Honoring 2022 Graduates

Southeastern will honor its summer and fall 2022 graduates with two commencement ceremonies on Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., university officials announced. Scheduled in the University Center, the 10 a.m. ceremony will honor graduates in the colleges of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Education, and Science and Technology, while the 3 p.m. ceremony will honor the colleges of Business and Nursing and Health Sciences.

The University will confer more than 1,000 degrees on students who are graduating with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

Tangipahoa Parish Superintendent of Schools Melissa Stilley will be honored with Southeastern’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the 3 p.m. ceremony.

A veteran educator with 35 years in the field, Stilley has served at every instructional level in the public school system—classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, supervisor of curriculum and instruction, and chief academic officer. In July 2012, she was tapped for a role as network leader in the district support division of the Louisiana Department of Education. Over the next several years, Stilley had the opportunity to work with over half of the public school districts across the state. In 2018, she “returned home” after being appointed to serve as Tangipahoa’s first female Superintendent of Schools.

Stilley is a 2018 Distinguished Alumna for the College of Education at Southeastern, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1987, her master’s degree in school administration in 1999, her plus 30 in special education in 2000, and in 2018 completed coursework toward a doctorate in educational leadership. She has been an advocate for professional development and is always recommending books, videos, and podcasts to impart knowledge to her friends, family, and colleagues.

During her tenure as superintendent, Stilley has focused her time and energy around what she refers to as four buckets of work: systems to ensure smooth operations, implementation of high-quality curriculum—complete with interventions for students, strategies to ensure positive school culture, and efforts to recruit and retain top talent for the district. She identified and defined core values for the district, calling for everyone in the system to be respectful, compassionate, and to pursue greatness in everything they say and do.

Additionally, Stilley led efforts to redesign the parish’s alternative school in a proactive approach to stop the school-to-prison pipeline by relying on small group counseling, community mentorships, rehabilitation and restorative practices, and establishing individualized academic plans for students who enroll in the program.

In recent years, Southeastern instituted additional safety and security measures, including a mandatory clear bag policy, bag checks for guest entry, and a list of prohibited items. The list is available at southeastern.edu/commencement by clicking the guest information for winter commencement tab.

The Southeastern Channel also livestreams commencement so family and friends unable to attend can watch from their homes or mobile devices. The 10 a.m. ceremony live stream can be accessed here and the 3 p.m. here

After the ceremonies, each will be available via on-demand at the YouTube links above. The week following graduation, the ceremonies will be broadcasted on the Southeastern Channel (Charter Spectrum 199, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire TV, thesoutheasternchannel.com) and via on-demand.

More information about the commencement ceremonies can be found at southeastern.edu/commencement.

Named One of the Top Universities in the South

Southeastern has earned three rankings from U.S. News and World Report, again being named among the top universities in the region. The university was listed as one of the top 50 public schools and one of the top 100 universities (private or public) in the South. Southeastern also was named as one of the top national performers for the social mobility of its students.

“These accolades are yet another testament to the tremendous support Southeastern students receive from our faculty and staff,” said Southeastern President John L. Crain. “We care about each and every student and their academic success.”

Every year, U.S. News and World Report publishes college rankings in the United States. Colleges and universities are reviewed based on academic quality and measures, such as graduation rates, retention rates and social mobility.

“Although the methodology is the product of years of research, we continuously refine our approach based on user feedback, literature reviews, trends in our own data and availability of new data. We also regularly engage with institutional researchers and high-ranking academic officials, including presenting at higher education forums and conducting interactive webinars,” U.S. News said. “Our detailed methodology is transparent in part for use by schools and academics, but mostly because we believe prospective students will find our rankings more useful if they know what the rankings measure.”

Graduation rates for first-generation college students were once again factored into the ranking’s overall methodology. The ranking “evaluates which schools best serve underrepresented students” and analyzes enrollment and graduation rates of low-income students with Pell Grants. Southeastern was ranked 100th nationally in social mobility.

