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Arkansas State Graduates Receive Diplomas


JONESBORO, Ark. — Arkansas State University celebrated the graduation of nearly 2,000 students in two spring commencement ceremonies Saturday at the Convocation Center. Russell D. Harrington, Jr., the longtime president and chief executive officer of Baptist Health, addressed the class.

“Commencement is always an exciting time,” Chancellor Tim Hudson said after graduates filed by academic colleges into the Convocation Center floor seating. “Today is a celebration for not only you but your families as well.”

Nursing graduate Audra Gambill and Wilson Award winner and communication studies graduate LaTasha Moore followed to offer remarks on behalf of the 2014 graduating class.

The first ceremony, held at 10 a.m., featured the College of Agriculture and Technology, College of Business, College of Engineering, College of Nursing and Health Professions, and the College of Sciences and Mathematics. The 2:30 p.m. ceremony included the College of Education and Behavioral Science, College of Fine Arts, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Media and Communication, and University College.

Harrington, who earned his degree with a bachelor of science in education from Arkansas State in 1966, greeted the crowd by saying, “It’s good to be back in Red Wolf country.” He related that commencement is a defining moment for the graduates in their lifetime, times and circumstances and offered encouragement to the class to “don’t be pleased with being mediocre.”

He went on to make comparisons to his time at A-State by noting the absence of cell phones, computers, Twitter and other technology in 1966.

“There’s no way as a freshman did I ever think I would be up here addressing the graduating class,” Harrington said. “But, enrolling at Arkansas State was the right move for me. For me, that was the time of Dr. Carl Reng and Dean Robert Moore. In sports, it was the time of Bennie Ellender and Bill Bergey. And, it was a special time for students as Arkansas State gained university status.”

Harrington served in health care needs and as president and chief executive officer of Baptist Health for 40 years before recently announcing his retirement, effective in July. He is expected to continue serving in the role of president emeritus and senior advisor. Baptist Health is composed of eight hospitals, one of which is a long-term acute care hospital.

Named Arkansas’ Philanthropic Person in 2000 for his work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Harrington is an honorary colonel in the Arkansas State Police. He recently received the 2014 Board of Trustees Award from the American Hospital Association, and has been named the 2012 Citizen of the Year by the March of Dimes, selected in 2012 by AY magazine as one of the 12 Most Powerful Men in Arkansas in the medical category, and the 2012 Business of Art Honoree by the Pulaski Technical College Foundation.

Harrington closed by offering advice to the class, “Don’t wait for older age to define your purpose. Do it now. The time to make friends is before you need them. No one can go it alone.”