SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Georgia Southern will celebrate its first graduation ceremony as a consolidated institution on Friday, May 4.
The current spring semester marks the first semester since Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University consolidated into one. University officials say the process of the merger is almost complete with several new programs and degrees coming this fall.
Over 800 students from both the Armstrong and Liberty Campus will walk the stage at the Savannah Civic Center. They'll either choose to receive an Armstrong or Georgia Southern diploma.
"This class has been very much a part of the transition and has helped us in completing the consolidation. So, they have the opportunity to either select an Armstrong diploma or a GSU diploma. We'll also recognize the Armstrong colleges from which they graduated from. So, this ceremony on Friday will be a transition ceremony and kind of mark where we're at in the consolidation process," said Dr. Chris Curtis, VP, Armstrong/Liberty Campus Operations.
Friday's class of graduates is the highest number of students to graduate at the Civic Center from the Armstrong and Liberty Campus.
The university says a board is looking at changing graduation venues in the future.
Friday's commencement truly marks the end of an era in Savannah. It's the last time graduates will have Armstrong University printed on their diplomas.
Since its founding as a junior college in the Armstrong house back in 1935, thousands of students have graduated from the college. And over the years, as Savannah grew, so did Armstrong.
WTOC spoke with one of those early graduates, Dr. Irving Victor, who graduated back in 1941. There were 44 graduates in his class back then.
"It's created quite an interesting asset to the city. It's been great. It's been a win-win for both Armstrong and Savannah," said Victor. "I just hope that the name Armstrong will not be phased out over the years. I think that is a problem that we are faced with."
Dr. Victor received Armstrong's first honorary doctorate. He had a long career as a physician and served as chief of staff for three hospitals in the city. He also is the co-founder of the restaurant Vic's on the River located in downtown Savannah.
Georgia Southern will also graduate about 800 masters and doctorates Friday in Statesboro. On Saturday, 2,600 undergrads will walk across the stage to accept their diplomas at Paulson Stadium.
Other commencement ceremonies happening this weekend are USC Beaufort's ceremony, which will be on Library Plaza at the Hilton Head Gateway Campus. Representative James Clyburn will be the guest speaker. That ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 4.
And, Savannah State University's 192nd Commencement will take place on Saturday, May 5, at 9 a.m. at Tiger Arena. Approximately 400 students will graduate with associate, bachelor's and master's degrees during the ceremonies.