Winthrop President

December 12, 2013

Comstock to preside over her first commencement at Winthrop

Winthrop University’s new president, who will lead her first graduation ceremonies this week, is bringing back the school’s tradition of inviting a guest to speak at commencement.

New Winthrop University President Jayne Marie Comstock says she’s “filled with anticipation” about presiding over her first commencement ceremony Thursday at Winthrop Coliseum.

Comstock, the university’s 10th president and second female president, will congratulate and shake hands with 92 Winthrop graduate-level students. She will confer master’s or specialist degrees during the ceremony for December graduates. The ceremony starts at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, 331 students will cross the stage during Winthrop’s undergraduate commencement ceremony.

It’s a momentous occasion, Comstock said, both for her and for the graduating students and their friends and families.

Graduation ceremonies are one piece of a university president’s ceremonial work, but what’s most meaningful for Comstock, she said, is that the celebration is a time for students to reflect on their hard work.

Winthrop is bringing back the inclusion of a graduation speaker. The university last had a commencement speaker in May 2007. Distinguished Winthrop professor Marilyn Smith is Saturday’s guest speaker.

Smith, a professor of management in the university’s College of Business Administration, has been at Winthrop for 24 years.

She has served as the faculty’s representative to the Board of Trustees, become the first director of general education and sat on the Winthrop Graduate Council and graduate petitions committee.

Smith is coordinator of the College of Business Administration’s sustainable business studies options and is co-chairwoman of the college’s effort to revise its core undergraduate curriculum.

It was Comstock’s idea to reinstate the tradition of hosting commencement speakers at Winthrop. A guest speaker can help graduating students internalize the fact that they can set goals, put forth energy to achieve those goals and accomplish their hopes and dreams, she said.

Graduation ceremonies are also a time for students to think about their opportunities and the responsibility they have to “put their degree to good use” for all those who invested in their education, Comstock said, including the state of South Carolina, Winthrop’s donors, their families and the larger university community.

Also Saturday, Winthrop will honor Aaron Hartel, a chemistry professor, with the school’s top teaching award – the James Pinckney Kinard and Lee Wicker Kinard Award for Excellence in Teaching. It is named in honor of former Winthrop president James P. Kinard and his wife.

Hartel has been a member of Winthrop’s teaching faculty since 2004. He has been published in “The Journal of Chemical Education,” the world’s most prestigious journal in chemical education.

Saturday’s ceremony starts at 11 a.m.

Video of both the graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies will be streamed live on Winthrop’s website –

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