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UL graduation makes for a whirlwind Saturday

Katie de la Rosa, The Advertiser, May 17, 2014

Charles Tillman(Photo: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser)

It’s an all-day affair

As a treat to its soon-to-be-alumni, the university is hosting a Sunrise Zydeco Breakfast at the Alumni Center on St. Mary Boulevard.
The buffet opens at 6:30 a.m. and will be served until 11 a.m. General commencement, where families’ seats will be reserved if they are still eating. In an email sent to graduates, university President E. Joseph Savoie said "guests will be treated to a hearty breakfast and great sydeco and Cajuns music."

Although ech graduate is required to attend the general commencement, where doctoral candidates will receive their degrees, graduate and undergraduate students will acquire theirs at their respective colleges’ ceremonies, which are scheduled throughout the day and placed across campus.

The colleges of education, sciences, nursing and allied health professions, and the arts all graduate at 8 a.m. Those graduations will take place at the Cajundome, Cajundome Convention Center (first and second floors) and Angelle Hall on the main campus, respectively.

The B.I. Moody College of Business Administration will graduate in the Cajundome and the College of General Studies in the Cajundome Convention Center at 1:30 p.m. At 4 p.m., the Colleges of Liberal Arts at the Cajundome and the College of Engineering at the convention center will conclude the day.

‘Peanut’ returns

The 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and UL alumnus Charles “Peanut” Tillman is the spring 2014 commencement speaker, whose reputation as a charitable and well-liked sports figure both locally and nationally should appeal to the wide-ranging audience of graduates, their families and friends.

A 12-year NFL veteran, the Chicago Bears starting cornerback won the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year and was a two-time Pro Bowler. Tillman was a four-year letterman at UL, where he graduated in 3 ½ years with a bachelor’s in criminal justice in 2003. He was selected by the Bears that same year in the second round as the 35th pick overall.

Aside from his impressive football statistics, “Peanut” has been honored for his unwavering generosity. The Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, whose mission is “to provide opportunities and resources to children or their families who are in need,” has affected more than 1 million Chicago-area children since 2005, according to its website. In addition, he made headlines earlier this year when he sent an autographed jersey to a young fan in Ireland who has neuroblastoma, a cancer of nerve cells.

Tillman has often been vocal for his support for the university, especially on Twitter. “Congrats UL…good luck n c u at the final 4,” he tweeted in March as the men’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA championship tournament.

In March, Tillman signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Bears, for whom he has played his entire career, and is expected to finish his professional career with Chicago.

Plan for parking

Graduation attendees shouldn’t have a problem parking at Cajun Field. Enter through Gate 3 on Congress Street for easy access, but be sure to stick to the allotted spaces, as additional areas will be reserved for the day’s UL sporting events.

With softball hosting an NCAA regional at Lamson Park from Friday through Sunday, the Sports Information Department is asking fans to park at the Blackham Coliseum on Johnston Street. That’s a half-mile down Cajundome Boulevard, and if you choose to skip the 10-minute walk, a shuttle will be provided.

Likewise, baseball fans wanting to arrive at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field early to watch the Cajuns host the UL Monroe Warhawks at 6 p.m. are asked to enter through Gate 1, off Bertrand Drive, and park in the west side of Cajun Field (think the gravel side facing Rouses Market).

Pack lightly

“Due to recent events,” the university’s website says, enhanced security measures will be taken at each of the ceremonies, with the contents of all “purses, bags, packages, etc.,” subject to search and examination by the University Police.

Additionally, anyone carrying “large purses, bags, etc.,” will not be allowed to enter any building hosting a commencement ceremony.