Coker College Celebrates 108th Spring Commencement

Additional Menu

Hartsville, S.C. – May 14, 2016 – On the morning of Saturday, May 14, 2016, Coker College conferred bachelor’s degrees on 144 graduates during its 108th Spring Commencement Ceremony. In addition, 31 individuals received their master's degrees.

“Coker College has been changed for the better by the class of 2016,” said Coker College President Robert Wyatt in his address to the crowd. “I hope you all can say the same.”

The ceremony was held at 8:30 a.m. in the Courtyard at Davidson Hall. Shannon Marrero, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin Medicine Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Washington, presented the commencement address and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

In her address, Marrero gave the new graduates four pieces of advice: fall in love, dream big, ignore the red tape, and ask for help. “Do not let illusionary lines keep you from speaking up,” she said. “Do not let doubt become anything more than silly background noise. Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of your passion.”

Marrero’s research, published in Seminars in Reproductive Medicine and in the Journal of the American Medical Association, focuses on noncommunicable diseases – e.g. diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic respiratory disease – their global threat to economic development and human health, and the implications of tackling these burdens.

Her interest in improving the lives of others began when she was a child, and it was internationally recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in 2010. At that time, while she was a still student at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, Shannon and her sister Jessica, also a medical school student at Brown, made the short list of nominations for a Nobel Peace Prize for the highly successful program, Partners in Adolescent Lifestyle Support (PALS), which they developed to end teen violence.

The sisters created the program when Shannon was just 13, a middle school student at a public school in Gainesville, Fla., and Jessica was a 15-year-old student in a different school. To get the program started, the girls wrote a successful grant proposal to win the $100,000 Sapphire Award from the Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida.

Since its creation, the PALS program, which is now overseen by the University of Florida Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital and operates in schools across Florida, has prioritized keeping accurate records and conducting solid analysis of the data collected to ensure the program is as effective as possible. PALS provides peer support and therapeutic intervention to troubled students and enhances leadership skills for teen leaders.

Shannon won a 2006 Gates Millennium Scholarship through the Ventures Scholar Program. She earned her baccalaureate and medical degrees from Brown University in 2010 and 2014 respectively, and a master’s degree from Harvard University.

Student Government Association President Dillon Karnes ’16 presented the 2016 Master Professor Award to Suzanne Parker, associate professor of exercise science and sport studies. Danielle Joy Goerler ’16 delivered an address as a representative of the class of 2016, and Ashley Patricia Long ’16 performed the Coker College Alma Mater.

Release written by Media Relations Coordinator Elizabeth Coxe Hubbard.



Coker College is a student-focused, private liberal arts college located in Hartsville, South Carolina. Coker combines round table, discussion-based learning with hands-on experiences to encourage active participation in and out of the classroom. A supportive, close-knit community prepares Coker students with the confidence and practical life skills they need to reach their personal best, in college and beyond.

Founded in 1908, Coker is a bachelor’s and master’s degree-granting institution and competes in 24 NCAA Division II sports. Coker is ranked among the "Best Colleges" in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review, and by Washington Monthly as one of the Southeast's "Best Bang for the Buck" colleges.