‘Dream as big as you want’: UM confers degrees to more than 5,000 at 169th commencement

Published 9:43 am Monday, May 9, 2022

Under powder blue skies on a beautiful, crisp morning, Bradford Cobb, celebrated music executive and Ole Miss alumnus, told University of Mississippi graduates on Saturday to “dream as big as you want” as they finish their college journeys and enter the next chapter of their professional lives.

During the university’s 169th Commencement – the first held in the Grove since 2018 – Cobb encouraged the graduates to not accept limitations from themselves or from others as they apply for positions, further their educations and embark upon their life’s purpose.

“I made the decision not to let fear take up residence in my head,” Cobb said. “Follow your curiosity. If you’re curious, you’re going to open up so many possibilities for your life. Before you know it, you’ll find your bliss.

“Find the thing that you love and you’ll find a very fulfilling work life.”

A native of Tunica, Cobb graduated from UM in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in English. A partner at Direct Management Group, a Los Angeles-based music management company, he has managed some of America’s most successful popular music artists, including Katy Perry, the Go-Go’s, Adam Lambert, Tracy Chapman, Au/Ra, k.d. lang, Steve Perry and the B-52’s.

The speaker said he was overwhelmed Saturday morning as he spoke before some 8,000 people in the Grove, including graduates, friends and family.

Cobb told the graduates that Ole Miss has fully prepared them for whatever comes next.

“When I graduated, I had no plan, but the work that I had done here at the university prepared me for unlimited opportunities ahead,” he said. “By being here today, by graduating from Ole Miss during what must have been extremely uncharted territory the last couple of years, shows me you have incredible resilience.”

“You are prepared for your next step too, even if you don’t know. You got that right here in this school.”

Cobb emphasized the importance of developing and maintaining strong, healthy relationships with others.

“Good friends bring out the best in you,” he said. “Branch out and meet new people – ones who are not exactly like you.”

Cobb told the students that they would make mistakes, but to continue to trust their instincts.

“I’m so glad that I took the risks that I did,” he said. “No one who has ever become successful in life did so without taking risks.”

“Get right back up when you fall. Trust your gut and put in the work. You’ll find what you want to do for the rest of your life.”

In his opening remarks, Chancellor Glenn Boyce said that Commencement is a day “to be celebrated, cherished and remembered.”

“This is the day we anticipate all year to recognize the completion of a challenging academic journey by our newest graduates, buoyed by love, support and guidance from their families, faculty and staff,” Boyce said. “We celebrate these students’ journey of diligence, discovery, personal growth and achievement.”

During Saturday’s ceremony, senior class president Lucinda Ruth Hulet announced the legacy of this year’s graduating class will be a gift of several thousand dollars raised through the first Mr. University Grocery pageant. Proceeds from the event were donated to Grove Grocery.

“We wanted to adequately represent the wishes of our class,” she said. “We will be able to provide more than 4,300 meals to students in need.”

Parents and friends of graduates said they were elated to be present for this year’s Convocation.

“I know I’m going to cry tears of joy,” said Lauren Hosko, of Plymouth, Michigan, whose daughter, Stephanie, received her bachelor’s degree in biological science. “Our son graduated from Ole Miss’ Navy ROTC four years ago and is now stationed in Japan. She’s the last child to leave home, and we’re so proud of them both.”

Alumnus Martin Sharpe, of Mandeville, Louisiana, said his family came to support Cole Thompson, the son of a friend, who received his bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“Truly, one never leaves Ole Miss,” Sharpe said. “We love it.”

The Convocation is the centerpiece of five days of ceremonies that began Wednesday (May 4) with a commissioning for graduates of the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Recipients of doctoral degrees were honored at a hooding ceremony Thursday evening in The Sally and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss.

Graduates of several of the university’s schools and the College of Liberal Arts will receive their degrees at separate ceremonies throughout Saturday and Sunday at the Pavilion.

Staff and faculty members who received awards for teaching, research and service before Saturday were acknowledged during the ceremony. Honorees included Eden Tanner and EJ Edney, recipients of the Frist Student Service Awards; Kristie Willett, Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award; and John P. Bentley, Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher of the Year.