In her address at the College of Charleston 2016 Winter Commencement, NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman urged the graduates to seek out their own roles.
“My great hope for you is that you will search for ways to move forward in friendship and that you choose to be part of something bigger than yourself,” Newman said to the 300 graduates on Dec. 17, 2016.”Never, ever forget that you belong.”
Newman delivered the commencement address in place of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who was scheduled to be the commencement speaker, but had to cancel to attend a memorial service for the late Senator John Glenn in Ohio.
College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell ’69 told the graduating class to make their mark in the world.
“The world does not need another cog in the machine,” said McConnell. “You are to go forth. Take risks. Make the world a better place. For a College of Charleston graduate, that is how we conquer and prevail. And you will.”
During the ceremony, the College also presented honorary degrees (one posthumously) to the following individuals:
- The late James L. Ferguson served with the Army Corps of Engineers in World War II and joined General Foods Corporation in 1963, serving as chief executive officer from 1973 to 1987. A graduate of Harvard Business School and Hamilton College, where he was a life trustee, Ferguson was an Aspen Institute trustee and served on the Hollings Cancer Center Board of Directors, the Medical University of South Carolina Foundation for Research Development, the Middleton Place Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations. In 1992, Ferguson became the first board chairman for the South Carolina Aquarium.
- Esther Ferguson founded the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University and has served on the boards of the Gibbes Museum of Art, Spoleto Festival USA, Young Concert Artists and Charleston Symphony. At the College, Ferguson served on the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Advisory Board; she her late husband Jim sponsored the International Piano Series at the School of the Arts; and the couple gave the CofC Foundation a home in Trujillo, Spain, thus facilitating the College’s longstanding Trujillo study-abroad program.
- A 46-year veteran of the insurance industry, Tapley “Tap” Johnson Jr. retired in 2009 as chairman of Tapoco Underwriters Inc., which he founded in 1983. Johnson served on the School of Business Board of Governors, the CofC Foundation Board and the Cougar Club Board. He and his wife Jean were the first couple to receive the College’s Alumni Award of Honor.
- Jean Johnson taught in Charleston County’s elementary schools for years and given much of her time to the College of Charleston by serving on the Foundation Board, the Cougar Club Board and the School of the Arts Advisory Council. Together with her husband Tap, she has made significant contributions to the College of Charleston: Not only did the Johnsons establish the Tap and Jean Johnson Men’s Basketball Scholarship, they have made generous commitments to the School of the Arts; Athletics; the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance Teacher Leaders Program; and the Schottland Scholars Program.
The College will present Bolden with an honorary degree at a future date to be determined.