LaGrange College graduates 2023 class

Published 5:45 pm Saturday, May 6, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

LaGrange College held its 192nd commencement on a sunny Saturday morning at Callaway Stadium. More than 200 students earned degrees but the school also awarded three honorary doctorates.

Former LaGrange mayor, councilman and LaGrange College alumnus, Jim Thornton was given an honorary doctorate from his alma mater for his service to the City of LaGrange and now cities throughout Georgia. Thornton graduated from LaGrange College in 1994 and later earned his juris doctorate at Emory in 1997.

After practicing law in LaGrange for years, Thornton was elected to the city council in 2010 and was elected mayor in 2014. After nine years as mayor, Thornton moved on from local politics to oversee the Georgia Municipal Association’s legislative advocacy team where he represents the interests of GMA’s 537 member cities. Thornton was presented with an honorary doctor of law degree from the college.

Thornton also provided the commencement address for this year’s graduation.

Louis and Mary Kay Smith, longtime donors to LaGrange College, were also presented with honorary doctorates of humane letters by the college. The Smiths are retired professionals who established scholarships to LaGrange College due to their family ties to the school.

Louis’ great-grandfather, Rufus Wright Smith, served as LaGrange College president from 1885-1915. The college’s oldest building, Smith Hall, is named after Rufus’ wife, Oreon. Louis’ grandfather, Mann Smith served as a professor and Dean of Students for the school. Rufus’ father, Guy Smith, was born in Smith Hall.

Louis and Mary Kay funded a $1 million endowed scholarship in 2018 to first-generation college students. In 2020, they committed to giving $5 million to create a Global Engagement endowment to fund the Smith Travel Grant to assist students with study-away expenses.