Seven hundred twenty-eight candidates received degrees from Jacksonville State University this spring, making up the largest graduating class in the university’s history. Nearly 600 of those students crossed the stage to receive their degrees during Spring Commencement exercises on Friday, May 6 at JSU Stadium.
Leading the class and graduating summa cum laude were: Jessica Leigh Arighi, Bachelor of Science; Cody Justin Coots, Bachelor of Science in Education; Rebecca Anne Easterwood, Bachelor of Science; Joshua Andrew Gunter, Bachelor of Science in Nursing; Kelsie Alise Howard, Bachelor of Science in Education; Daniel Frank Marshall, Bachelor of Arts; Caylen Suzanne McCall, Bachelor of Arts; Christian Hope McDaniel, Bachelor of Science in Education; and Michael Oliver Nichols, Bachelor of Science.
The faculty led the processional and University President Dr. William A. Meehan presented the degrees.
Lilly Ledbetter, whose fight for equal pay and women’s rights went all the way to the Supreme Court and resulted in the Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, was the commencement speaker.
Ms. Ledbetter, a Calhoun County native, filed a sex discrimination suit against her employer, Goodyear, when an anonymous note revealed that she was making thousands less per year than men in her position. She won her case, but lost on appeal. Over the next eight years, the case made its way to the Supreme Court, where the court ruled that she should have filed suit within 180 days of her first unequal paycheck, even though Ledbetter contested she had no way of knowing that she was being paid unfairly at the time. Undaunted by her loss, Ledbetter continued to champion equality and advocate for change. The piece of legislation bearing her name was the first signed by President Barack Obama after he took office. Her story is told in “Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond,” which was published in 2012.
The commencement exercise was webcast and remains available via the JSU Television Services website.
Photo: Lilly Ledbetter delivers the address at JSU's spring commencement. (Steve Latham/JSU)