Top Marine General to Speak at Southeast Commencement

Photo of Gen. James Conway

U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway, a 1969 Southeast graduate, will present the principal address during the graduation ceremony.(View larger image of Gen. Conway)

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Dec. 1, 2006 – For the first time in the 133-year history of Southeast Missouri State University, a member of the U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff will visit the campus on Dec. 16 and speak at commencement exercises.

U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway, a 1969 Southeast graduate, will present the principal address during the graduation ceremony for 585 students scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Show Me Center. Gen. Conway assumed command of the Marine Corps and became a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Nov. 13.

During the commencement ceremony, Conway will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. An honorary degree is one of the most prestigious awards presented by Southeast. It is awarded for distinguished achievement, accomplishment or service that is recognized by peers in the field and by a broader spectrum of society. Conway is the sixth recipient of an honorary degree in the history of Southeast Missouri State University.

Participating in the ceremony will be 525 undergraduates and 60 graduate students.

An Honors Convocation is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in the Show Me Center, during which 96 undergraduates and 28 graduate students will be honored.  Dr. Robert Hamblin, this year’s recipient of the PRIDE Award, professor of English and director of the Center for Faulkner Studies, will present the Honors Convocation address.

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

  • Jennifer Catron of Bluford, Ill., who will receive a bachelor of fine arts degree with a major in art.
  • Michele Tanz of House Springs, Mo., who will receive a bachelor of science in nursing degree with a major in nursing.

Two honors scholars will be recognized in the graduating class. They are Lauren Kelley of Waterloo, Ill., and Sarah Shrewsbury of Pleasant View, Tenn. 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.

Two students will graduate with academic distinction in their major department. They are Amanda Pratt of Sikeston, Mo., who will be recognized for academic distinction in the Department of History, and Jennifer Catron of Bluford, Ill., who will be recognized for academic distinction in the Department of Art.

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.

Twenty-one graduating members of Phi Kappa Phi also will be recognized during commencement exercises. Phi Kappa Phi is the oldest international honor society, having been established in 1897. Southeast first chartered its Phi Kappa Phi charter in 1992. The charter is only extended to colleges and universities meeting the society’s rigorous standards, and 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, five members of Omicron delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society for college students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni, will graduate.  Students inducted in Omicron Delta Kappa are juniors, seniors and graduate students who are in the upper one-third of their class who have demonstrated achievement in one of the following areas: scholarship; athletics; campus and community service; social and religious activities; 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. 

Also graduating will be 27 members of Phi Eta Sigma.  Phi Eta Sigma is a national scholastic honor society that recognizes high scholastic achievement during the first year of college and offers leadership and scholarship opportunities. The Southeast chapter was established in 1984.  Students inducted into Phi Eta Sigma attained at least a 3.5 grade point average on a four-point scale during their first semester or year at Southeast.

The Southeast Brass Quintet will perform during the commencement ceremony. Singing the National Anthem and Alma Mater will be Dr. Christopher Goeke, chair of the Department of Music at Southeast.

Dr. Robert Hamblin, as PRIDE Award recipient, will serve as the grand marshal.

Hamblin is professor of English and director of the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast, where he has taught since 1965. Hamblin has directed Faulkner seminars for both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Missouri Humanities Council. In 1997, he delivered the keynote address at the Faulkner Centennial Celebration in New Albany, Miss., Faulkner’s birthplace.  In 2005, he served as general consultant to Oprah Winfrey’s “Summer of Faulkner” and taught As I Lay Dying online to Oprah’s Book Club, which numbers 600,000 members. Hamblin has received the Southeast Alumni Association’s Faculty Merit Award and the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

The PRIDE Award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence as a teacher, an extraordinary level of scholarship and service, and whose overall accomplishments are especially noteworthy. Hamblin was selected for the award by the Council of Deans after nominations were solicited from each of the University’s colleges and schools.

Among the undergraduates participating in the Honors Convocation, 20 will graduate summa cum laude, 19 will graduate magna cum laude, 56 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.

The commencement speaker, Gen. Conway, was sworn in as the 34th commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps on Nov. 13. after his appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Aug. 2. President George Bush nominated Conway for the post on June 13. With the appointment to commandant, Conway also was promoted to the rank of general, and he received his fourth star.

Conway, a native of Walnut Ridge, Ark., completed two tours of duty in Iraq as the commander of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, most recently serving as the director of operations for the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.

Conway, who replaces retiring Gen. Michael Hagee, will command more than 175,000 active Marines. Conway graduated from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree in psychology. While at Southeast, he served as president of both Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the Interfraternity Council.

After graduating, Conway served as an infantry officer with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines at Camp Pendleton, as a rifle platoon commander and as the Battalion’s 106mm recoilless-rifle platoon commander. In 1972, he was reassigned as executive officer of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63). He served at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego as a series and company commander in the Recruit Training Regiment, as the aide to the commanding general, and as director, Sea School. Conway also has served as senior aide to the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and deputy director of Operations J-3 for Combating Terrorism. In 1998, he was appointed the president of the Marine Corps University at Quantico, Va. More recently, he served as the commanding general of the I Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq. 

Conway graduated with honors from the The Basic School, the U.S. Army Infantry Officers’ Advanced Course, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the Air War College. His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with gold stars in lieu of second and third awards, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon.

Conway’s family has significant Marine Corps ties. He is married to Annette (Drury), who graduated from Southeast in 1970. She is an advisor for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, an organization that provides financial assistance to injured Marines, sailors and their families. The couple has three children. Sons Brandon and Scott are both Marines with combat tours in Iraq who have earned Bronze Star medals, and daughter, Samantha, is married to a Marine.