1,119 Students to Participate in Spring Commencement

A record high 1,119 students will participate in commencement exercises May 15 at Southeast Missouri State University.  This number sets an all-time high for a single commencement ceremony at the University.

U.S. Sen. Jim Talent will present the commencement address during exercises scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Show Me Center.  Participating in the ceremony will be 969 undergraduate and 150 graduate students.  The National Anthem and Southeast’s alma mater will be performed by Laura Huusko, an undergraduate student in the Department of Music who will receive her degree May 15.  The Southeast Chamber Orchestra, led by conductor Dr. Sara Edgerton, will perform a special selection of “Allegro” from “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” by Mozart during the program.

Leading the class of undergraduates are 14 students with perfect 4.0 grade point averages.  They are:

  • Timothy Bledsoe of Union, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of science in business administration degree with a major in marketing and an emphasis in integrated marketing communications.
  • Jennifer Brewer of Salem, Ill., who will receive a bachelor of science degree with a major in historic preservation and minors in history and anthropology.
  • Stephanie Dunlop of Arnold, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of science in education degree with a major in English education.
  • Jessica Forys of Nashville, Ill., who will receive a bachelor of fine arts degree with a major in art.
  • Angela Marie Kolve of St. Charles, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of  science degree with a major in mathematics.
  • Kevin McCain of Thebes, Ill., who will receive a bachelor of science degree with a major in psychology and a minor in religion studies, as well as a bachelor of arts degree with a major in philosophy and a minor in psychology.
  • Ross McFerron of Advance, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of science degree with a major in political science and a minor in mass communication.
  • Jeffery L. Overbey of Cape Girardeau, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of science degree with majors in computer science (computational systems) and mathematics (applied mathematics/statistics).
  • Rebecca A. Popejoy of Prairie du Rocher, Ill., who will receive a bachelor of science in education degree with a major in social studies.
  • Benjamin Pruett of Park Hills, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of science degree with a major in criminal justice and a minor in criminology, as well as a bachelor of arts degree with a major in English literature.
  • Joseph Pruett of Park Hills, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of science in business administration degree with a major in economics.
  • Matthew Sanders of Bloomfield, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of  arts degree with a major in mass communication, journalism option, and a minor in political science.
  • Amy Stroder of Leopold, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of science in nursing degree with a major in nursing.
  • Joseph Michael Toney of Piedmont, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of  science degree with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry.

Nine honors scholars will be recognized in the graduating class.  They are Ryan Adams of Fredericktown, Mo.; Caitlin DeWilde of Taylorville, Ill.; Gelanie Lockhart of Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Jeffery Overbey of Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Julie Probst of Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Matthew Sanders of Bloomfield, Mo; Shadrick Wayne Shafer of Dexter, Mo.; Nicolette Tanksley of Cape Girardeau, Mo; and Crystal Uhe of Alhambra, Ill.  To be recognized as an honors scholar, students must complete 24 hours of honors coursework, six of which are at the senior level, and maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.25.  Honors scholars also must complete a senior research project.

Six students will graduate with academic distinction in their major departments.  They are:  Kevin McCain of Thebes, Ill., who will be recognized for academic distinction in the Department of Psychology; Jeffery Overbey of Cape Girardeau, Mo., who will be recognized for academic distinction in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Mathematics; Deborah Bychowski of Marion, Ill., who will be recognized for academic distinction in the Department of Psychology; Julie Rengel of Smithton, Ill., who will be recognized for academic distinction in the Department of Biology; Dawn Willenborg of Teutopolis, Ill., who will be recognized for academic distinction in the Department of Foreign Languages and Anthropology; and Nicolette Tanksley of Cape Girardeau, Mo., who will be recognized for academic distinction in the Department of Geosciences.

Students who graduate with “Academic Distinction in the Department of Major” complete a special project in conjunction with a faculty committee, department chair and dean.  Students carry out the project after they complete at least 75 credit hours of course work with a minimum 3.25 grade point average in their major department and a minimum 3.0 overall grade point average.

Seventy-eight members of Phi Kappa Phi also will be recognized during commencement exercises.  Phi Kappa Phi is an international honor society for academic distinction that brings together individuals from a variety of disciplines.  The charter is only extended to colleges and universities meeting the society’s rigorous standards.  Southeast first chartered its Phi Kappa Phi chapter in 1992.  The society is open to men and women in all academic fields who have demonstrated excellence of scholarship and integrity of character.  Graduating seniors who rank in the upper 10 percent of their class; juniors who rank in the upper 7.5 percent of their class; and graduate and professional students who have a graduate grade point average of 4.0 and have an outstanding undergraduate record are eligible for consideration.

