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Dr. Ben Carson to Speak at SEU Commencement

On Friday, April 29, Southeastern University will host its spring commencement ceremony at The Lakeland Center in Lakeland, Florida., at 6:30 p.m. There will be 449 graduates, bringing Southeastern’s total graduation count since inception to 13,643. There are 109 master’s degree candidates, 324 bachelor’s candidates and 16 associate candidates.

The commencement speaker will be Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and politician. Carson became the chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1984 at the age of 33, making him the youngest major division director in the hospital’s history. Carson performed the first and only successful separation of craniopagus (Siamese) twins joined at the back of the head in 1987. He also performed the first fully successful separation of type-2 vertical craniopagus twins in 1997 in South Africa.

Carson has written nine books, four of which were co-authored with his wife, Candy, of 40 years. He is the recipient of the 2006 Spingarn Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Carson and his wife are the co-founders of the Carson Scholars Fund, which recognizes young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments. Carson announced on May 4, 2015, that he would seek the 2016 Republican nomination for president. He officially ended his bid on March 4, 2016. He is now the national chairman of the My Faith Votes Initiative.

The student commencement speaker will be Martin Ojeda. He is the president of Enactus at Southeastern. During his time as president, more than 500 students invested 5,000 hours to Enactus projects, the club’s networking connections tripled and their Business Advisory Board grew to 20 members. Ojeda is a recipient of Enactus’ National Unilever/RILA Retail Scholarship and was named the most outstanding in the marketing major. After graduation, he will join the Unilever Future Leaders Program and will embark on a three-year journey to become a brand manager.

The recipient of the President’s Award will be Kathleen Munson. This award recognizes an individual’s exemplary service to the community. Munson served as president of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce from 1992 to 2014. The organization represents more than 1,500 member businesses in the Greater Lakeland area. Under Munson’s leadership, the Chamber was recognized in 2006 as the “Florida Chamber of the Year” by the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals, an organization representing more than 150 chambers in the state. In 2014, the Lakeland Chamber was awarded its 45-year Accreditation with Five Stars from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, making it one of only 102 chambers out of more than 7,000 in the country to achieve this prestigious accreditation award. In July 2000, Munson was named Florida Chamber Professional of the Year by the Florida Chamber of Commerce Executives.

The Southeastern Award will be given to Michael Hughes. He will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in general biology and minors in chemistry and religion. He has authored three books on wildlife biology and became the first Southeastern student to publish original scientific research in a peer-reviewed, professional scientific journal.

The Servant Leadership Award will be presented to Justin Drury, who will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in practical ministries. Justin co-founded Charge, a local children’s outreach program in Lakeland.

Dr. Berhane Ghaim, professor of mathematics, will be awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award. Dr. Larry Hazelbaker, professor of psychology, will receive the Excellence in Advising Award. Marlon Dempster, associate professor of literature and composition, will be awarded the Teaching Faculty Award for the Support of Information Literacy. Dr. Cameron McNabb, assistant professor of English, will receive the Excellence in Scholarship Award.

The ceremony is a ticketed event and will be streamed live on the university’s website at SEU.edu/graduation.

For more information or to obtain media passes, contact Dana Davis at dcdavis@seu.edu or 863.667.5020.