COLLEGE STATION, TX -- Among the 1,700 Texas A&M degree candidates set to participate in commencement ceremonies this Friday at Reed Arena are 11 Aggie student-athletes. Aggie women’s basketball coach Gary Blair will serve as the keynote speaker for the commencement convocation set for Thursday (Aug. 9) at 5:30 p.m. in Rudder Auditorium.
“Coach Blair is not only highly successful in leading and inspiring young women to excel on the basketball court, in the classroom and in life generally, but he has also proved to be an extraordinary good-will ambassador for Texas A&M as he interacts with the public and the media in his unique manner,” said Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, who announced Blair’s selection for the honor of addressing the university’s summer graduates. “I am confident he will bring an engaging message that will be well received by our degree candidates, their families and others attending commencement convocation.”
Blair, who has coached at the collegiate level for 32 years, came to Texas A&M in 2003 and has led a steadily improving women’s basketball program, with the Aggies winning the 2011 NCAA national championship. His Aggie teams have participated in seven consecutive post-season NCAA tournaments and he became Texas A&M’s winningest women’s basketball coach in 2010. He is the recipient of numerous “coach of the year” awards and related honors — most recently being elected to the National Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the first such distinction for a Texas A&M basketball coach. Blair, who grew up in Dallas and began his coaching career at the high-school level, was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
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. It is a prelude to the degree candidates formally receiving their diplomas in subsequent ceremonies aligned by the academic colleges representing their major fields of study.
Commencement convocation and the graduation ceremonies are open to the public.
"I am so proud of these young men and women for earning a degree from Texas A&M," Dr. John Thornton, Interim Director of Athletics for Texas A&M, said. "These student-athletes have put in a lot of time, effort and dedication to reach this goal. Their families and the people who have supported them throughout their lives are to be congratulated as well."
"We talk about Building Champions in academics, athletics and community support and this pertains to all areas of life," Thornton said. "Many of these student-athletes have participated through Aggie Athletes Involved, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and just going out on their own to speak and interact with young people and schools in our community. They are excellent role models and great representatives of Texas A&M. We are all very proud of them."
In the school year 2011-12, 185 Aggie student-athletes have earned their degrees and 374 student-athletes were honored at the May Champs Banquet, sponsored by Carolyn and the late Tommie E. Lohman, for achieving a 3.0 or higher during the 2011 calendar year and 46 of those posted a perfect 4.0 for at least one semester.
On the various playing fields, six Aggie teams won Big 12 Championships with women's soccer, women's swimming and diving, women's indoor track and field and men's indoor track and field and men’s outdoor track and field along with men's golf have added to the trophy case.
In National Championship conversations, the women's equestrian squad brought home the overall national title as well as the national women's western equestrian championship in 2012.
AUGUST 2012 TEXAS A&M GRADUATES
Clement, Dennis Baseball
Gomez, Jonathan Men’s Track & Field
Hendrickson, Elise Volleyball
Kastmo, Alisia Volleyball
Matthews, Kevin Football
Miller, Bryan Men’s Track & Field
O’Quinn, Patrick Football
Olivier, Sheri Women’s Tennis
Roberto, Cinthya Volleyball
Roberts, Joseph Men’s Track & Field
Ruddock, Natasha Women’s Track & Field