Home Graduation My AMU Commencement: A Full Circle Moment
My AMU Commencement: A Full Circle Moment

My AMU Commencement: A Full Circle Moment

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Guest Post by Lamar A. Burris
AMU Graduate and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran

I attended this year’s Commencement ceremony by earning my B.A. in English. Let me explain what Commencement meant to me.

I flew from Okinawa to participate in a weekend of fun. First, I attended the food drive and met some great people. Whoever came up with this idea deserves more than a pat on the back. It brought the graduates together, in a way that removed the feeling of not knowing anyone amongst so many new faces from all walks of life. Afterwards, I attempted to make the social events, but due to traffic I did not make it although my hotel was only seven miles away. No problem, because nothing was going to dampen my spirits. The coup de grâce was happening June 2nd at 3 p.m., and I thought gracing that stage as my name was called would be the cherry on top. It was not.

I joined the Marine Corps in January 1990. My first commandant was General Alfred M. Gray. The first and last time I saw him was aboard the USS Gunston Hall in February 1991. The war was shortly over and we were asking the question, “Why aren’t we on our way home?” General Gray’s reply was, “I got you right where you need to be. You’ll go home when I say you’re going home.” We cheered and laughed because Marines love a stern and truthful answer.

To be honest, I thought that would be the last time I heard his voice in person. When I heard his name called as a member of AMU’s Board of Trustees, I perked up and thought, “How can I address him without breaking the protocol of receiving my certificate and marching smartly back to my seat?” I had no answers, so I did as I was told and followed the orders that were given, as Marines do.

What happened next will be forever ingrained in my thoughts. As my name was called, General Gray stood up and not only shook my hand, but we embraced. As he pulled me in, he said, “Congratulations, Devil Dog.” I immediately thought, “Unless Jesus cracks the sky and calls me by name, my day can’t get any better.”

I’m still riding that cloud. I’ve told the story to as many people who will listen. As a matter of fact, when I get to heaven God, too, will have to take a seat and listen, as I tell of my full circle moment at the 2018 AMU Commencement when I embraced my first commandant, General Alfred M. Gray.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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