Nearly 5,000 graduates take next steps on journeys during Auburn University’s spring commencement ceremonies

Keynote speakers Marino, Gaines offer words of advice, encouragement to newest group of alumni

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Maggie Richard’s footsteps led her fellow Harbert College of Business graduates into Neville Arena during Auburn University’s spring commencement ceremonies this weekend, and soon her strides will carry her all the way to New York City.

The finance major, who was selected as her college’s graduation marshal, will carry Auburn’s legacy to “The Big Apple” as a newly minted graduate when she begins her professional career this summer. Richard — the daughter of Auburn Finance Lecturer Tracy Richard — will follow her mother’s footsteps into the financial sector with TD Securities’ Leveraged Finance Group.

For Maggie, navigating her way through the COVID-19 pandemic to finish her degree is an accomplishment in and of itself. Becoming an Auburn graduate, she said, is a bittersweet feeling.

“I’ve really enjoyed everything here, and I know my time has come to an end, but I’m really grateful for everyone who surrounded me and helped me,” said Maggie, who strode across the stage during Saturday’s afternoon ceremony. “Auburn is just one big community, and I would say Auburn is family to me. Growing up in Auburn, I always knew that I wanted to come to Auburn, and now being here and actually graduating from here is so surreal.”

She believes her Auburn education will propel her to success.

“I’m really excited,” said Maggie, who will begin her new job on July 17. “I owe everything I’ve done and all of my accomplishments to Auburn, the professors, the staff and the training programs — especially in the Harbert College of Business, the facilities we have and the hands-on training.

“I’m really excited to get out there and show the world what Auburn is all about.”

Two-time Auburn graduate Paula Marino — who has provided more than 30 years of leadership to Southern Company — and three-time swimming Olympic Gold Medalist Rowdy Gaines — a 1981 graduate — served as keynote speakers at the weekend’s ceremonies. Moreno focused on the themes of the Auburn way and the importance of attitude in her remarks, imploring students to have positive attitudes throughout their professional careers.

“Congratulations graduates — you did it!” said Marino, who spoke at the ceremonies on Friday night and Saturday morning. “I know your family, the faculty and the entire Auburn Family is proud of you. Today, you not only receive a prestigious degree from one of the best universities in the country, and certainly the best in the state, but you also become Auburn alumni.

“Auburn has provided you with the foundation for success in life. Now it is up to you — with the right attitude — to see just how high you can fly.”

Gaines echoed Marino’s sentiment of being thrilled to speak to this year’s promising group of graduates.

“This is an honor of a lifetime,” said Gaines, the speaker at Saturday’s afternoon and evening ceremonies. “I’m not sure if I found swimming or if swimming found me, but I’m pleading with you to never give up on your hopes and dreams. You all were put here on this Earth for a very specific purpose. Have patience, because each and every one of you has a gift to share with the world.”

This weekend’s festivities included the official conferral of nearly 4,900 degrees by Auburn Board of Trustees member Clark Sahlie. Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts and Provost Vini Nathan also spoke at the weekend’s ceremonies.

“I’m honored to be with you to share this momentous occasion,” Roberts said. “This ceremony symbolizes the closing of a transformative chapter in your life and the beginning of a new one, one that holds tremendous promise and infinite possibility. The opportunity to come together and celebrate the achievements of our students is very special and is something I know none of us takes for granted.”

One non-traditional student, Sherry Potts, completed a 50-year collegiate journey by finishing her political science degree at the age of 70. Potts, who first attended Auburn in the early 1970s, participated in commencement ceremonies with 683 other College of Liberal Arts graduates as more than 25 family members attended in support of her achievement. Her story is one of perseverance and fortitude, and the Lanett, Alabama, native can now call herself a college graduate.

In addition, nine members of the College of Education’s EAGLES program — for students with intellectual disabilities — participated in the ceremonies. Grayson Gladden, Wainwright Hood, Marni Lane, Gardner Lee, Mary Morton, Kyle Murberger, Elizabeth Preston, Jackson Ray and Quin Thomas joined their Auburn peers as they began new chapters of their lives.

Friday night’s program was followed by individual colleges’ ceremonies at Neville Arena on Saturday, which ran from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. A total of 4,866 graduates will participate in the commencement celebrations, which conclude Monday with Neville Arena ceremonies for the Harrison College of Pharmacy and College of Veterinary Medicine at 1 and 6 p.m., respectively.

Of the degrees conferred, 818 were master’s, 131 were doctorates and 10 were specialist degrees. The university awarded 3,640 bachelor’s degrees, with 141 Doctor of Pharmacy and 126 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees on tap to be conferred on Monday.

More information about Auburn’s celebrations can be found on the commencement website.

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.