In addition, nine graduate members of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society for college students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni, will graduate.  Students inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa as a graduate student must be in the upper 35 percent of their graduate school class and must have demonstrated achievement in one of the following areas:  scholarship; athletics; campus and community service, social and religious activities, and campus government; journalism, speech and the mass media; and creative and performing arts.  The society is designed to recognize those who have exhibited a high standard of leadership and effectiveness in collegiate activities, to bring together student leaders from all sectors of collegiate interest; and to bring together members of the faculty and the student body on a basis of mutual interest and understanding.

An Honors Convocation is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in the Show Me Center, during which 253 undergraduates and 70 graduate students will be honored.  Dr. Craig Downing, assistant professor of industrial and engineering technology, will present the Honors Convocation address.  He will also serve as grand marshal at the commencement ceremony.

Among the undergraduates participating in the honors convocation, 39 will graduate summa cum laude, 89 will graduate magna cum laude, 124 will graduate cum laude, and one will graduate with honors in associate degrees.  The required undergraduate grade point average for graduating cum laude is 3.5 to 3.74.  Students graduating magna cum laude must earn a grade point average of 3.75 to 3.89.  Students graduating summa cum laude must earn a grade point average of 3.9 to 4.0.  Graduate students participating in the Honors Convocation must have achieved at least a 3.9 grade point average.

In addition to the graduates, six alumni of Southeast Missouri State will be honored with the 2004 Young Alumni Merit Award during commencement exercises.  The award, presented by Southeast’s Alumni Association, is given annually to honor those alumni under the age of 36 who have brought distinction to the University through professional growth, service, and individual character.  Each academic college at Southeast honors a distinguished young alumna or alumnus by presenting them with the Young Alumni Merit Award.

The recipients and the college presenting each award are as follows:

  • Natacha Perrotta of Atlanta, Ga., associate of A.T. Kearney, Donald L. Harrison College of Business
  • Kerwin Urhahn of Portageville, Mo., superintendent of Portageville School District, College of Education
  • Dr. Matthew Janzow of Victoria, Texas, surgeon with Victoria Surgical Associates, College of Health and Human Services
  • Christopher Blair Schoessel of Hermitage, Tenn., vocal and instrumental performer and writer, and recipient of the 1999 New Horizon Award Winner at the Golden Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn., College of Liberal Arts.
  • Lt. Corey Pritchard of Lemoore, Calif., Navy aviator and the first aviator to land the Navy’s new Super Hornet fighter on its initial aircraft carrier deployment, College of Science and Mathematics.
  • Lindell Barks of Sedgewickville, Mo., assistant general manager QA of TG Missouri Corp., School of Polytechnic Studies

The commencement speaker, U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, has served as a Missouri state senator since November.  He previously served eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives and, prior to that, eight years in the Missouri House. As a freshman senator, Talent is the chair of the Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee and the chairman of the Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Marketing, Inspection, and Product Promotion.  He is also a member of President Bush’s Export Council and was selected to serve as a Deputy Whip.

Talent currently is supporting Missouri interests on four key committees: The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee; the Senate Armed Services Committee; the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; and the Senate Aging Committee.

While serving in the Missouri House of Representatives, Talent succeeded in passing numerous pieces of legislation, including efforts to build roads, toughen drug laws, secure taxpayer rights and reduce taxes.  He was unanimously chosen by his colleagues as the Minority leader, the highest-ranking Republican leadership position in the Missourian House, serving until 1992, when he was elected to Congress.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Talent introduced the Real Welfare Reform Act of 1994.  He was an original co-sponsor of the first Patients’ Bill of Rights that passed the House in 1998, and was selected to serve on the Patient’s Bill of Rights conference committee in 2000.  He also served on many other committees in the U.S. House, including the Armed Services Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Small Business Committee and the House Education and Workforce Committee.

During his years in Congress, Talent received numerous awards and honors. Talent is the first male recipient of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ “National Public Policy” award. In addition, Sen. Talent was named “Legislator of the Year” by the Department of Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars, the International Franchise Association and the Independent Electrical Contractors and he’s been honored by the Seniors Coalition, the United Seniors Association and the Coalition to Save Medicare. In 2000, Talent received the Vietnam Veterans of America’s “Lifetime Achievement Award,” and he has been named a “Taxpayer Hero” by the Americans for Tax Reform, “Guardian of Senior’s Rights” by the 60 Plus Association and the “Friend of the Farmer” by the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Talent, originally from Des Peres, Mo., graduated from Kirkwood High School in St. Louis, Mo.  He attended Washington University in St. Louis where he received the Arnold J. Lien Prize as the most outstanding undergraduate in political science.  He graduated with honors from the University of Chicago Law School and was a clerk for Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Sen. Talent and his wife Brenda were married in 1984.  They have three children: Michael, 13; Kate, 11; and Chrissy, 8. The family resides in Chesterfield, Mo.