GGC students challenged to find their “why” at fall commencement

Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) conferred more than 460 degrees at its fall commencement ceremony held today at the Infinite Energy Center Arena in Duluth.

This is the second time that President Jann L. Joseph presided over the event. Joseph, who became GGC president in July, said that she is proud of the hard-working students, faculty and staff that define GGC. 

“GGC truly is a learning community uniquely designed to support student success through faculty mentoring and engagement, active hands-on learning, innovative practices and opportunities that distinguish us within higher education,” she said. 

Among the successes that distinguish GGC, Joseph noted the recent University System of Georgia’s annual impact study, which showed that the college contributed $515 million to the local economy last year and a total of $3.77 billion since its founding in 2005. 

Joseph also shared that GGC was the first college in Georgia to earn the Heart-Safe Campus designation from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Project SAVE (Sudden Cardiac Death, Awareness, Vision for Prevention and Education) program. Earlier this week, this designation earned GGC the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce’s Corporate Innovation Award at its annual Healthcare Awards Dinner.

A particular point of pride was GGC’s ranking this year as the most ethnically diverse Southern regional college by U.S. News & World Report.

“Of course, the diversity of GGC’s student body is not only measured by ethnicity. Our students represent all walks of life, and each one is unique and equally important,” said Joseph.

Representing the graduates was nursing student Benjamin Coker, who challenged his classmates to find their motivation – he called it finding their “why.” Coker found his “why” as a freshman, when he learned that his father had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. 

“That year forever changed me,” he said. “He was my rock, my safety net, my dad.” As the disease progressed, Coker watched his 230-pound father drop to 110 pounds in less than a year. 

In the last week of his father’s life, Coker told his dad he was going to pursue a career in nursing. 

“He passed in the following days, and I’ve held one of my final promises to him close to my heart. It helps fuel my passion, and it helps me understand my ‘why.’”

During his speech and in the presence of his mother, his brother, George, who also is a GGC student, family and friends, Coker challenged his fellow graduates to find their own “why” and depend on that motivation throughout their lives.

“When you look at your cap and gown tomorrow, five years from now, 10 years from now, even 20, and you're pulling it out of an attic, or out of the back of your closet, I don't want you to remember the hard times, the late nights, or even my speech. I want you to remember your “why”… smile … then get back to it.”        

**Access GGC commencement gallery photos.

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