Though the forecast looked bleak, the only rain on Friday, May 10 was the fireworks that showered over the new University of Georgia graduates in Sanford Stadium.
After stressing over the last batch of finals and preparing for final goodbyes, 5,697 undergraduate students graduated and celebrated years of hard work and memories at the 2019 Spring Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony.
From the 2,140 graduating students at Franklin College of Arts and Sciences to the 29 graduating students at the College of Pharmacy, students from every college were recognized. Several UGA schools and colleges also held their own convocation ceremonies throughout the week before.
“Your UGA education has prepared you to use your knowledge, to improve lives, to strengthen communities and, indeed, to change the world,” said UGA President Jere Morehead in his opening speech. “That is how you carry on a grand tradition of this great place.”
The big screen showed off the graduates’ decorated caps as they gathered in the stadium, spotlighting their creativity and personality.
After all of the red-and-black-adorned students settled into their seats and the faculty made their way onto the field, Robert Fridlender, a music performance major from Woodstock, performed the national anthem.
Morehead awarded posthumous degrees to two students who had met the graduation requirements. Amy Katherine Lee received a posthumous bachelor’s in special education, and Stephen MacGregor Norris for accounting.
One school at a time, after the dean of each respective school delivered a short speech, Morehead conferred degrees upon every student in the commencement, after which students sang UGA’s Alma Mater led by vocal performance and psychology graduate Myah Rose Paden.
Four years of memories
When the Class of 2019 arrived at UGA’s campus for the first time, Mark Richt was still the head coach. And in four football seasons, these students have seen Sanford Stadium upgrades and new players, cheering the Bulldogs through all the ups and downs.
“We all love each other,” said Tara Hunnewell, who received bachelor’s degrees in sports management and marketing. “If you see someone with a Bulldogs T-shirt, you say, ‘Go Dawgs,’ and they’ll automatically respond with barking.”
Hunnewell said she appreciated the work-hard, play-hard attitude of her fellow classmates.
Hunnewell accepted a full-time position as an account management associate at Gartner in Dallas. She said she will miss the small-town feel to Athens and her friends being a short drive away.
Antonio Rodriguez, who received a bachelor’s in computer science, said UGA gave him a fresh start to make new friends outside of his hometown of McDonough. He said UGA gave him some of his best memories which he’ll take with him throughout his lifetime.
The hard work and long nights put into his degree paid off when he accepted a job with Google as a cloud engineer in Austin, Texas.
Randy Bland attended the commencement to watch his granddaughter, Alyssa Bland, graduate with a degree in marketing. He said she’s the first in his family to graduate from a major university and is heading to Atlanta after graduation to find a job.
Deborah Roberts, ABC News correspondent and UGA alumna, and Joshua Clifford, who completed his college career on Friday with bachelor’s degrees in geography and comparative literature, gave the undergraduate commencement speeches.
Fireworks at the end of the ceremony signaled this was the Class of 2019’s last time in Sanford Stadium as undergraduate students.