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Bulldog News

Secretary of Defense to SC State grads: ‘We don’t have one American to spare.’

Author: Sam Watson, Director of University Relations|Published: May 13, 2024|All News, Student News

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks at SC State's Spring 2024 Commencement Convocation in Oliver C. Dawson Stadium on Friday, May 10.

SC State awarded 238 degrees on Friday, including 18 doctorates.

ORANGEBURG, S.C. – U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Friday encouraged South Carolina State University graduates to use their education in service to something bigger than themselves.

“Education gives you the power to make change -- even when it’s hard-- and to help America live up to its full promise,” he said in delivering SC State’s Spring 2024 Commencement address at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium. “You know, I lived that. I grew up in Georgia in the time of Jim Crowe.

“Our local public high school had long been whites only, and so when I was a teenager, I became one of the first Black students to integrate it,” Austin said.

He described the experience as hard, painful, ugly days, but he remained moved by the memory of the teachers, officials and neighbors who fought for his education.

“I still remember their determination and their decency, and I still carry forward their lesson, which means living up to this country’s founding values means bringing everyone along and leaving no one out and drawing on the talents of all the American people,” he said. “And I am honored to stand here with you as America’s first Black secretary of defense.”

Austin said he doubted the people who tried to keep him out of that high school knew they were blocking the education of a future four-star general and cabinet official.

“You never know what we lose when we leave someone out,” he said. “So, we don’t have one American to spare. We don’t have one citizen to squander.”

Annasti Chandler

Annasti Chandler

Marion, South Carolina, resident Annasti Chandler was ready to fill the need for public service professionals after receiving her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from SC State on Friday.

“I always wanted to be a detective when I was younger, but now I want to be an officer,” she said, adding that she had law enforcement job prospects lined up. “I just want to help the community the best way I can.”

Chandler also said she enrolled at SC State to finish her mother's dream, as her mother attended SC State but did not complete her degree.

Andrew Latimer


Fellow criminal justice graduate Andrew Latimer also wants to work in law enforcement, but he plans to remain at SC State for his last year of athletics eligibility while obtaining a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling.

The Jacksonville, Florida, resident transferred to SC State his sophomore year to join the Bulldogs’ track and cross-country team.

“It thought was a good fit,” Latimer said. “I enjoyed my time here.”

Ta'Miria Spearman


Business management graduate Ta'Miria Spearman also plans to remain at SC State to obtain her Master of Business Administration with a concentration in health care administration. Her undergraduate years included service in the Student Government Association and social activities while earning her degree at magna cum laude.

“It feels great. It feels great to be a Bulldog,” she said. “It just takes a lot of hard work, dedication, Bulldog tenacity, lot of sleepless nights. I had a lot of fun, stayed up late, but at the end of the day I got my degree.

“I will remember the experience – meeting all these new people, friendships that will last a lifetime, my professors and being in student leadership,” Spearman said. “The whole experience has been phenomenal.”

Spearman, Latimer and Chandler were among 239 students awarded degrees at SC State on Friday. The total included 185 undergraduate degrees. 35 graduate degrees and 18 Doctor of Education degrees.

Undergraduate degrees by college

College of Agriculture, Family, and Consumer Sciences


College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, & Transportation


College of Education, Humanities, & Social Sciences


College of Business & Information Systems


College of Graduate & Professional Studies


 The university also bestowed three honorary doctorates on Friday. Along with Austin, South Carolina state Rep. Bill Taylor and state Sen. Katrina Shealy each received a Doctor of Humane Letters.