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      Countdown to Commencement begins at Albany State


      It's the countdown to commencement at Albany State University. Saturday's event will be unforgettable for two mother-daughter pairs in the Wright and Beach families. Both families reside in Albany. Keshundra Wright, a psychology major and her mother Jennifer, a health care management major began college at different times, but they'll march on the same day and sit a few rows apart. Lesa Beach who'll earn a master's degree as a family nurse practitioner and her daughter Courtney, a computer science major are also among 406 ASU graduates who'll stroll the stage to the cheers and waves of supportive family members and friends. There will be 312 bachelor's, 88 master's and 6 specialist degrees conferred.

      ASU's graduation ceremony takes place at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, May 5 in the Albany James H. Gray Civic Center, 100 Oglethorpe Blvd. The keynote speaker is U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Appointed to the position by President Barack Obama in 2009, Vilsack has worked to create jobs and strengthen the foundation of economic growth in rural America. He was at the center of a story that attracted headlines when a blogger misused excerpts from a speech delivered by Shirley Sherrod, former Georgia Director of Rural Development at the federal agency.

      The soon to be graduates have little time to focus on the speaker at the moment. They're busy taking finals and reviewing the commencement checklist. "The closer it gets to the ceremony, the more excited I get," said Keshunda's mother, a Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital employee. She plans to work all week, and then take Friday off to attend a pre-commencement senior's reception in the Aerobics Room of the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Gymnasium at 9 a.m. and the graduation rehearsal, which begins at 10 a.m., and takes place on the basketball court in the arena.

      There were challenges on the journey to graduation for both mothers and daughters. "I had kidney failure and in June began dialysis. I thought I wasn't going to make it, but I did with the support of friends, family and co-workers," the older Wright said. She credits a cadre of ASU professors; Drs. Cynthia Bennett, Cheryl Johnson, Sandra Washington, Robert Graper and Mary Morris, now deceased for helping her reach the milestone. "We encouraged each other," said Keshundra.

      "My daughter is proud of me," said Beach. "But she just doesn't know how proud I am of her. You have to be patient, keep the faith and keep God first. It was a struggle and I was tempted to give up, but kept going".

      For more information contact the ASU Office of University Communications at (229) 430-4671.

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