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Leading the way: GGC grads given marching orders from Gen. David Petraeus

LAWRENCEVILLE - U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus urged the 38 graduates of Georgia Gwinnett College to commit to public service and invest in work worth doing.

"As those of you graduating today move on from GGC, you have the opportunity to help define its character, its culture, its hallmarks," said Petraeus, the keynote speaker in Friday's commencement ceremony. "And as you go about doing that, I would urge you to keep in mind the wisdom in Teddy Roosevelt's assertion that 'far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.'"

Students and faculty of Georgia's newest four-year college have already cultivated a culture of service, said Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command.

Speaking before a crowd of about 1,500 people, Petraeus told the 38 graduates that service comes in many forms. While he underscored the importance of military service, he said there is "much work worth doing" in the commercial sector, local political arenas, health care and education.

"In fact, I would submit that now, more than ever, our nation needs leaders and 'world changers' in its civilian ranks," Petraeus said. "The many pressing challenges we face - from reviving the economy to overcoming poverty, from achieving renewable energy to improving American education - demand young leaders who will provide energy, commitment and example."

Georgia Gwinnett College President Daniel Kaufman, who invited Petraeus to speak at the college's third graduation, also encouraged graduates to pursue a life of service.

"Service as a leader means dedication to something other than self-aggrandizement," he said. "It means self-sacrifice and dedication to the common good. We need look no father than the extraordinary record of Gen. Dave Petraeus to see what a lifetime of service can mean for your community, for your state and for your nation.

"Dave Petraeus and others like him saw a future that seemed beyond imagination when he began his career of public service. He and others with him literally saved the Army, an Army that had been decimated by the turbulence of the Vietnam era. ... (But) he soldiered on and was instrumental in building an American military establishment that is unmatched in capability."

Ashley Kirk of Lawrenceville said it was special for a man who exemplifies leadership - one of the school's core values - to deliver the keynote address.

"It was a perfect fit," said the psychology major, who is now pursing a master's degree in early childhood education at Brenau University.

Gainesville resident Brian Rainey, who graduated with a degree in business administration, said it was an honor and privilege to have Petraeus speak at the graduation ceremony.

"It is my experience that anything can happen at Georgia Gwinnett," he said, "and I think we proved it today by getting one of the most influential men in the world onto our campus."

SideBar: The graduates

Bachelor of Business Administration

Major in Business Administration

· Masseeh Malik Akbarzada

· Heather Bailey

· Christi Bloom

· Scott M. Chingo

· Barrett Culbertson

· Miles Andrew Drury

· Patrick Lawrence Gilbride

· Donna Graben

· Leon Ho (summa cum laude)

· Thuan Nguyen

· Eric Matthew Pease (cum laude)

· Sarah Renee Pittman (cum laude)

· David Lane Prophitt

· Brian Kendal Rainey

· Daniel Joseph Reilly (cum laude)

· Amanda Michelle Shadix

· Jeremy Nicholas Tansill (cum laude)

· Daniel Gordon Thompson

· Zinaida Vugdalic

· Blake Troy Woodbury

Bachelor of Science

Major in Psychology

· Melodie Baldwin

· Dan Clark (magna cum laude)

· Connie Cheek Ellis (summa cum laude)

· Indya Adams Furlong

· Mary Magdalene Veal Galloway (magna cum laude)

· Nakashina Tykisha Glover (summa cum laude)

· Rebecca Jean Guiler

· Amir Hasicic (summa cum laude)

· Ashley E. Kirk

· Toby Ross Parker

· Selma Pasagic

· Marilyn Hope Payne

· Lindsey Marie Richardson

· Courtney Leigh Timms

· Dominque A. Unkauf

Major in Biology

· Christina M. Bryan (cum laude)

· Carleen Marcia French-Cross (cum laude)

· Christiana Rydene Weaver (magna cum laude)