The rankings can be accessed here

Nightingale Award Recipient for Nursing School of the Year

Southeastern’s undergraduate nursing program has been recognized by the Louisiana Nurses Foundation with the Nightingale Award as the Nursing School of the Year. The awards recognize the achievements of the nursing program’s students and faculty.

This is the fifth time Southeastern has been recognized with a Nightingale Award for the undergraduate nursing program.

The competition is evaluated by a panel of out-of-state judges who review the nominations submitted by nursing programs throughout the state. The Nightingale Awards are the foundation’s highest recognition for quality, service, commitment and excellence among Louisiana registered nurses.

 Ann Carruth, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said nursing programs are evaluated for the award by a wide range of criteria, including accreditation status, innovations in education and teaching, nursing examination passage rate, and comments solicited from graduates, faculty and area employers.

School of Nursing Department Head Ken Tillman attributes the nursing faculty and teaching resources to the ultimate success of the undergraduate program’s students and graduates.

“Our nursing faculty are dedicated to the success of our students,” he said. “Teaching resources, such as great instructional spaces, skills practice labs and patient simulation labs, both on campus and at the Baton Rouge Center, is another top feature of our program.”

“The nursing program’s clinical affiliation agreements with leading healthcare systems located on the Northshore and Baton Rouge region is another advantage for students,” Tillman explained. “Our nursing students have an opportunity to learn and apply their knowledge by working side-by-side with some of the best nurses and healthcare professionals anywhere.”

A Legacy of Giving: Ronald Stetzel and Gaylord Bickham

Bequests (also called planned giving or legacy giving) to non-profit organizations have been growing in recent years. According to Giving USA, bequests reached over $42 billion dollars in the United States in its most recent report on 2020. These are gifts that are made as part of a will or trust.

In a surprising fact, bequests amount to more than 2.5 times the total donations from corporations. Since Giving USA began tracking the sources of charitable gifts in 1975, bequests have provided more funding to nonprofits than corporate giving in every year except one (1984). Moreover, while the total dollar amount of corporate and estate giving used to be roughly equal, the value of bequests began to pull steadily ahead in the 1990s and over the last decade has continually outpaced corporate donations by about 60 percent.

This growing form of charitable giving has many benefits for estate planning, including flexibility, tax benefits, recognition (leaving a legacy), and efficiency in distribution of assets.

In recent years, Southeastern has been the recipient of several bequest gifts. To date, the largest one ever given to Southeastern was a bequest made by Mr. Seth Ryan in the name of his wife, Thelma Ryan. Mr. Ryan was a Southeastern graduate who wanted to provide scholarship opportunities for female students who may need a little help reaching their goal of a college education—something that Mrs. Ryan was not able to do.

Two other recent bequests have helped Southeastern students, as well as raise the profile of planned giving on campus.

Dr. Ronald D. Stetzel teaches music during his tenure at Southeastern.

A large bequest by Ronald Stetzel, a retired Southeastern faculty member, endowed and boosted the impact of the Ronald and Mildred Boyl Stetzel Endowed Scholarship in Piano.

Dr. Ronald D. Stetzel was a Southeastern music professor who taught for 33 years and who was also co-founder of the Louisiana Music Teachers Association state-wide piano rally in 1970. A composer in his own right, he loved to write music for two pianos. He and his wife Mildred performed together on a regular basis. They were known as a great two-piano team. Both were also committed to spreading the joy of music and music education. Mildred was a long-time piano teacher to generations in the region.

Stetzel2Dr. Stetzel was a WWII veteran who served in the Eighth Air Force. He taught at Southeastern from 1948 to 1981, making an impact for decades. In retirement, he stayed involved in music in both Sun City, Ariz., and Rochester, N.Y., and was a world traveler. He was preceded in death by his first wife Mildred and his second wife Mary Ann Woodworth. He passed away at the age of 97 in 2017 after a long and active retirement. The gift of the scholarship will aid music students in perpetuity—yet again spreading the joy of music.

