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Fall graduates gathered in Stegeman Coliseum on Dec. 13, 2019, for the Fall Commencement ceremony in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Ryan Cameron rcameron@randb.com)

The University of Georgia’s fall class of 2019 filled Stegeman Coliseum with black caps and swinging tassels as they prepared to become alumni on Dec. 13.

A total of 1,799 undergraduate students and 1,263 graduate students received a diploma marking the completion of their studies.

UGA President Jere Morehead greeted the graduates and applauded the “outstanding” students for their hard work.

“We expect uncommon things from you, for you are now a graduate of the University of Georgia,” Morehead said.

The ceremony honored 11 First Honor Graduates who maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout their academic career at UGA.

Taylor Maggiore, the student speaker for the ceremony, graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism and a sports media certificate. She served as an orientation leader in 2018 and worked with Grady Sportsource, Daktronics and the SEC Network during her college broadcast career.

Maggiore greeted the crowd and reflected on her time at the university, telling her fellow students it was OK if they “didn’t have things figured out.”

Maggiore asked the students to look back at their 18-year-old selves and their college journeys, saying students “will shatter glass ceilings and be kind to one another.”

“Look back at what you accomplished, you did it, we did it,” Maggiore said.

After graduation, Maggiore, a lifelong Athenian, will no longer cheer on the Bulldogs from Athens — she will move to Connecticut and work as a stage manager for ESPN.

University System of Georgia Regent and Synovus Financial Corporation CEO Kessel Stelling delivered the commencement address. A 1978 UGA graduate in banking and finance from “a fifth generation Bulldog family,” Stelling said UGA will always be a special place for him.

Stelling told students their degree from UGA would be “the great asset to their balance sheet” for the rest of their lives. He advised students to invest in what bankers call “sweat equity,” the result of hard work that brings professional success.

Stelling offered a piece of advice for graduates uncertain about their next career move— success is not the key to happiness, the key to success is happiness.

In his speech, Stelling paused to tell the crowd that while some may have been thinking “OK, boomer,” he hopes they can graduate and face the future with confidence.

“Merry Christmas, happy holidays, congratulations and go dogs,” Stelling said.

Morehead presented businessman and UGA benefactor Sanford H. Orkin with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from UGA. Orkin and his late wife, Barbara, attended UGA. After graduating, Orkin later became president of Orkin Pest Control, his family’s business.

The recently-opened Sanford and Barbara Orkin Hall is part of the Business Learning Community. USG approved the naming in 2018 “in recognition of [the Orkins] longstanding support of UGA, including a $5 million gift to the Terry College of Business.”

Orkin joined the UGA Foundation and UGA Real Estate Foundation and established a $1 million scholarship fund for low income students and supported numerous colleges and academic initiatives.

The class of fall 2019 graduates join a group of 324,000 UGA alumni nationwide.

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