South Georgia State College is pleased to announce tickets are no longer required for the spring 2021 commencement ceremonies. Based on recent guidance received from the Governor’s Executive Order, SGSC’s spring 2021 commencements are now general admission, first come, first serve events. Any previously issued tickets are now void. Face coverings and social distancing are still strongly encouraged. Guests who have experienced COVID-19 symptoms within the past 14 days and who have not followed CDC recommended quarantine protocols may not attend. Guests experiencing COVID-19 symptoms on the day of the ceremonies may not attend.
The Douglas Campus ceremonies will be held Thursday, May 13, 2021. The first ceremony will be at 8:30 am on the Peterson Lawn and the second at 6:00 pm in the Wellness Center Gym. The Waycross Campus ceremonies will be held Friday, May 14, 2021. The first ceremony will be at 12:30 pm and the second at 7:00 pm, both in the Waycross Campus Gymnasium. Students earning degrees in associate transfer pathways and baccalaureate programs will be recognized, including the first students earning the Bachelor of Science in Elementary/Special Education. Graduates will still participate in the ceremony date and time assigned to them.
For those unable to attend and share in the celebration, a livestream of each event will be available on South Georgia State College’s Facebook page.
The keynote speaker for the Douglas Campus morning ceremony will be Dr. Morris Leis, Superintendent of Coffee County Schools. Dr. Leis started his tenure in Coffee County in August 2011. He began his educational career as a social studies teacher in the Ben Hill County Schools. Throughout his career in Fitzgerald, he gained valuable experience serving as an alternative school director, athletic director, assistant principal and principal of Ben Hill Elementary and Fitzgerald High Schools.
In 2009, Dr. Leis became the superintendent of Wayne County Schools in Jesup, Ga. Dr. Leis successfully managed the system during the “great recession” while increasing student achievement.
Completing his 10th year serving as Superintendent of Coffee County Schools, Dr. Leis has led the district through many initiatives. He successfully led the system through AdvancED/Cognia Accreditation Reviews in 2014 and 2019. Under his leadership, Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) Referendums were approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2013 and 2018.
Test scores have positively increased, graduation rates have improved and the school system developed its own Safety Department providing a Chief of Police and police officers on every school campus. In 2017, the school system opened the new Wiregrass Regional College and Career Academy on the campus of Wiregrass Technical College. The school district was named the Georgia Charter System of the Year in 2018.
Dr. Leis completed his Bachelor of Science in Social Science Education from Georgia Southern University and his Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Valdosta State University. He earned his Educational Specialist and Doctorate degrees in Educational Leadership from Argosy University in Sarasota, Fla.
Dr. Leis has completed numerous professional development programs throughout his career such as the Georgia’s Leadership Institute for School Improvement, Learning Focused Schools Trainer Training, Georgia School Superintendent Association (GSSA) Budget and Finance, and Capital Outlay and Human Resources Institutes. Dr. Leis recently completed the GSSA Superintendent Executive Leadership Program.
As an active community member, Dr. Leis serves on several local boards such as the Coffee County Board of Health, the Douglas Coffee County Chamber of Commerce, and Coffee County Boys and Girls Club. He is an active member of Douglas Rotary. Dr. Leis is an Executive Board Member for the Georgia Charter System Foundation and is the Chairman of the Okefenokee RESA Board of Control.
Dr. Leis and his wife Suzy have two children. They are active members of the First Baptist Church in Douglas. Dr. Leis is very proud to serve the Coffee County School System as the superintendent as he is a Coffee High graduate.
Dr. Katrina Keefer will provide the keynote address for the evening Douglas Campus ceremony. Dr. Keefer is the Executive Vice President for Health Affairs and CEO for Augusta University Health System. As CEO for Augusta University Health System, Keefer oversees the 478-bed AU Medical Center, the 154-bed Children’s Hospital of Georgia, Roosevelt Warm Springs Rehabilitation and Specialty Hospitals, Georgia Correctional Healthcare, Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home and more than 80 outpatient clinics and ambulatory sites.
Dr. Keefer served previously as Senior Vice President and CFO for Baptist Health, an affiliate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System that included three acute care hospitals, a psychiatric hospital, a regional cancer center and numerous outpatient facilities in central Alabama. Throughout her 17-year tenure with UAB Health System, she played key roles in public finance, affiliation and acquisition transactions.
Prior to being named senior vice president and chief financial officer for Baptist Health in 2007, Keefer served as treasurer for UAB Health System and acted as liaison with IBM for the New York City Department of Finance to facilitate a citywide e-government initiative. She also worked as a project consultant to the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. In addition, Keefer served as the ombudsman for the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, associate director of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and assistant director of admissions for Huntington College.
Keefer received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Huntington College and her master’s in public administration from New York University.
The keynote speaker for the 12:30 pm commencement in Waycross will be Mrs. Mary Kathryn “Katie” Deason Perritt. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Blackshear Family Practice in Blackshear, Ga. A native of Waycross, Katie graduated salutatorian from Ware County High School in 1997. While in high school, she was also a dual enrollment student at Waycross College. Katie attended the Georgia Institute of Technology and graduated cum laude in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science degree in International Affairs.
After working in international business for several years, Katie returned to Waycross to pursue a career in nursing. She attended South Georgia State College’s Waycross Campus and graduated with her Associate of Science in Nursing degree in 2009. Katie worked as a registered nurse for several years in various areas including emergency medicine, cardiology, critical care, and hospice care before returning to the classroom to further her education. In February of 2019, Katie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, a Master of Science degree in Nursing and a post graduate certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner from South University.
Katie holds active RN licenses with both the Georgia Board of Nursing and the Florida Board of Nursing. She obtained her Nurse Practitioner license with the Georgia Board of Nursing in 2019. Katie is an active member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and United Advanced Practice Registered Nurses of Georgia. She is also a certified health coach through Optavia in partnership with the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education and M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing at Villanova University.
Katie is married to Jody Perritt of Waycross, and they have two children, Vann Perritt and Kaleigh Perritt Morrison. In their spare time, Katie and Jody like to attend Georgia Tech football games, travel, and spend time with family.
Mr. Bert Smith, Superintendent of Ware County Schools, will deliver the commencement address at the 7:00 pm ceremony on the Waycross Campus. Mr. Smith is a 1991 graduate of Brantley County High School. He attended Waycross College and earned an associate degree in teacher education while playing for the Swamp Fox golf team. He continued his golf career at Valdosta State completing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Secondary Mathematics. He also earned a Master of Education degree in Secondary Education and Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Valdosta State. Mr. Smith has 25 years of educational experience, including 14 years as an administrator.
Mr. Smith began his career in 1996 as a math teacher and coach at Bacon County High School. From 1997 until 2008, while working in the Brantley County School district, Mr. Smith taught math and coached multiple sports before transitioning to administration. In 2008, he was appointed assistant principal at Ware County High School. In 2012, Mr. Smith was hired as Brantley County High principal and remained until returning to the Ware County district in 2014. Since 2014, Mr. Smith has worked as Williams Heights Elementary School Principal, Ware County High School Principal, and the Ware County School District Superintendent.
Mr. Smith enjoys watching college football and supporting all students in the Ware County School District. He is married to Rebecca Smith and is the proud father of two sons, Sy and Lee Smith.