Coastal will recognize approximately 443 candidates for graduation during commencement exercises Saturday, Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Two hundred sixty-nine fall candidates for graduation will be recognized, as well as 174 summer 2002 graduates. The public is welcome to attend.
Aaron Ard, assistant professor of management and statistics at Coastal Carolina University, will deliver the commencement address. S.C. Sen. Hugh Leatherman will receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service.
Ard was named the 2002 Distinguished Teacher of the Year, an annual honor presented by Coastal's Student Government Association to faculty who demonstrate excellence in teaching. The award is given each spring at the annual Honors Convocation. The recipient traditionally gives the December commencement address.
Ard joined the Coastal faculty in 2000. But his journey to becoming a professor was a winding one. He dropped out of school at age 15 to work to help his family during lean times. Two years later, on his 17th birthday, he joined the Navy, spending four and a half years with Special Operations Forces as a non-commissioned officer. He earned his GED while he was in the service. After the Navy, Ard became a police officer, working for agencies at the local and state levels.
"But because I didn't have a degree I couldn't seem to get promoted. That's when I decided to go back to school," he said.
He started at Florence-Darlington Technical College where his math instructors, especially Milton Clark, now vice president of the college, inspired him and encouraged him to continue his education. Ard followed the advice, going on to earn a bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University and a master's degree and Ph.D. from Cornell University.
Leatherman has served in the South Carolina Senate since 1981. As a Senator, he has been a strong supporter of Coastal and has played an important role in securing state funding for the university. He is a member of the executive committee of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA), an organization which was created in 2000 to promote the joint development of the Pee Dee and Waccamaw regions of South Carolina.
Leatherman has served on numerous Senate committees, and has served as chairman of the Ethics Committee and vice chairman of the Transportation Committee. He was elected chairman of the Finance Committee in January 2001, and he also sits as a member of the Budget and Control Board.
A native of Florence, Leatherman is a managing partner of WyBoo Investments. He earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from N.C. State University. He has served as a member of the Quinby Town Council and as Mayor Pro Tem. Leatherman has received honorary degrees from Francis Marion University, the Medical University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston.