’s partnership with Phi Theta Kappa and their administration of Coca-Cola branded scholarships.

Ericia resides in Riverdale, GA with her husband Allen, sons Johnathan and Allen III and their dogs Blair and Tripp.

Blanca Gonzalez – Mace Bearer

GHC faculty members selected Blanca Gonzalez, associate professor of mathematics, to carry the mace this year to honor the many years of dedicated service that she has given to the college. The Georgia Highlands College mace was designed by David Mott, retired associate professor of art, and Dr. David Cook, retired professor of biology.

The mace, a great and splendid staff, is actually a club and a symbolic weapon. Medieval universities would not defend themselves with the sword. It was not considered appropriate for gentle scholars to draw blood, but they could defend themselves using a cudgel. The mace has come to stand as a symbol for two critical matters. First, it stands for the freedom of the academy to seek the truth and to teach it. It also stands for the authority of the academy. The mace makes the statement that the academy must protect the ideals of order, liberty, and the freedom to learn.

Gonzalez first came to GHC in 1987 as a part-time Assistant Professor of Mathematics. During Academic Year 1987-88 (September-June), she worked full-time as a Temporary Assistant Professor of Mathematics. When that appointment ended, she returned to her part-time position, until she was hired into a tenure track position in August 2000, as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics. She was promoted to Associate Professor in August 2004 and received tenure in August 2005. She holds a Master of Education in Mathematics from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Georgia College.

Dr. Kristie Kemper - Wesley C. Walraven Faculty Award

GHC faculty members selected Dr. Kristie Kemper, professor of English, to receive the Wesley C. Walraven Faculty Award to honor her years of service and leadership at GHC. The Walraven Award is named in memory of Dr. Wesley C. Walraven, the academic dean at the then Floyd College from its founding in 1970 until 1993. His most memorable assets included an unselfish dedication to students, a quietly focused management style, and keen intelligence. 

Considering those traits, it is particularly appropriate for Dr. Kristie Kemper to receive this honor. She was hired at GHC in September 1979 as an Assistant Professor of English. She received tenure in September 1985 and was promoted to Professor in September 1991. In 2003, she was the recipient of the Board of Regents Teaching Excellence Award for two-year and state college faculty. She has been faculty advisor to the student newspaper, The Six Mile Post, for 35 years. During that time, the publication has won numerous state, regional, and national awards of excellence. For 30 years, she has coordinated and developed the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Trip for our students, faculty and staff, and others in the community. She has been selected as a participant in three National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars for college teachers.

In February 2014, she received the Wilton C. Scott Award for Excellence in Scholastic Journalism presented by the Southern Regional Press Institute. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in English and a Master of Arts in English from The University of Tennessee.

The President’s Meritorious Service Award – WellStar

The President’s Meritorious Service Award is designed to recognize those who exhibit extraordinary support of, and service to, Georgia Highlands College. The 2015 award is presented to WellStar for its partnership with GHC in promoting excellence in nursing education, enhancing the nursing profession, and benefiting the community. The GHC nursing program has a long-standing partnership with the WellStar Health System. This partnership has included significant monetary and physical space contributions. The nursing program has been provided with campus lab space in the WellStar Development Center in Marietta since 2008. From 2011 to 2014, GHC and WellStar worked together to aid WellStar’s LPNs in returning to school to obtain their associate degree. WellStar provided a gift in excess of $1.5 million over a three-year period to support GHC with offering the LPN-RN bridge program at the WellStar Development Center. The money also supported the expansion of the simulation lab, the expansion of anatomy and physiology classes at the Douglasville teaching site, and the creation of a microbiology lab at the Douglasville campus. Currently, WellStar and the Georgia Highlands College nursing department are focusing on assisting with the statewide goal of an 80% baccalaureate-prepared nursing workforce by 2020.


Page last updated: May 19, 2015