By Curt Yeomans
Lameka Nalls said she felt the presence of her deceased mother Thursday at one of the commencement ceremonies for Clayton State University.
"She had the best seat in the house, in my opinion," the Riverdale resident said of her mother, Rosetta Nalls, who died from heart complications in August 2006.
Nalls completed six years of studying and was awarded a bachelor's degree in integrative studies at the afternoon ceremony.
Her father, brother, and godmother were among those who gathered around the new graduate after the ceremony, but she said her mind was on her deceased mother.
Nalls was among 368 Clayton State students who participated in the two graduations.
The colleges of arts and sciences, and information and mathematical sciences, held a ceremony in the afternoon. The College of Professional Studies, and the schools of business and nursing, held one in the evening.
Harmon Born, a former chairman of the Clayton State University Foundation, who lives in Rex, gave the commencement address at both ceremonies. He used the speeches to focus on leadership.
In summary, he told graduates "the five characteristics of inspirational leaders include awareness of opportunities, following through on ideas, acuity of money and time, appreciation of human values, and spiritual depth."
Born also told them they need to be able to set priorities, if they want to be successful in the workforce. He said the greatest priority a person should have is using his, or her, time wisely. He encouraged them to live their lives as examples for other people.
"Give us minds that think, hands that work, and hearts that love one another," he said.
After Born, Dr. Sharon Hoffman, the university's provost, had the graduates stand up and presented them, as candidates for their degrees, to Clayton State President Thomas Harden, who then conferred degrees on them.
The diplomas will be mailed to the graduates in a few weeks, after final grades for the fall semester are determined and the certificates are printed.
As the students lined up to walk across the stage, excited family members applauded and let out shouts of encouragement that included, "You did it!" and "You the man!"
"I'm going to have a little bit of separation anxiety, because I won't see my professors anymore," said Laura Green, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in communication and media studies. "They were like a pseudo-family to me."
The final remarks at the ceremony were given by Dina Swearngin, past president of the Clayton State Alumni Association. Swearngin inducted the graduates into the alumni association.
She told them they would experience homecoming from a different perspective now, and could begin attending the alumni association's spring banquet.
Swearngin got cheers, and thunderous applause from the graduates with her final statement: "You don't have to take any more exams."