Two to be honored at commencement

Two to be honored at commencement

Posted on Thursday, May 19, 2022

Honorees Jasmine Middleton and Rhett Yates

Jasmine Ryan Middleton, this year’s recipient of the Waights G. Henry Jr. Leadership Award, will be a featured speaker at Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

The award is given annually to a student and is based on excellence in scholarship, service and leadership.

An Elementary Education Major with a minor in Servant Leadership, Jasmine is the executive director of LaGrange College Miracle, a nonprofit organization that benefits Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. As internal manager for the group, she was responsible for organizing the seven-hour Dance Marathon, one of the nonprofit’s largest fundraising events. Since the organization’s founding in 2018, Jasmine has personally raised $5,021 for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She said $2,520 of that total was raised over the course of her senior year.

“My favorite part of Dance Marathon has always been seeing everyone from various student organizations come together to fundraise, spread awareness and make miracles happen for a great cause—Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta,” she said.

Jasmine has volunteered with Circles of Troup County, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Good Sam Ministry and Troup County Humane Society. She has served as president of Phi Mu Kappa Phi and is a Wilkinson Family Servant Scholar.

Jeff Lukken, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Director of the Wilkinson Family Servant Scholars Program, said Jasmine is a true servant leader who is always encouraging everyone.

“She has such a positive outlook and influence on those around her,” Lukken said.

Jasmine said one of her favorite quotes regarding service comes from Mahatma Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

She said no act of service is too small or too large.

“Service means to put others first and to lend a helping hand to those in need,” she said. “Service means to actively be engaged in supporting others to see and reach their full potential.”

After graduation, Jasmine plans to teach at Rosemont Elementary School. She will also pursue a master’s degree in education at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton.

“I consider teaching to be one of the greatest acts of service,” she said. “Teaching is an opportunity to impact children’s lives the way my teachers impacted mine.”

Jasmine, whose influencers include her family, friends and professors, said her former Soccer Coach Fred Wagenaar played one of the greatest roles in shaping her life.

“Without Coach Wagenaar taking a chance on me for soccer I may not have ever attended LaGrange College and encountered the valuable opportunities and experiences I have been fortunate to gain through being a part of the Women’s Soccer Team, Phi Mu Kappa Phi, LC Miracle, the Education Department and The Wilkinson Family Servant Scholars Program.”

Jasmine said she will remember LaGrange College as a transformative experience.

“I came into LaGrange College as a timid person who always went with the flow; I am leaving as a person who seeks opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone, pursue leadership opportunities and bring about positive change,” she said. “I will always remember LaGrange College as a place where everyone is welcomed and supported, and a place where professors go the extra mile to ensure students reach their full potential.”

A native of Villa Rica, Jasmine is the daughter of Heather Sullivan and Larry Middleton.

During commencement, Dr. R. Rhett C. Yates M’99 will receive the Distinguished Service Alumni Award.

Yates graduated from the Florida Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in aviation management/flight technology, a master’s degree in business administration from LaGrange College, and a doctorate in educational leadership from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.

He is a professor of aeronautics at Jacksonville University’s Davis College of Business, where he was previously an assistant professor, interim director and associate professor of aeronautics. Before working in Jacksonville, Yates was employed as an adjunct graduate professor at the University of the West Indies, a guest lecturer at Auburn University, an adjunct professor at Lynn University, an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota, and an assistant professor at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

During his career, he has developed an aviation management curriculum for a Southeastern institution and assessed unmanned systems in USA Baccalaureate programs. Yates holds memberships in the University Aviation Association, National Intercollegiate Flying Association, Aviation Accreditation Board International and the Academic and Business Research Institute.

At LaGrange College, he serves as immediate past president on the Alumni Executive Committee. He is also the chair of philanthropy for the committee.

Yates, a Quadrangle Society member and supporter of the LaGrange College Fund, contributed to the college’s From Promise to Prominence campaign. He also collaborated with the Development office to create the Gateway Sustaining Contributor Society. To become a member, a person commits a recurring gift of $31 on the 18th of each month for a year.

Commencement ceremonies will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Callaway Stadium.

Immediately following the ceremony, light refreshments will be served alongside the stadium’s entrance.


Campus Notes

  • The LaGrange community mourns with the families of Rico Dunn, Stephen Bartolotta ’25 and Jacob Brown ’25. There will be a moment of silence for the three men at Saturday’s commencement ceremony.
  • Music Major Erika Hill ’23, was selected as one of 14 national semifinalists in the musical theatre category for the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She will travel to Chicago in July to compete in the semifinals. LaGrange College Music has had at least one student advance to nationals every year since the competition began nine years ago.
  • The baccalaureate service will be held today at 5 p.m. at First United Methodist Church of LaGrange. The Rev. Dr. Alice Rogers, North East District Superintendent of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, will be the guest speaker. On July 1, she will begin her work as Director of the Center for Clergy Excellence of the North Georgia Conference.
  • For those attending the North Georgia Annual Conference, a reception for President Baxter will be held Wednesday, June 1, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, 1540 Lumpkin Street, Suite 3 in Athens. She will give remarks at 6 p.m. Registration for the event ends on May 25. For additional information, contact or (706) 880-8244.
  • Congratulations to this semester’s graduating seniors who have registered to ring the Chapel Bell to celebrate their accomplishments. The list includes Emily Rice, accepted into the Master of Arts in Teaching graduate program at LaGrange College; Thomas Bird, accepted into a law school program; Erielle Robinson, accepted a theatre position with Jean’s Playhouse in Lincoln, New Hampshire; Madison Demkowski, accepted into public administration/political science graduate programs at several universities; and DJ Kelly, accepted a stage management internship with Florida Repertory Theatre and a full-time position as a Prop Apprentice with Theatre Aspen in Colorado. Participants are invited to take photos and post them to social media with the hashtag #LCSoundofSuccess.


Video of the Week

LaGrange College's Film and Media Arts program teaches students like Eddie Montgomery career-making skills.





The Panthers (37-6) host Centenary (La.) in the LaGrange Region of the 2022 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship at Cleaveland Field in Williamson Stadium. The best of five series begins with Game 1 and Game 2 on Friday at 12 p.m. and the second game 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. Saturday, the schedule is the same with Game 4 if necessary. Game 5, if necessary, is Sunday at 12 p.m. This is the fifth straight season the Panthers have reached the NCAA tournament.


In the Headlines

(Local and national coverage of the tragic car accident on Saturday, May 14, are not featured because of the large number of articles. The LaGrange community continues to grieve with the families of Rico Dunn, Stephen Bartolotta ’25 and Jacob Brown ’25)

Category: Academics, College

Keywords: graduation, alumni

Press Contact

Lindy Oller

Last updated: 05/19/2022