Commencement Honors Comer, Miller, Boutte, 47 Graduates

For more information, contact Barb Steadman - 843.857.4199

HARTSVILLE – Dec. 18, 2012 – During the 2012 Winter Commencement ceremony in the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center, Coker College conferred baccalaureate degrees on a class of 47 new graduates.

Dr. James P. Comer, the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center in New Haven, Conn., presented the commencement address and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

“Speaking personally, I believe Hartsville and its citizens are indebted to this man, a gentle giant whose life’s work has transformed educational systems across the United States and, now, is doing so in our community as well,” said Coker College President Robert Wyatt.

Sharing personal experiences of growing up in East Chicago, Ind., Comer urged the graduates to recognize and appreciate the “power of one,” which, with determination and tenacity, can be used to accomplish enormous good, he said.

“As the world grows more complicated and the challenges to your own progress grows with it, it is then you may begin to wonder whether you can keep up,” Comer said. “You can. It is your challenge to contribute something of worth and value to those around you and to our society, to challenge for justice, promote opportunity and peace, and to make a positive difference.”

Comer is known nationally and internationally for his creation of the Comer School Development Program. Centered on teamwork, the program engages the collaborative efforts of parents, educators and community members to improve student development and academic learning outcomes for children that, in turn, help them achieve greater school success.

Since early in 2011, Comer has been integral in the roll-out of a comprehensive program to improve education achievements of elementary school students in Hartsville. The program, which is part of Partners for Unparalleled Local Scholastic Excellence (PULSE), is a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership involving the Darlington County School District, the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, Coker College, Yale University and Sonoco. The five-year, $5 million initiative is funded by Sonoco and administered by the TEACH Foundation.

In presenting the candidates for graduation, Coker College Provost Tracy Parkinson posthumously recognized Robert Tyson Miller, who had been a Hartsville criminology student in the Adult Learners Program for Higher Achievement, as the First Graduate.  Miller, 26, passed away July 23, 2012.  His parents, Robert and Donna Miller, accepted the degree in his honor.

Graduate Michael Kirkley, presented the Distinguished Adjunct Professor of the Year award to Joseph Boutte, an adjunct professor at Coker since 2009 and the coordinator of the Lake City campus since 2010.

Boutte earned a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from the Morris College, in Sumter, S.C., a Master of Divinity from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in New York and a master’s degree in sacred theology from Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbia, S.C.  Currently, Boutte also serves as the supply pastor at Mt. Sinai Presbyterian Church in St. Charles, S.C.



Coker College readies undergraduates for personal and professional success through a distinctive four-year program that emphasizes a practical application of the liberal arts as well as hands-on and discussion-based learning within and beyond the classroom. Coker is ranked among the “Best Colleges” in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review. Located in Hartsville, S.C., Coker is within two hours of the cultural, financial and recreational resources of Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.


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