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COLLEGE STATION - A record graduating class - expected to total approximately 7,200 - is being reported for Texas A&M University this spring, with the institution scheduling five commencement ceremonies in Reed Arena May 11-12 to accommodate all the degree candidates.
Registrar officials say the number of degree candidates - undergraduates and graduate students - in the spring 2012 class will likely be about 400 more than last spring when the current record of 6,593 was set. The precise number of graduates will not be determined until the week of the ceremonies.
Graduation ceremonies on campus actually begin May 10 when the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences confers its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees at 2 p.m. in Rudder Auditorium followed by commencement convocation at 5:30 p.m., also in Rudder Auditorium.
Commencement convocation is a relatively new Texas A&M tradition in which all members of a graduating class have the opportunity to assemble together, along with family members and friends, in an informal setting.
The convocation speaker will be John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. Sharp, who received a political science degree from Texas A&M in 1972 and was president of the student body and a member of the Corps of Cadets, assumed his present position last fall. He previously was a principal in Ryan & Company, the largest state and local tax consulting firm of its kind in Texas.
In announcing his selection of Chancellor Sharp as the spring commencement convocation speaker, Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin cited Sharp's decades of public service and long-standing association with his alma mater.
"Chancellor Sharp comes to us after a long and distinguished public service career, having served effectively in both houses of the Texas Legislature and then winning two statewide elections, the latter as state comptroller - and obviously having had a positive impact in every endeavor that he has undertaken," Loftin said. "He started that record of accomplishment right here at Texas A&M, where, in addition to his studies, he served in the Corps of Cadets and was elected student body president during his senior year. He is now applying his vast experience in helping elevate all of the universities and agencies in the Texas A&M System - and striving to help make higher education attainable for more Texans.
"With that stellar record and on-going passion for service, I am confident that he will bring a meaningful message to our degree candidates, their families and friends," Loftin added.
Sharp's public service career dates back three decades. He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1978, won a seat in the Texas Senate in 1982 and was elected to a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission in 1986.
Sharp was elected state comptroller in 1990 and re-elected in 1994. When he assumed that office, he quickly began working to fulfill his pledge to "make government work more like our most successful businesses."
Eight years later, Sharp was credited with reinventing Texas state government and turning it into a high-quality, low-cost customer service operation that has saved taxpayers billions, helped avert a state income tax and served as a model around the world.
Three commencement exercises will be held Friday - at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. - and two Saturday, the first at 9 a.m. and the second at 2 p.m., all in Reed Arena. The final commencement ceremony will include the commissioning of approximately 85 members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets into the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marine Corps.
For a listing of times for the ceremonies that include specific colleges, go
Commencement convocation and the graduation ceremonies are open to the public, university officials note.
The Association of Former Students will host its "Next Tradition" program in conjunction with the university's graduation ceremonies. The program, designed to introduce new graduates to the alumni organization and its varied activities, will be conducted at the Clayton Williams Jr. Alumni Center before and after commencement convocation and from 11:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday and from 11:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday. For more about the "Next Tradition," go to http://www.aggienetwork.com/events/tnt.aspx.
The estimate of 7,200 graduates this spring is strictly for the main campus.
Comparable figures are not yet available for the university's branch campuses in Galveston and Qatar, which produced 121 and 52 graduates, respectively, last spring.