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UL Lafayette Alumnus and CBS Correspondent David Begnaud Gives Commencement Speech

Jun 07, 2018 02:45PM ● By Staff Writer

CBS National Correspondent and University of Louisiana at Lafayette Alumnus David Begnaud told the UL Lafayette Graduating Class of 2018 to take risks and pursue their dreams at the UL Lafayette commencement address on May 11.

“You’re going to know that you found your calling when you love doing that job so much that you’re willing to take any chance to just stick a foot in the door,” Begnaud said to the graduates.

Begnaud is a Carencro native and a member of the UL Lafayette Class of 2005. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in general studies.

“As I climbed the professional ladder, I competed with some of the smartest people around. I’m talking about people from Ivy League institutions. Some had more degrees than a thermometer,” Begnaud said, adding he leveled the playing field with “a determination that can slice through steel.”

Begnaud gave the address during the 11 a.m. UL Lafayette General Assembly at the Cajundome. Approximately 9,000 people were in attendance, including 1,732 graduates of the UL Lafayette Class of 2018 according to UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie, Ph.D.

Begnaud won the George Polk Award for public service journalism after his reporting on the devastation of Hurricane Maria drew attention to incompetence of federal and local institutions in aiding the Puerto Rican people. Other honorees include Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings and Bob Woodward, according to a UL Lafayette press release.

“(Puerto Ricans) are some of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. They will welcome you into their home like a good Cajun will and they will give you their food before they take a bite,” Begnaud said.

Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, caused 64 deaths and approximately $100 billion worth of damage, according to a UL Lafayette press release.

Begnaud explained the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has never fed so many people nor supplied as much water as it did after Hurricane Maria.

“The man leading the response from FEMA said to me, ‘I know you’re from Louisiana, but trust me, Maria was worse than Katrina,’” Begnaud recounted.

Begnaud encouraged the graduates to try to meet their heroes. He recalled meeting Maya Angelou, a nationally acclaimed poet, in her North Carolina home after “radio and television legend” Larry King gave him the opportunity.

“Someone who you admire is going to welcome you home. But who is it going to be? Have you asked to meet them?” Begnaud asked the graduates.

Begnaud stressed the importance of mentors in his speech as well.

“It helps to find a mentor. You create your own dream. A mentor can help make it come true,” Begnaud said.

Begnaud closed his speech with a reminder to students to “do whatever it takes” to follow their passions.

“I live to interview fascinating people. I’ve got a dream that one day my producers and I will be calling someone from the class of 2018 to ask to interview you,” Begnaud said to the graduates. 

Michelle Hendrick, a member of the class of 2018 who received a bachelor’s degree in biology, said she enjoyed Begnaud’s address.  

“It was very inspiring,” Hendrick said, adding she hopes to use her biology degree to go to graduate school.

The commencement ceremony also included a procession of the Class of 1968, UL Lafayette faculty and administration, doctoral students and their dissertation advisors and students receiving both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Leading the procession was Grand Marshal Gail Poirrier, Ph.D., who served as the Dean of Nursing and Allied Health Professions from 2001 to 2017.

Doctoral students were hooded at the ceremony by Savoie and their respective dissertation advisors. Baccalaureate students who maintained a 4.0 GPA were recognized as well as the Outstanding Graduates from each college. Outstanding Baccalaureate Graduates include Mary McMahon, of Liberal Arts, Samuel Riehl, of Arts, Healy Carden, of the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration, Matthew Furka, of Engineering, Elizabeth Ruehl, of Education, Mallory Landry, of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, Jaden Danos, of the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences, and Anne Leblanc, of the University college. The overall Outstanding Baccalaureate Graduate, Furka, and the Outstanding Master's Graduate Jesse DelGizzi, of the School of Music and Performing Arts, were also recognized.

Savoie thanked the UL Lafayette faculty for their work in guiding the graduates along their degree path.

“Ladies and gentlemen, these are the gifted men and women who have devoted themselves to education and development of our students,” Savoie said.

Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs David Danahar, Ph.D., reminded the graduates to appreciate the mentors in their lives.

“No doubt, you’ve received encouragement from someone who believed in your dreams, who believed they were worthy of support. Give them thanks and then pass that support on,” Danahar said.

By: Melissa Watson