A leading Hollywood actor, whose first attempt at working in the entertainment industry didn’t fare well, told Lander University graduates, “You can manifest whatever lives you want.”
Andy Buckley, known for his role as the CFO of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. on the hit television series, “The Office,” was the featured guest speaker at Lander’s 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. spring commencement ceremonies in Finis Horne Arena. The University awarded bachelor and master’s degrees to more than 446 graduates during its 165th Commencement on Wednesday (May 4).
Buckley, who attended Stanford University as a member of the golf team, worked for a while as a financial adviser before his career in acting launched. In a lively, nontraditional commencement speech in which the actor spoke away from the podium, Buckley said his dream early in life was “to be James Dean.”
He said he knew that he wanted to act in movies and TV shows. “It took a while, but it happened.”
Reaching his ultimate goal of acting and working with dedicated professionals, Buckley said, had helped him realize that “you can manifest whatever life you want.”
He challenged the Class of 2022 to “stay as positive as you can possibly be … you can make your life as incredible and magnificent as you want it to be, and why not do that? We only get one shot.”
Lander recognized one of its own for an incredible 50 years of service to the University by awarding an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to H. Randall “Randy” Bouknight. Bouknight came to Lander after earning his master’s degree from Northwestern State University of Louisiana in 1972. During his career, Bouknight has been Dean of Students, Vice President of Student Affairs, and now as special gifts officer with University Advancement.
Already seeking the magnificent life, described by Buckley, is new graduate Samantha Alexander, of Hodges, who earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Although Alexander previously earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Lander in 2014, the 2022 ceremony was the first time for the official “walk” across the stage.
“This degree means more to me,” she said. “A lot more tears were involved in this degree. I knew that I would do it, but it didn’t seem real for a long time.”
Alexander has balanced her academic studies with military service. A member of the U.S. National Guard, Alexander is an ES Sergeant, with duties that include weapons inspection and repair. She hopes to become re-classified as a combat medic and already is working in civilian life as a nurse. Just two days before graduation, she began her orientation as an intensive care nurse at Newberry Hospital. Her goal is to become an aviation paramedic.
For Onye Cosom, of West Columbia, the day marked a milestone. As a TRIO Scholar, Cosom became the first in her family to graduate from college. “Today really means the world to me,” said Cosom, who earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing management. “I am the first.”
The third of eight children, Cosom said her brothers and sisters “will be able to see that they can graduate, too.”
Another achievement for Cosom: She has secured a marketing job in Columbia.
In its morning and afternoon ceremonies, Lander honored more than 20 “Golden Graduates” who graduated between 1970 and 1972. Presented with a medallion and special certificate, the honorees were called “remarkable graduates.”
Rhonda McDowell, of Ninety Six, and Cheryl Agnew-Bell, of Greenwood, graduated in 1972. They said returning to campus was an opportunity to see former classmates and share memories. It also was a chance to see how much the campus has changed.
“When I was here, the newest building was the science building,” said McDowell, a history major. “When we were here, the college was supported by Greenwood County. Then it became state supported, and it boomed.”
Agnew-Bell, who earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, said, “It’s wonderful to be invited back to the campus and be appreciated. I’m very thankful for the education I received.”
It may not be Hollywood, but history major Grayson Elizabeth-Ann Peoples, of Clinton, is leaving for Disney World to participate in the Disney College Program. She honed her skills as a public speaker during internships at the Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site and the Charleston Museum.
“The most meaningful part of my education and what I’ve enjoyed most about Lander is my relationships with each of my professors. I was a name here and not a number, and that helped me excel as a student,” she said.
“Commencement is a recognition of how much Lander has helped me grow as a person. I can't wait to get out there and put what I've learned and gained to good use.”
Ladavia Sheree Jones, of Saluda, said the meaningful part of her being at Lander was having the opportunity to expand on the communications aspects of her education. “While I’m confident in the English aspect, the media and communications department was a new field for me to explore. I tried my hand at media writing and broadcasting radio which was an exciting thing to be able to experience.”
Jones, who worked an off-campus job during her four years at Lander, plans to pursue a career in journalism and start a publishing career.
In addition to a rigorous academic schedule, Jones worked an off-campus job for four years, and recently worked with the Greenwood Community Theatre on social media and video projects – all of which are bringing her to a new chapter in her life. “While I’ll treasure every memory I’ve made and everything I’ve learned, I’m finally ready to move onward,” she said.
With a new degree in hand, Lander alumnus Damion Moragne won’t be going far.
In June, he’ll begin a new job at Lander where he’ll be working with students. One of the most recognizable people on campus, Damion served as a student liaison for the Office of the President. He was an announcer for athletic and student events, a LINK 101 Peer Leader and Orientation Leader. Most of all, he was an unofficial ambassador of kindness throughout campus.
Yet, Moragne, of Ware Shoals, said he will remember his student experience for having the “opportunity to meet and see so many people … my goal was to always spread a positive light on campus. Lander is home. Now, I’ll be working as a Bearcat.”