Nancy Grace at JSU commencement: 'Go you mighty Gamecocks!'

Apr. 30—JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State University celebrated its graduates Saturday morning with a commencement ceremony featuring television personality and true crime expert Nancy Grace as its keynote speaker.

Dressed in traditional black robes and Gamecock red stoles, around 850 students walked away from the stadium as graduates of Jacksonville State University. Thousands poured into the JSU Stadium early Saturday morning to show support for the graduates.

The university opened its gates and its concession stands to offer snacks and beverages to guests at the celebration of what proved to be among the largest graduating classes in the history of the institution, according to officials.

A friend of Jax State, and of distinguished lecturer and podcaster Joseph Scott Morgan, Grace was invited to attend the commencement for another reason as well.

In honor of Grace's generosity to the university and her unwavering pursuit of justice, Jax State awarded her an honorary doctorate, and named the former prosecutor "Dr. Nancy Grace."

"She has been a generous friend to JSU, something that we can not thank her enough for," said Board of Trustee Chairman Randall Jones during his announcement prior to Grace taking the stage.

Grace took the podium and addressed the graduating class with a big "GO YOU MIGHTY GAMECOCKS!"

She said she was happy to be included in the ceremony, and that the sunny stadium was a welcome change from a "darkened studio looking into a camera at a very angry lawyer on the other end."

Grace spoke of her upbringing, the beginnings of her early adulthood, and the moment that changed her life forever, when her fiance was murdered.

She spoke of how that experience launched her into a different trajectory in life that she did not intend at first.

Though it wasn't the path she chose, it was the path she was on. She said she must thrive in whatever waters life chose for her, and that the students might one day find themselves in similar waters.

Her longtime friend and colleague Morgan, and chairman Jones, had the honor of presenting the award to Grace as she, along with 850 graduates, became a part of the JSU legacy.

"We are so proud of you, your accomplishments, and your commitment to making this world a safer place," JSU President Dr. Don Killingsworth Jr. said of Grace.

Staff Writer Ashley Morrison: 256-236-1551. On Twitter: @AshMorrison1105.