Cobb Natives, Transplants Earn Alumni Status
KENNESAW, Ga. (May 16, 2016) — Although Sam Gantt’s college diploma is embossed with Kennesaw State University and not Southern Polytechnic State University like his parents’ degrees, he joined the ranks of college graduates Tuesday afternoon during KSU’s 3 p.m. graduation, one of three commencement ceremonies taking place that day.
Gantt, 23, of Marietta not only completed a degree in mechanical engineering, his senior design project is currently being patented. Gantt and Kris Alonzo, of Lawrenceville, Trevor Bamby, of Tallapoosa, and Dan Scott, of Senoia, created a unique way to remove railroad ties in a safer way by one person, and Railserve, Inc. plans to patent their idea.
A Wheeler High School graduate, Gantt transferred to Southern Polytechnic in 2014 after playing collegiate tennis at the University of North Georgia. He said he chose Southern Polytechnic because of its hands-on experiences, quality of education and to “carry the legacy a little bit” at his parents’ alma mater.
He said he is no stranger to his colleges changing their names during his tenure. Gantt was studying at North Georgia College and State University when its name changed to the University of North Georgia.
KSU absorbed Southern Polytechnic during Gantt’s tenure, but he said he did not see much change.
Gantt is moving to Indiana this summer to work as a mechanical engineer.
Thursday afternoon’s graduation consisted of more than 350 graduating seniors from KSU’s Marietta campus — the former Southern Polytechnic campus. More than 2,800 are expected to graduate from KSU this semester.
Entering the Convocation Center in lines of two, the graduates filled 27 rows of chairs for the first round spring graduations since KSU absorbed Southern Polytechnic.
During the ceremony, KSU President Dan Papp gave the graduates their “final, final exam.” Papp’s questions recognized the students’ wide range of accomplishments beyond the classroom. His questions revealed about half of the graduates were the first people in their family to graduate college, and most students also worked while pursuing their degree. About 50 of the graduates were also parents.
Evan Ross, 28, of Marietta is the father of Strider, who was born last year. A 2006 Pope High School graduate, Ross earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and will pursue master’s and doctorate degrees at Georgia Tech while working in the Georgia Tech Research Institute.
Although all the graduates wore black robes with gold accents, their stories differ.
Some graduates grew up in Cobb County, such as Max Sayedzada, 21, who has lived in Kennesaw since he was about 6 years old and graduated from Allatoona High School in 2012.
He was joined by other Cobb County natives such as Greg Payne, 28, of Powder Springs. Payne graduated with a degree in civil engineering and will continue to work as an intern with the city of Sandy Springs.
He said graduating was a “breath of fresh air.”
On the other hand, other students call Cobb County home but did not grow up in the area.
For example, Wilnor Jean, 24, was born in Haiti and lived in New York for about 10 years before moving to Cobb. After graduating from South Cobb High School in 2010, Jean studied at the University of West Georgia before transferring to Southern Polytechnic in 2012.
Jean graduated with a degree in electrical engineering technology.
“I waited a long time for this,” he said.
Other KSU graduates relocated to Cobb County, included Savannah Teems, 23, who moved to the metro Atlanta area to pursue her degree in computer game design and development. Originally from Helen, Teems has lived in Marietta for the past five years to complete her degree. She said she has loved video games since she was about 10 years old, and she would modify the games to enhance them. Teems will work at a game design company in Alpharetta.
Before receiving their degrees, the students had one task to complete before walking across the stage: listen to Thomas Currin, Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology dean, give his commencement speech.
With the message of continue to be bold, brave and courageous, Currin told the students people later in life regret the things they did not do more than the things they did. But he stressed that brave does not mean the same thing as stupid.
KSU will host two more graduation ceremonies today at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Kennesaw State University graduate Randee Comstock is all smiles after being congratulated by KSU President Dan Papp after getting her bachelor's degree in international business on Tuesday at the Convocation Center. Staff-Kelly J. Huff