Thousands of San Jose State University students, their families and friends, and SJSU faculty members celebrated high GPAs at the Honors Convocation at the Event Center on Friday night.
The Honors Convocation is a ceremony held to honor SJSU students with outstanding academic achievement. It was first initiated in 1962 to recognize and encourage the outstanding academic achievement of three honor societies, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi and the Phi Beta Kappa Faculty Club, according to the brochure on the convocation.
An invitation letter was sent to each recipient of the prestigious President's Scholars award and the Dean's Scholars award, said Lavonne Simpson, a special events coordinator for the office of the provost.
President's Scholars recognition is given to undergraduate students with a 4.0 GPA, and Dean's Scholars awards are given to undergraduate students with a 3.65 or higher over two continuous semesters of the three semesters prior to the Honors Convocation, said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Marshall Goodman.
There are more recipients this year than last year, Simpson said.
One hundred and seventy-nine students were selected as President's Scholars this year, each falling in the top 1 percent of SJSU's undergraduate lineup, Goodman said.
Goodman opened the ceremony, and a procession of SJSU faculty members dressed in robes entered the Event Center with music by the SJSU Wind Ensemble, conducted by Edward Harris, director of school of music and dance. Then, "America the Beautiful" was performed by vocalist Joseph Frank, a professor in the school of music and dance.
Following speeches by each college dean, the Dean's Scholars recipients from the respective colleges stood up, and a camera projected their image live on a huge screen. Recipients of the President's Scholars awards walked up to the stage and presented their names and majors.
For the last speech of the Honors Convocation, Jan English-Lueck, a professor of anthropology and the SJSU Outstanding Professor for 2003-04, delivered a speech called "Making Connections."
"I'm proud," said Jennifer Mitchell, a senior majoring in computer science and the first President's Scholars student to present her name and major in front of the audience.
Mitchell received Dean's Scholars recognition in previous years. Taking a variety of courses in computer science, it was not easy for her to get even one A, she said, but she worked a lot harder to receive the President's Scholars award this year.
Mandeep Singh, a senior majoring in computer engineering and a repeating recipient of the President's Scholars award, said he is very happy for his friend Mitchell, because he knew she really wanted to be a President's Scholar.
Donna Phan, a senior majoring in nursing and a President's Scholars recipient, said, "Last year, I was Dean's Scholars, and when I came to the ceremony, I promised myself that next time around, I would be walking the stage."
Getting a solid A in nursing classes was really hard for her, Phan said, but she met the challenge.
She said she made the President's Scholars list with the support of her boyfriend, who stayed up with her every night to help her study, and her family, who put education as the top priority.
"Especially for my last semester, I wanted to be able to walk and make my family proud," Phan said.
Therriene Nguyen, a junior majoring in nursing who also won President's Scholars honors, said he first thought the invitation letter was notification of another increased fee from SJSU.
Nguyen, who didn't expect the large-scale ceremony, said he is now proud of himself and the SJSU faculty members.
"I knew he (was) going to do really well," said Nguyen's younger sister Victoria, who said she has always looked up to her brother as her role model.
For Terra Briones, a senior majoring in social work, receiving Dean's Scholars recognition was a birthday present.
Briones, who has been an SJSU student since 1992 and is mother of a 4-year-old son, said she never thought she would graduate after she dropped out of school for a while.
"I'm really happy and shocked," Briones said. "When I got my invitation, I thought it was a parking ticket."
Having one internship and two jobs, she didn't think she was doing well in school.
Her family, extended family and friends were at the ceremony to celebrate her academic achievement. When she received the invitation letter, her family was happy and excited and even talked about renting a bus for the ceremony, she said.
"I am very very proud of her," Briones' grandmother said with teary eyes.
English-Lueck, a professor of anthropology and the outstanding professor of the year, said she talked to some of her students after the ceremony, and they cheered and congratulated each other.
"One of the things that I love about the Honors Convocation is (it's) a chance to honor hard-working students," English-Lueck said.
It is her pleasure to come to work at SJSU with such talented students, she said.
"This is their chance," English-Lueck said. "It's the chance to be recognized, supported, the chance (for) their family to really understand what sacrifices they are making and why they are making them."