Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice William L. “Bill” Waller Jr. of Jackson delivered the morning commencement address. U.S. Northern District Judge Sharion H. Aycock of Fulton spoke during the afternoon program.
More than 2,200 students, ranging in age from 20 to 72, were degree candidates in the 2010 spring semester.
Both judges received their degrees from the 132-year-old land-grant university during the 1970s. Waller is a 1974 general business information systems graduate; Aycock, a 1977 economics graduate.
In his remarks, Waller passed on the recommendation of a senior Army officer in his ROTC program. He had sought out the military leader after first-semester freshman zeal led to participation in so many campus organizations that his grades began to suffer.
Waller said the World War II veteran urged him to learn to focus on things most important to him. “He said, ‘If you start something, you need to finish it,’” the supreme court justice recalled.
Waller was elected to the high court in 1996 and became chief justice last year. Like Waller, Aycock was in private practice for many years before seeking elective office. After serving as a circuit court judge for several years, she became Mississippi’s first female federal judge in 2007.
During the afternoon program, Aycock stressed repeatedly the importance of integrity, ethics and personal responsibility. She alluded to recent state and national crises created by professional organizations and businesses that seem to indicate a lack all three virtues.
“But, will we recover ethically and can we restore and maintain professional business integrity?” Pausing, she continued, “Yes, yes we can, and you, graduates, should make yourself a promise today that you will never for any reason, under any circumstance, compromise your integrity.”