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

My AMU Commencement: A Full Circle Moment


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.



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 September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 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. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as 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, and as a member of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. 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. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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