Spring Graduation to be Held Saturday

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The University of West Georgia will conduct Spring Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 9, in the UWG Coliseum on campus.  Undergraduates for the College of Arts and Sciences and the Richards College of Business will receive their degrees at the 9 a.m. ceremony.  Undergraduates for the College of Education and the School of Nursing, as well as all students receiving graduate degrees from the Graduate School, will march at the noon ceremony.

Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna, professor of business and president of the university since 1994, will deliver the commencement address at both ceremonies.  An Honorary Degree will be presented at the noon ceremony to Dr. Willis Hurst, a 1939 UWG alum and a leader in cardiology as a teacher, researcher, clinician and writer.

During his tenure, and Sethna insists that these are institutional rather than personal accomplishments, the institution has: acquired University status; achieved designation as a member of a robust tier of doctoral comprehensive universities; started Georgia's first Advanced Academy for exceptionally-gifted high school students; increased in student size by almost 50 percent with very significant increases in admission standards; increased its investment in students, faculty, and technology by several millions of dollars; increased its endowment by more than eight times (before the recent stock market deterioration); increased capital projects and facilities improvements funded and approved by almost a quarter of a billion dollars; obtained its first major endowment to name a College; obtained its first endowed chair; awarded its first honorary doctorates; obtained approval for its first three doctoral programs; obtained approval for, and created, Georgia's first and only Honors College; earned national accreditation and re-accreditation for practically all eligible programs; achieved national recognition in the field of academic debate, including the winning of two consecutive national championships; achieved national dominance in Honors student research competitions in eight out of the past 11 years; developed and implemented three major strategic plans with campus-wide participation; completed two comprehensive Facilities Master Plans; and documented a rationale for, and obtained approval for, a change in Founding Date.

As of Spring 2009, approximately 43 percent of all West Georgia degrees awarded through its entire history have been during Sethna’s tenure. Approximately 85 percent of UWG’s faculty members have been hired during his tenure.

He has twice served (1999-2000 and 2006-07) as Interim Executive/Senior Vice Chancellor for the University System of Georgia with responsibility for Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Instructional/Information Technology, and Planning for 35 Research and Comprehensive Universities and Access Institutions, 260,000 students, and 10,000 faculty.  In 2006-07, he had line responsibility with the Presidents of all 15 Comprehensive Universities reporting to him, accounting for about 40 percent of the public sector student enrollment in the entire state of Georgia.

His educational credentials include a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay (at which institution he has been named a Distinguished Alumnus); an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad; an M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Columbia University in New York; and attendance at post-doctoral programs at Harvard and Indiana. He is a Certified Computer Professional and a certified Six Sigma Green Belt.

Sethna has been an invited speaker at well over 100 service clubs and meetings, and universities in many U.S. states and foreign countries, including the University of Oxford in England.  He has received Resolutions of Commendation from the Senate of the State of Georgia and the Board of Regents, and has been named among the 100 Most Influential Georgians three times.  He has also received the prestigious Cornerstone Award from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

His previous work experience includes 13 years at Clarkson University, a private research/doctoral university in Potsdam, New York, and five years at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.  He held tenured positions at both institutions and a named professorship at Lamar, in addition to administrative positions of increasing responsibility from the department chair to the executive vice president levels. He also has significant corporate experience having worked in major multinational companies in the U. S. and overseas.

Sethna remains active in teaching and scholarship.  He has taught undergraduates every year since arriving at UWG, even while serving in the University System Office.  He considers among his highest honors, being elected Honors Professor of the Year and being the faculty advisor for student research teams which won the National Social Sciences Association competition, and for multiple student research teams which have received national recognition at the National Collegiate Honors Council and the National Council for Undergraduate Research.                  

Over the years, seven of his courses (including the one he currently teaches) have won recognition in instructional innovation in nationwide competitions.  He is the author or co-author of a book and 65 papers, more than 25 of which have been after becoming President.

Sethna is the first known person of Indian origin ever to become president of a University anywhere in America.  He is also the first person of any ethnic minority to become president of a college or university in Georgia other than a Historically Black one.
He is a Rotarian with perfect attendance for more than 26 years, and has held several board memberships.  He has had hundreds of media appearances including the CBS Early Show with Bryant Gumbel and CNN's American Stories.

He has been married for approximately 35 years to Dr. Madhavi Sethna, a faculty member who has earned her MBA, MA, MS, and an Ed.D.  They have two children: Anita Sethna, MD, graduate of Georgia Tech and Emory Medical School, Chief ENT Resident at Emory University Hospitals; and Shaun Sethna, JD, graduate of Georgia Tech and Columbia Law School, Patent Attorney in a major national law firm.

For over 50 years, Dr. J. Willis Hurst has been well-noted for his work at Emory University and as the author or editor of over 60 books, including The Heart, now in its eleventh edition and often referred to as the bible of cardiology. It has been translated into five languages. Hurst has served as personal cardiologist to Lyndon B. Johnson, president of three medical associations and editorial board member of over 25 journals.

Raised in Carrollton, he is a graduate of Carrollton High School and then-West Georgia College. He received his B.S. from the University of Georgia and his M.D. from the Medical College of Georgia. He is currently an active consultant to the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, where he is also Candler Professor and chairman of the Department of Medicine (Emeritus).

One of the founding fathers of the Emory Clinic, Hurst expanded the School of Medicine to ensure that everyone in the Atlanta region would have access to cardiac care. He received numerous awards, including the Lifetime Teaching Achievement Award for Excellence in Internal Medicine by the medical house staff at Emory Hospital School of Medicine, the Master Teacher Award and Gifted Teacher Award from the American College of Cardiology, and the Distinguished Teacher Award from the American College of Physicians.

Hurst has often been cited as one of the best doctors in America, including recognition by Modern Medicine, Wideview Books, Good Housekeeping and Town and Country, and the American Heart Association has presented him with a number of honors. He received the Theodore E. Cummings Award from Cedars Sinai Medical Center, presented by Ronald Regan and Mrs. Cummings, in addition to several international awards.