news-article - Coastal Carolina University
In This Section

Judge Clifton Newman encourages CCU graduates to “meet the moment”

May 2, 2024
Retired South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton B. Newman delivered the keynote address at CCU's Spring 2024 commencement ceremony.

Coastal Carolina University held its spring Universitywide commencement ceremony on May 2 in Brooks Stadium with approximately 1,600 students eligible to participate. The ceremony featured a keynote address by retired South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton B. Newman, who received the honorary degree Doctor of Public Service.

During his remarks, Newman, who presided over many high-profile criminal cases, including The State of South Carolina v. Richard Alexander Murdaugh, said, “If there is one thing I have learned in my 48 years as a lawyer and judge, it is this: always be ready to meet the moment because one day the spotlight will be on you.”

During the Murdaugh case, he said the world was watching him to see if he could “meet the moment.” He said that meeting the moment is knowing that you have what it takes to rise to the occasion, to be in the moment, and to have the confidence and courage to accept challenges and overcome what may appear to be insurmountable obstacles.

“Take it from a country boy from Greeleyville [S.C.] who has spent 24 years on the bench,” said Newman. “It is not where you start, it is where and how you finish. Whether you are in a classroom or at the workplace. Whether you continue your education or some other pursuit of your dreams – press on! We live in an uncertain world, a world that needs more people dedicated to understanding what appears to be the nearly impossible task of understanding AI, deep fake, and computer-generated technology, and a myriad of other social and technological hills to climb. Conquer these challenges.

“Remember that if you put in the work, you can conquer these challenges and reach your goals step-by-step. This fine institution, Coastal Carolina University, has provided you with a sound footing on which you can build because I am sure you will agree with me, Coastal Carolina is on the move. … Coastal Carolina University Class of 2024, you have met the challenges thus far. But there are many more ahead. We do not know what your future holds – no one does – except we know you can be ready to shine when the spotlight is on you. Take it from me, and eagerly go forth to meet your moment.”

The ceremony also featured remarks by CCU President Michael T. Benson and Rachel Jeric, a senior interdisciplinary studies major from Conway, S.C.

During his remarks to the Class of 2024, Benson said: “These are, indeed, challenging times filled with uncertainty – but also fraught with boundless possibilities. The good news for you is that your investment in your Coastal Carolina University education is already beginning to pay big dividends. Many of you already have good jobs in your field lined up. Others of you are ready to enter a very strong job market or graduate school that is eager to embrace your knowledge, your skills, your work ethic, and your ability to think critically and creatively. …You are soon to be an esteemed graduate of Coastal Carolina University. And that is your passport to untold opportunities.”

Jeric reminded her classmates that many of them began their CCU journeys during “the infamous COVID-19 year,” a year of uncertainty and much experimentation.

“Look at how far you have come,” said Jeric. “There were some days where you probably could not see the light at the end of your tunnel, we have all been there. Each tunnel varies in length, and there are different challenges. Maybe it was a challenging course or working multiple jobs to support yourself. But you did it, YOU did it. Take a moment and be proud of yourself. Strive for something and dream big.”

The University recognized three retiring faculty members for their teaching, research, and community service during the ceremony. Thomas Secrest, professor of finance and economics in the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration, and Donald Sloan, professor of music in the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, were honored with distinguished professor emeritus status. Robin Edwards Russell, associate professor of theatre in the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, was honored with emeritus professor status.

Twenty-five students received the President’s Award for Academic Achievement, which recognizes graduates with the highest cumulative grade point averages. The award recipients all have perfect 4.0 GPAs, graduating summa cum laude.

Degrees will be conferred en masse during college-specific ceremonies on Friday and Saturday, where graduates’ names are called, and they have the opportunity to walk across the stage and receive their diploma covers.