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The University of Alabama

Record Number of Graduates Participate in UA’s Winter Commencement Ceremonies

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – 900 graduates participated in today’s commencement exercises at the University of Alabama – a record number for UA’s winter ceremonies.

UA holds commencement ceremonies three times a year — in May, August and December.

Approximately 1,280 degrees were conferred during the 9 a.m. ceremony in Coleman Coliseum on the UA campus.

James I. Harrison Jr., founder and former CEO of Harco Inc. Chain Drug Stores, was the featured speaker for the ceremonies. He also received an honorary doctorate of humane letters during the ceremony.

In 1967, Harrison founded Harco Drug, after working for more than 10 years as a pharmacist in his father’s drugstore in downtown Tuscaloosa. Under his leadership, Harco grew into a chain of more than 150 stores before merging with Rite Aid in 1997. Chain Drug Review named Harco the nation’s top community drugstore chain in 1995.

In his speech, Harrison shared what he called the “little things” that graduates needed to know to help them succeed in both their professional and personal lives.

“Become involved in your community; be a doer. While you may think your contribution is too small, I can assure you that it will make a real difference,” said Harrison.

“As Helen Keller once said, ‘I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.’”

He also emphasized kindness as an attribute that all graduates should attain. “Be someone who makes kindness a part of your persona,” he said.

Harrison is a member of the UA President’s Cabinet, the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration Board of Visitors, and has served as chair of the RISE Center’s endowment fund.

He has also served on the boards of numerous community, regional, and state organizations including the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, United Way of West Alabama, Tuscaloosa Heart Association, Druid City Hospital Foundation, West Alabama Rehabilitation, Hospice of West Alabama, and the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind Foundation.

Today’s ceremonies were broadcast live over the Internet. The web cast will be archived on UA’s Web site,, and will be available for viewing until Jan. 31.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.