Two college graduates wearing cap and gown hug in celebration.
Augusta University Spring 2024 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

Augusta University celebrates Spring 2024 graduates

Augusta University’s spring 2024 hooding and commencement ceremonies took place May 9 and 10 at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center with more than 900 students participating in the graduate and undergraduate ceremonies. AU’s Medical College of Georgia and Dental College of Georgia also held ceremonies honoring a total of 350 graduates.

AU President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, spoke at the Graduate Hooding and Commencement Ceremony sharing four key lessons he’s learned during his 40-year career: dream big, work hard, embrace change, and be happy. Students who participated in any of the three commencement ceremonies received a special memento from Keel reminding them of these life lessons learned.

Adding to the festivities of the Graduate Hooding and Commencement Ceremony, the John F. Beard Award was presented by Keel to Kendrick De Castro, a graduate of the Master of Physician Assistant Program in the College of Allied Health Sciences. The $40,000 Beard Award is given annually to a graduating health sciences student at AU who exemplifies care and compassion in health care.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue spoke at both undergraduate commencement ceremonies, sharing his keys to passing the “test of life” by remembering to give, forgive, love, and find joy.

The Medical College of Georgia held its Class of 2024 Hooding Ceremony at the James Brown Arena on May 9, which included the annual class photo at the Old Medical College Building. Nearly 250 seniors were recognized as the newest physicians and graduates. Kimberly D. Manning, MD, a general internist/hospitalist at Emory and Grady Memorial Hospital who is known for her innovative approach to medical education and her public speaking/blogging, was this year’s guest speaker.

Every year graduating students at both the main campus in Augusta and at the AU/UGA Medical Partnership campus in Athens select a recipient of the Physician’s Physician Award. Students decide who among their classmates demonstrates the greatest aptitude for and devotion to the profession of medicine. This year’s recipients are Sydney Erickson, MD, representing the Augusta Campus who is headed to Emory to pursue medicine-psychiatry; and Shant Ohanian, MD, from Athens who also matched at Emory, but in family medicine.

The Dental College of Georgia held its 2024 Hooding Ceremony at First Baptist Church of Augusta on May 10. Nancy B. Young, DMD, presided over her first hooding ceremony as dean of DCG with 98 graduates of the Doctor of Dental Medicine program recognized. The guest speaker was J. Ben Deal, DMD, Class of 1974. Deal, the 2023 DCG Distinguished Alum, is a former chair of the MCG Foundation and owner of Augusta Family Dentistry.

During the ceremony, Tigerwin Yang was named the 2024 Outstanding Senior and Ronald Harris, DMD, assistant professor in the Department of General Dentistry, was awarded the Judson C. Hickey Award for teaching excellence.

Three student speakers, chosen through a selection process by AU’s Student Government Association, brought messages of focusing on unity within the community, how each graduates’ story is the news we need and being fearless in life.

Woman speaking at podium.

“In turbulent times, it’s important to focus on the things that unite us rather than the things that divide us. Fostering unity will foster community.”

Stephanie Jones, PhD, graduate of the Doctor of Philosophy with a Major in Applied Health Sciences through The Graduate School and the College of Allied Health Sciences
Woman smiling at podium.

“I’ve often heard that the news can be tough and yes there are some days where the news can be difficult. But through it all, news has the power to make a difference. Yes, you have the power to make a difference…your successful story today makes great news. As you grow into your respective careers, the news will be looking for you.”

Rakiyah Lenon, a graduate of the Department of Communications in Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Man speaking at podium.

“Augusta University taught you to be fearless. Be fearless in the pursuit of your dreams. Be fearless in the face of adversity. Be fearless in the pursuit of your truth, justice, and equality. Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. For the past four years, Augusta University has truly ignited our fire.”

Luke Anderson, a graduate of the College of Nursing
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Written by
Haley Crain

Haley Bourne Crain is the Communications Specialist for the Office of the Registrar at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at

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Avatar photo Written by Haley Crain

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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