SACS president to address Tuskegee University graduates at spring commencement

May 4, 2009 

TUSKEGEE, Ala. – Dr. Belle Wheelan, president of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, will address approximately 500 graduates at Tuskegee University’s annual Commencement exercises at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, in the General Daniel “Chappie” James Center for Aerospace Science and Health Education. She is the first African-American and the first woman to serve as head of the accrediting body, of which Tuskegee maintains academic operating status to award degrees in several fields of study.

“I am pleased to announce that an academician of Dr. Wheelan’s stature will address our talented graduates,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Payton, Tuskegee University president. “We, the administration and faculty, look forward to matriculating another great number of students who embody this great institution’s mission: knowledge, leadership and service.”

Wheelan’s career spans 35 years and includes the roles of faculty member, chief student services officer, campus provost, college president and Secretary of Education. She received her bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in Texas (1972) with a double major in psychology and sociology; her master’s from Louisiana State University (1974) in Developmental Educational Psychology; and her Doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin (1984) in educational administration with a special concentration in community college leadership.

She has received numerous awards and recognition including four honorary degrees; the Distinguished Graduate Award from Trinity University (2002), and from the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin (1992); Washingtonian Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, DC (2001); and the AAUW Woman of Distinction Award (2002).

Wheelan has held membership in numerous local, state and national organizations including Rotary International; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; the American College Testing Inc. board of directors; American Association of Community Colleges’ board of directors; and the President’s Round Table of the National Council on Black American Affairs. Immediately following Commencement, the Veterinary Medicine degree-holders will take their oath to service in the University Chapel.

Other Commencement activities include:

Induction of Teacher Education Candidates to be held Friday, May 8, at 7 p.m. in the Kellogg Conference Center.

Army and Air Force ROTC Officers' Commission to be held Saturday, May 9, at 1 p.m. in the Tuskegee University Chapel.

Nursing and Allied Health Capping and Pinning Ceremony to be held Saturday, May 9, at 3 p.m. in the Chapel.

A tradition of the University President, a reception for the graduation candidates and their parents, will be held at Grey Columns, the President's Home, following the day's activities.

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