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CCU professor Paul Richardson shares lessons, discoveries during Fall 2023 commencement ceremonies

December 15, 2023
Approximately 576 students were eligible to participate in CCU's Fall 2023 commencement exercises.Paul E. Richardson, left, and President Michael T. BensonTrinity McCrorey, a B.F.A. theatre design and production student, was among the students who graduated on Dec. 15.

Coastal Carolina University hosted three commencement ceremonies for Fall 2023 graduates on Friday, Dec. 15, in the HTC Student Recreation and Convocation Center. Approximately 576 students were eligible to participate in the exercises.

The 9 a.m. ceremony recognized graduates of the Conway Medical Center College of Health and Human Performance, Gupta College of Science, and HTC Honors College. The 1 p.m. ceremony recognized graduates from the Spadoni College of Education and Social Sciences and Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts. The 5 p.m. ceremony recognized graduates of the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration.

University President Michael T. Benson addressed the graduates and reminded them that CCU will forever be part of their lives.

“I sincerely hope a bond has been formed between you and this institution,” said Benson. “Your diploma is more than just a piece of paper: it is your ticket into the world of educated persons and an invitation to join – for life – the Coastal Carolina University family. From this time forward, the name, the traditions, the influence of this University are freely yours, just as your achievements, your successes, indeed, the tenor of your life, will reflect forever on CCU.”

Paul E. Richardson, Ph.D., recipient of the University’s 2023 HTC Distinguished Teacher-Scholar Lecturer Award, delivered the keynote address at all three ceremonies. Richardson joined CCU’s faculty in 2004 and currently serves as a professor of biochemistry and chemistry department chair in the Gupta College of Science. In 2022, he co-won the University Service Award for his work on the COVID-19 pandemic and his leadership to keep the University safe. During his 18 years at the University, Richardson has received more than $2.3 million in grant money to support his research.

“As a scientist, I am often asked to give talks at conferences and awards, but every one of those had to do with my personal scientific achievement in disease research,” Richardson said. “Today is a celebration about the successes of the graduates in front of me, so obviously I had to write about something other than science.”

Richardson’s address centered around two important lessons: “Put yourself out there and share your talents. You never know what you might contribute if you believe in yourself and allow yourself new experiences,” and “There is more to life than your future employment.”

He related these lessons to his personal life with stories from his time in college. In the first lesson, he recalled being seated next to a leading expert in parasitic diseases at a lecture and how this chance encounter led to Richardson joining his research team.

In his second lesson, he spoke of meeting his future wife at a church in downtown Birmingham, Ala., just a few blocks away from his research lab, and working up the courage to ask her out … “the date went extremely well, and we have not been apart since … Finding a partner to share my life experiences with has been the greatest discovery I have ever made, and I hope you are able to have a similar experience.”

Five students were recognized with the President’s Award, an honor given to students who successfully completed their collegiate work with a 4.0 grade point average to graduate summa cum laude. They are:

• Morgan Donovan from King of Prussia, Pa., who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in exercise and sport science.

• Megan Jacobs from Jefferson, Ohio, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

• Nathaniel Olsen from Bowie, Md., who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

• Jacqueline Siecienski from Myrtle Beach, S.C., who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

• Jordyn Smith from Goshen, Ky., who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in digital culture and design.

The University recognized retiring faculty member Michael Latta with the title of Distinguished Professor Emeritus for his dedication to teaching, research, and community service during the weekend’s exercises. Latta joined the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration in 1998. During his tenure at CCU, he served as associate dean of the Wall College, and his teaching interests focused on research methods, strategy, promotion, and market analysis, while his research interests included new product adoption and risk perception.