College of Charleston 2017 Winter Commencement speaker Michelle Asha Cooper ’95 encouraged graduating students from the Class of 2017 to “live a life of intention and purpose.”

“Your life will be judged by how well you served humanity, how well you treated people and how well you worked to solve the problems in the world and in our community,” said Cooper. “Now is your time.”

Michelle Asha Cooper ’95

Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, was the featured speaker at the commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. More than 150 graduate and undergraduate students received degrees during the event in the College’s TD Arena.

“In this world, you will find that there are some things that are just beyond your control, but there are also many things firmly within your reach,” Cooper told the graduates. ” I urge you, Class of 2017, to reach for and seek out those things. Step up, assume responsibility and control your destiny.”

After graduating from Charleston’s Burke High School, Cooper went on to attend the College of Charleston, where she was an English major and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She earned her master’s degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University and a doctorate in education policy and leadership from the University of Maryland, College Park. In 2016, she received the CofC Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumna Award.

Click the image above to view the official program for the College’s 2017 Winter Commencement.

RELATED: See a digital version of the official program for 2017 Winter Commencement.

College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell ’69 encouraged the graduates to be bold as they move forth.

“Take risks. Live the life extraordinary. Make the world a better place. For a College of Charleston graduate, that is how we conquer and prevail. And you will,” McConnell said.

In addition to Cooper, the College of Charleston also presented honorary degrees to the following individuals:

Dr. H. Biemann Othersen, Jr. ‘50

Dr. Biemann Othersen earned his medical degree from MUSC in 1953.  He spent the next 12 years pursuing post-graduate surgical training at Philadelphia General Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania, the Medical College of South Carolina, the Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Massachusetts General Hospital.  Throughout his career, Dr. Othersen has served as a tireless advocate for children’s health and pediatric surgical specialists.

Hilton C. Smith Jr. and Catherine Murray Smith

Hilton is the President and CEO of East Bay Co., LTD, and President and CEO of various real estate development and home building companies in Maryland, West Virginia, and South Carolina. He is past chair of the College of Charleston Foundation Board and a the current chair of the School of Languages, Cultures & World Affairs Advisory Board.  He was also a member of the Boundless Campaign Steering Committee.

Catherine is a trustee of the Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust, secretary of the South Carolina Aquarium board, and a member of the Gibbes Museum of Art board.  A graduate of Georgetown University, she previously worked for the World Bank. She serves on the Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs Advisory Board and previously was a member of the College’s Friends of the Library Board.

Both Hilton and Catherine were members of the BOUNDLESS campaign steering committee.

Below, graduates share their special day on social media.

Photos by Mike Ledford