Excitement and celebration surrounded fall commencement exercises at Northwestern State University this week as the school awarded 646 degrees to 636 graduates who completed coursework in the Summer 2022 and Fall 2022 semesters. Four ceremonies took place Dec. 14-15 in Prather Coliseum.
“The value of your degree is that it will serve as a solid foundation for your life’s work, and your education will forever be impactful because of the lives you will touch and the difference you will make in society,” said NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones in his address to graduates. “
Family and friends from near and far assembled in Prather Coliseum to support their graduates.
Cristian Paez-Geney of Cartagena, Colombia, is an international student who earned a degree in music performance and business administration with emphasis in international business. Several family members traveled to Natchitoches from Colombia and Spain to attend the ceremony.
For some graduates, their path to a degree was a challenging one.
Trevor Peters of Leesville is a veteran whose path to a degree was brought to life by the U.S. Army. While serving 20 years in the military, he began working on a criminal justice degree and took several “breaks” from his education due to deployments, combat injuries and other work-related tasks. While working towards his degree, he received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Since retiring from service two years ago, he has worked as a police officer, juvenile officer and criminal investigator for the Leesville Police Department. Trevor came to Northwestern due to the influence of his father-in-law, the late Bill Sexson, who was a member of Northwestern’s criminal justice faculty for many years.
“I wanted to help honor his legacy by completing the program,” Peters said. “I believe that the most important thing a person can do is to know themselves and to always seek self-improvement.” After graduation, he will continue to work for the Leesville Police Department and use his degree as an example to his son and other juveniles to show them that when they set a goal, they never let any obstacle stand in the way, no matter how long it may take.
Laura Weatherford of Natchitoches graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in accounting through COMPETE LA, a program that helps students with some college credits complete their degrees. After a bout with esophageal cancer, finishing her degree was an extremely high priority bucket list item.
“I wanted to be an inspiration to my grown children to complete their educations. One went back this semester, and one starts back in the spring semester,” she said. “I wanted to finish what I started 35 years ago at NSU. I wanted the ability to be more self-sufficient for the future if needed. Complete LA definitely offered incentive and encouragement to make this happen.”
Some graduates faced difficult circumstances and personal challenges, but persevered.
Brittany Taylor of Plaucheville earned an Associate of Science in Nursing. Her first level nursing studies were disrupted by COVID and she struggled to learn fundamental nursing skills through WebEx meeting and simulation labs. When her father passed away, he became her reason to push forward. Seven months after losing her father, her family lost their home in a devastating fire. In the following days, finding it difficult to concentrate on school, facing exams and unsure if her school materials had burned, she found that her classmates and instructors were already taking care of it and she realized how lucky she was to have a supportive group of instructors and peers.
“When faced with these challenges I often questioned my strength, discipline, and my reason for wanting to become a nurse. With determination, my faith and having a great support system, I was able to overcome the obstacles that were put in front of me,” she said.
Maddison Hebert of Maurice graduated with a degree in business administration with a concentration in finance, but throughout her college career she struggled with chronic illnesses and medical problems that made her question whether college was right for her. Her support system of family, friends and everyone in the Catholic Student Organization helped her stay motivated.
“The ones that ultimately helped me to succeed in college was the amazing professors and faculty at NSU,” she said. “They have encouraged and assisted me in discovering my passions and making them come to fruition.” After graduation, she will focus on her health, explore career options in the medical and business fields, and eventually hopes to help others with similar chronic illnesses.
Northwestern State awarded two posthumous diplomas, after determining that two students, who passed away before completing their studies, earned credit hours to complete degrees.
Raderrius Colbert was from Carthage, Texas, and passed away in February at age 32. His family members accepted a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Management and Tourism on his behalf.
The family of Reanna Free was presented with an Associate of General Studies degree. Free, who was from Stonewall, was pursuing a degree in business management at NSU’s Shreveport campus. She passed away in May after fighting a lifelong battle with heart problems.
During the final ceremony Thursday, graduating ROTC cadet Dylan Trueblood of Natchitoches was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He will serve in the National Guard, Armor Branch. Earlier in the day, Trueblood took the oath in a separate ceremony attended by family and friends that was hosted by NSU’s Department of Military Science.
This year’s faculty marshals wore new commencement regalia that was donated by Edwin and Lola Dunahoe in honor of Mr. Dunahoe’s former professor, Dr. Leroi Eversull, who was a professor of geography for nearly 40 years. In addition to Mr. and Mrs. Dunahoe, several members of the Eversull family were present and recognized.