May 2024 Commencement Speakers Announced

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SHSU Announces Distinguished Speakers for Spring 2024 Commencement

Press Release From TODAY@SAM / Mikah Boyd

Spring 2024 Commencement ceremonies at Sam Houston State University will take place on May 9-11 in the Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum in Huntsville, Texas and feature four accomplished speakers. Darla Faulkner, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Anton Vincent and Steven Foster will speak to the graduating students who have applied for degrees to be awarded.

On May 9, the SHSU College of Osteopathic Medicine’s inaugural cohort of student doctors will hear a special address by Dr. Kevin O’Connor, a highly decorated Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and current Physician to President Joe Biden.

Dr. O’Connor received his DO at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his residency at The Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, New Jersey, where he was named chief resident. His educational background also includes the U.S. Army Airborne School, AMEDD Officer Basic Course, Flight Surgeon training, the Advanced Operational Warfighter Course and ultimate graduation from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 2003.

As an Army family physician, teacher, flight surgeon and hyperbaric medical officer, Dr. O’Connor served in clinical, academic, leadership and operational assignments at Fort Bragg and Fort Carson, to include tours of duty with the 82nd Airborne Division, 75th Ranger Regiment and United States Army Special Operations Command. Col. O’Connor was deployed on numerous combat rotations in support of classified missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia and has traveled to 79 countries throughout his 22 years of service.

He began serving the executive office in 2006, as White House Physician, a position he held over multiple administrations. Dr. O’Connor began working under Biden in 2009, when he was appointed Physician to the Vice President and remained in that position for the former vice president’s eight-year term. Following his first time in the White House, Dr. O’Connor continued to set the bar for excellence in medicine for the military, going on to receive numerous coveted titles and recognitions.

Even as he has returned to his work under the President, Dr. O’Connor retains his academic credentials as associate professor of health, human function and rehabilitative sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, where he has held multiple leadership positions.

Students from the College of Arts & Media and the College of Education will receive their long-awaited diplomas on the evening of May 9, after a special address from Anton Vincent, president of Mars Wrigley North America & Global Ice Cream.

Vincent began studying business at SHSU, where he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance. He went on to earn an MBA in marketing from Indiana University where he serves on the Dean’s Council.

After earning these credentials Vincent went on to work at General Mills. While at the food processing company, Vincent built award-winning brands, led three divisions to record financial performance, helped in the acquisition of the Pillsbury Company and served on the board of General Mills’ early-stage venture fund.

His 20-year record of accomplishments launched him into the role of CEO of Greencore PLC, USA. Vincent’s excellence in leadership continued to turn heads and eventually landed him in his current role at Mars Wrigley North America & Global Ice Cream. He now serves as the principal leadership voice for industry and regulatory matters for the iconic brand.

Vincent’s track record as a driver of transformational change has brought him recognition from numerous organizations and publications, most notably, the National Confectioners Association,, Savoy Magazine, Black Enterprise, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and the Minneapolis Business Journal. He is also a member of the Executive Leadership Council and a founding member of Black Executive CMO Alliance, an alliance of the leading CXOs and CMOs.

On May 10, students from the College of Science and Engineering Technology, the College of Health Sciences and the College of Business Administration will have the opportunity to learn from fellow Bearkat graduate, Steven Foster.

Foster started his academic career at SHSU, where he earned a Bachelor of Science before earning a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Healthcare Administration from the University of Houston, Clear Lake. He then applied his knowledge at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where the outstanding staff and administrators inspired and encouraged his professional development. Thanks to their encouragement, Foster went on to manage two hospitals in Costa Rica and Mexico, where he was exposed to a two-tiered healthcare system and eventually made CEO. With this valuable experience under his belt, Foster returned stateside and worked in for-profit hospitals of all sizes in California, Oklahoma and Texas.

In all, he has accumulated over 20 years of experience in hospital administration and currently applies his skills as president of the South Houston Market for St. Luke’s Health. This role sees him managing three hospitals in the Texas Region of CommonSpirit Health, the largest not-for-profit faith-based hospital system in the U.S.

Foster is known by colleagues for not just his expertise in the hospital administration, but effective leadership. As he manages Patients Medical Center in Pasadena, Sugar Land Hospital and Brazosport Hospital in Lake Jackson, he uplifts his employees and encourages new hires to continuously learn and grow just as he has.  

His efforts to support developing leaders of all backgrounds has not gone unnoticed. Foster has received recognitions from the Houston Business Journal, the American College of Healthcare Executives and the National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives.

In addition to his hospital appointed boards, he serves on several community boards including the National Association of Healthcare Executives, Gulf Coast Chapter, Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce, ACHE Reagent’s Advisory Council, and the Brazosport Community College Health Services Management Program. He is also a guest lecturer at The University of Houston Clear Lake, Texas Women’s University, and Texas A&M healthcare administration programs.

Students graduating from the College of Criminal Justice and the College Humanities and Social Sciences on May 11, will receive a special address from Montgomery County’s Chief Prosecutor of the Special Crimes Division, Darla Faulkner.

Faulkner is a Huntsville native and Bearkat graduate, with an undergraduate degree in business administration and a law degree from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, now known as Texas A&M Law School. After receiving her law degree in 2005, Faulkner became an assistant district attorney at the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.

With almost two decades of experience as a prosecutor, she has handled cases ranging from traffic violations to capital murder and has held numerous positions including assignment to the general trial bureau, chief prosecutor of several district courts and in the Intake Division. During her stint at the Intake Division, she created the digital discovery process for Montgomery County.

In her pursuit to keep Montgomery County safe, she also helped with founding  the DA’s Office of Vehicular Crimes Call Out and No Refusal Teams. Her efforts were recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the DA’s Office with the Prosecutor Service Award and the Prosecutor of the Year Award, respectively. In 2022, Faulkner earned a board certification in criminal law, a designation boasted by only 10 percent of licensed Texas attorneys.

Faulkner continues to serve Montgomery County as the division chief of the Special Crimes Division, overseeing prosecutors, investigators and administrative staff assigned to public integrity, vehicular crimes, environmental crimes, financial crimes and asset forfeiture.

For more details on the commencement, including live stream links, click here.