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Coastal Carolina University honors December 2009 graduates

December 12, 2009

A total of 345 students participated in Coastal Carolina University's commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. A total of 728 graduate candidates from August and December were eligible.

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Commencement speaker Jonathan Green, a noted painter and printmaker from South Carolina, exhorted students to go out and fight for the arts and for human rights. "We need the visual arts, music, dance and theater, combined with knowledge, to make us far better human beings," said Green, who also received the honorary degree Doctor of Fine Arts.

Much of my sense of purpose in life was influenced by my grandmother Eloise who stressed the values of work, love and belonging which has always been reflected in my art," Green said, exhorting the students to seek their life's passion and develop a work ethic. "I believe these essential tasks of life cannot be achieved without internalizing the value of work whether it is that of an artist, accountant, manager of a household, or other essential tasks of survival."

Born in Gardens Corner, S.C., Green earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1982. Greens work, known for its vibrant color and dramatic depiction of rural Gullah scenes, is prized by collectors and critics throughout the world.

Four students received for the President's Award for Academic Achievement, which recognizes students with the highest cumulative grade point averages. The recipients of the award, who all earned perfect 4.0 grade point averages, were Leslie Causey of Loris, Samantha Kite of Conway, Julia LaBianca of Strongsville, Ohio, and Leah McKee of Mantua, Ohio.

Causey earned a bachelor's degree in English. She has served as president of the Alpha Mu Gamma foreign language honor society. Following graduation, she will begin work toward a Master of Arts in Teaching at Liberty University. She plans to be a high school English teacher in Horry County. Causey is a graduate of Green Sea Floyds High School.

Kite earned a bachelor's degree in education. She has been an active participant in the Universitys Dalton and Linda Floyd Family Mentoring Program. Kite has also assisted in starting a nonprofit organization called GO! that provides activities for children. She plans to be an elementary school teacher.

LaBianca earned a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in pre-law. She is a member of the honor societies Psi Chi, Phi Eta Sigma and Golden Key, and has been a member of the Psychology Club. LaBianca's undergraduate research focus has been in the area of jury decision-making and individual attitudes toward counterterrorism. She completed an internship with the Horry County Solicitors Office in the Drug Court and in the Victims Advocacy Office. She plans to attend graduate school and earn a doctorate in forensic psychology.

McKee earned a bachelor's degree in marine science. She participated in many cultural arts programs offered on campus. She is a member of Phi Eta Sigma and Alpha Mu Gamma honor societies. Last summer she completed an internship at the California Wildlife Center in Malibu in marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation. Following graduation, she hopes to continue work in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. The ceremony also recognized three Coastal Carolina University professors who received the designation Distinguished Professor Emeritus: Linda Hollandsworth, the late Peter Lecouras and the late Don Millus.