Mississippi Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds on Friday urged Jackson State University students to use the knowledge they acquired while pursuing their graduate degrees to make a difference in the lives of others.Bounds delivered the commencement address during the graduate commencement ceremony at the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center. More than 300 graduate degrees were conferred, including more than 30 doctoral degrees. Bounds said the degrees bring an obligation to teach, help, and lead others.
“You have a responsibility to help. We live in the poorest state in this country. We live in the most undereducated state in this country. I believe we all share a responsibility to change that statistic for Mississippi,” Bounds said.
“There are young minds to be shaped. There are discoveries to be made. You’ve been given the tools necessary to get the job done. I encourage you to never take the gifts you’ve been given for granted, but to use them always to make the world a better place,” he said.
Bounds has been commissioner since 2009. He oversees the state’s public four-year university system, which includes the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), four research institutions and four regional institutions. Mississippi’s public universities enroll more than 80,000 students and award more than 15,000 degrees each year.
JSU President Carolyn Meyers presented Bounds with a presidential medal in recognition of his achievements in higher education. She told the graduates that Bounds was “another model for you to follow.”
“Commencement is the pivotal moment in the lives of our graduates and their families. This moment symbolizes the beginning of your work toward prominence in your respective fields,” Meyers said.
In his address, Bounds cited census statistics about Mississippi. He said less than 20 percent of the state’s population has a bachelor’s degree or higher. He said less than 10 percent hold an advanced degree.
“I urge you to stay in Mississippi. Mississippi needs you,” he said.
The ceremony included the presentation of Golden Diplomas to 79 members of the JSU graduating class of 1963. The class members are celebrating their 50-year reunion this weekend. The Class of 1963 was the largest for Jackson State with 296 graduates. The class earlier Friday presented Meyers with a donation that will lead to a $100,000 scholarship endowment.