Commencements to Include Nearly 2,000 Students in Macon and Atlanta


MACON/ATLANTA – Mercer University will confer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees to nearly 2,000 students in four commencements during May in Macon and Atlanta.

The School of Medicine, which has previously held ceremonies in both Macon and Savannah, will hold a single ceremony in Macon on May 6 at 2 p.m. in Hawkins Arena.

Additionally, the Macon commencement on May 13 at 3:30 p.m. in Hawkins Arena will feature the University's first-ever student commencement speaker, Alayna Williams, a triple major in international affairs, Spanish and women's and gender studies from Macon.

School of Medicine

The School of Medicine will hold its ceremony on Saturday, May 6, at 2 p.m. in Hawkins Arena inside the University Center. The commencement speaker will be Dr. Peter Thomas Scardino, chairman of the Department of Surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Dr. Scardino, a native of Savannah and member of MUSM's Savannah campus Board of Governors, oversees a department widely recognized for its expertise and innovation in cancer surgery. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, he is a surgeon specializing in the early detection, prognosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

His position at Memorial Sloan Kettering includes appointments as head of the Prostate Cancer Program, a member in the Sloan Kettering Institute's Molecular Pharmacology Program and the incumbent of the David H. Koch Chair. He is also a professor in the Department of Urology at Weill Cornell Medical College and at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Dr. Scardino earned his Bachelor of Arts from Yale University and M.D. from Duke University School of Medicine.

He will deliver his address to 132 candidates for degrees from School of Medicine campuses in Macon, Savannah and Columbus.


The University will hold its largest ceremony on Saturday, May 13, at 8:30 a.m. on the upper field of the Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta. The commencement speaker will be Dr. Hewitt W. “Ted” Matthews, senior vice president for health sciences and dean of Mercer's College of Pharmacy, who is retiring from the University on June 30.

Dr. Matthews has spent more than four decades on Mercer's faculty and is the University's longest-serving academic dean, having led the College of Pharmacy for the past 27 years.

He began his association with the University as a student, as he earned a degree in chemistry from

Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1966 while already enrolled in Mercer's Southern School of Pharmacy, from which he graduated in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in pharmaceutical biochemistry in 1971 and 1973, respectively, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Matthews joined the faculty of Mercer's pharmacy school in 1973, and was appointed dean in 1990. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Mercer Health Sciences Center, and in 2012, he was named senior vice president for health sciences, in addition to his responsibilities as dean of the College of Pharmacy.

He will deliver his address to 1,063 candidates for degrees from the College of Pharmacy, Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics, Tift College of Education, James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology, Georgia Baptist College of Nursing, Penfield College and the College of Health Professions.

School of Law

Mercer's School of Law will hold its ceremony on May 13 at 10 a.m. in Hawkins Arena. The commencement speaker will be the Hon. W. Louis Sands, senior United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Sands earned his Bachelor of Arts from Mercer in 1971 and J.D. from Mercer Law School in 1974. He went on to a distinguished career in the United States Army Reserve Signal Corps and in the practice of law, and on Feb. 9, 1994, he was nominated by President Bill Clinton for a new seat on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

After serving nearly 20 years on the federal bench, he assumed senior status on April 12, 2014. He has served as a board member for Mercer Law School's Alumni Association. Currently, he is a member of the University's Board of Trustees, having served two previous terms from 2002-2007 and 2008-2013.

Sands will deliver his address to 119 candidates for degrees.


The University will hold its Macon ceremony on May 13 at 3:30 p.m. in Hawkins Arena. The commencement speaker will be J. Reginald “Reg” Murphy, renowned journalist and business executive.

Murphy began his career as a reporter with The Macon Telegraph while attending Mercer's College of Liberal Arts in the 1950s. He went on to serve as political editor of The Atlanta Constitution from 1961-1965 before being named editor of the newspaper in 1968. His other leadership roles included editor and publisher of The San Francisco Examiner from 1975-1981 and publisher, president and CEO of The Baltimore Sun from 1981-1990. He was also chairman of The Sun from 1990-1992.

An avid golfer, Murphy served as president of the United States Golf Association from 1994-1995. He also held leadership roles at the National Geographic Society from 1993-1998, initially serving as president and ultimately becoming vice chairman of the Society.

He has served three terms on Mercer's Board of Trustees from 1988-1991, 1994-1999 and 2008-2013, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University in 1975.

Williams, the University's first-ever student commencement speaker, is a 2017 Fulbright Award recipient who will teach English in South Africa during the upcoming academic year. She was inducted into Mercer's inaugural class of The Phi Beta Kappa Society during her junior year and has received a number of additional honors, including the Walter F. Dowling Award for Excellence in International Studies and the Women's and Gender Studies Scholarship.

In addition to her success in the classroom, Williams has been engaged in many co-curricular, service and community activities. She has served as co-captain of the Mercer Dance Team, co-president of the Mercer International Mock Conference Association, a Mercer Service Scholar and a Department of Intercollegiate Athletics tutor. She participated in Mercer On Mission experiences to India as a rising junior and South Africa as a rising senior.

At the ceremony, she will receive the Louie D. Newton General Excellence Medal, which is presented to the graduating student who best exemplifies scholastic achievement, personal integrity and character, service to the campus community and a commitment to spiritual values.

Murphy and Williams will deliver addresses to 647 candidates for degrees from the College of Liberal Arts, Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics, School of Engineering, Tift College of Education, Penfield College, Townsend School of Music and College of Health Professions.

Kyle is senior director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he serves as editor of the Mercerian alumni magazine and News@Mercer e-newsletters, and he coordinates hometown and university news releases.