Timofei Kunin2

Timofei Kunin1
Music student Timofei Kunin is able to enhance his skills as a professional musician, thanks to support from the Stetzel Scholarship.

Current Stetzel scholarship recipient Timofei Kunin has been a pianist for over 15 years. He has competed and won many national and international competitions, performed in prestigious venues, and is a composer as well. After having moved to the United States several years ago, some friends recommended Southeastern with its strong music program. Kunin said, “I instantly connected with the faculty, and the scholarship helps a great deal since finances are sometimes a problem for international students at first.”

“I am incredibly grateful to be the recipient of the scholarship the Stetzels set up,” he added. “It is a great opportunity.”

Another recent gift was received from the bequest of Mr. Gaylord Bickham. While not an alumnus of Southeastern, he was a strong believer in the mission of the University. The Franklinton, La., native was aware of Southeastern’s impact, and he always noted that he was very fond of Southeastern because, from its earliest days, it offered area students a quality education, which was especially crucial for those who could not attend a university far from home. It didn’t hurt that his cousin Bruce Bickham played football at Southeastern.

Gaylord Bickham has made a lasting impact on Southeastern by creating a bequest.

For many years he owned and managed the Bickham Oil Company in Franklinton, serving Washington and surrounding parishes. He served as a director on the boards of numerous financial and business institutions. He was an active member of the Franklinton Rotary Club, a conservationist, an animal lover, and a “tender-hearted” man according to family members.

Already a donor who created a scholarship in his parents’ name for a student who graduated from a Washington Parish high school, he left a large bequest for general University support. This allowed the funds to be utilized in the most impactful way.

A planned gift can extend one person’s legacy to many others. Southeastern is fortunate to have donors who’ve had the forethought to place the University as a beneficiary and help it continue to provide an excellent and caring education to students for decades to come.

To learn more about legacy giving opportunities, contact Katherine Rose at 985.549.2239 or krose@southeastern.edu.


More Campus Enhancements Coming Soon

During the 2022 Legislative Session, Southeastern received approval for significant incremental capital outlay funding to enhance current building projects and start planning on a brand new project. Partial support for these projects is also being provided by donors and the Southeastern Foundation.

The D Vickers Hall renovation, an ongoing project to update and upgrade one of campus’ main classroom buildings, received added funds. The funds will help defray the costs of inflation for the years-long project. Communication and Media Studies Department Head James V. O’Connor said the renovations will bring positive change for video production and television instruction on campus.

“The renovation will create a high-visibility state-of-the-art television and video production teaching space that will position Southeastern as a cutting-edge media program that will educate students for meaningful work in the 21st century,” he said.

A shared academic and athletics building was approved in 2020 and is in the initial phases of planning. It received added funding to ensure the facility is a state-of-the-art shared space. The building will be a multi-purpose facility encompassing numerous programs, one of which is athletic training.

“Athletic trainers are highly trained healthcare professionals that support the sports medicine team,” College of Nursing and Health Sciences Dean Ann Carruth said. “As such, a strong partnership with athletics to provide real-world experiences is integral to the success of the program. We are very fortunate to have these new resources as we launch this new program.”

The most notable funding will come in the building of an entirely new Nursing and Health Sciences building. This multi-purpose healthcare-related building will include expanded classroom space and a rural health clinic for the public, as well as labs and other needed spaces. Carruth said she is very excited about housing all health and human sciences degree programs on the north corner of campus.

“This new building will allow several of our high-demand programs to expand and increase enrollment,” she said. “We envision a rural health academic clinic providing care through significant partnerships. Our students will gain multidisciplinary real-world experiences while providing care alongside community care providers. These resources will allow nursing to increase student simulation experiences, as well as allow counseling and communication sciences, for example, to design a unique, state-of-the-art community-based clinic space.”

Vice President for University Advancement Wendy Lauderdale also shared optimism after the legislative session. “Working with our legislative delegation from the region, Southeastern was able to ensure more of its facilities will meet the needs of students for another generation,” she said.