GSU announces speakers for fall commencement

Grambling State University will host three distinguished speakers for Fall 2021 commencement exercises December 15-17. Scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. each day, the events will be held in the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center and streamed live on Grambling State’s YouTube channel. 

On Wednesday, December 15, the Honorable John Belton, District Attorney for the Third Judicial District, will deliver the keynote address. Belton is a career prosecutor who has dedicated 30 years to serving his community as a courtroom advocate. On November 4, 2014, he was elected the first African American District Attorney for The Third Judicial District, which includes Lincoln and Union Parishes. He served as the First African American President (2019-2020) of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association and held positions as former Vice President and Board Member of several commissions across multiple organizations. An experienced courtroom litigator in both the criminal and civil courts, Belton is also a member of the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals; Western, Middle and Eastern Federal District Courts; the Louisiana Bar Association; the Federal Bar Association; and the Lincoln Bar Association. 

Belton has a wealth of administrative experience in both the public and private sectors. He is presently a member of the Board of Directors for First National Bank and Chairman of the Eddie G Robinson Museum. He is a former member of the Lincoln Health System Foundation. He and his wife, Alana, own The Belton Companies which holdings include real estate and restaurants. From 1999 to 2005, he served on the Southern University Board of Supervisors and was unanimously elected Board Chairman in 2001 and 2002. A former adjunct professor at Grambling State, Belton is associated with numerous community and civic groups and serves as the chairman of the Eddie G. Robinson Museum Commission. As a result of his exemplary community service, he was inducted into the Southern University Law Center Hall of Fame in 2015 and has received the commendations of numerous organizations, including the 2015 Grambling State University Martin Luther King, Jr.-Thurgood Marshall Justice Award. 

On Thursday, December 16, Grambling State alumnus Marco French will serve as keynote speaker. The 2021 Principal of the Year for the State of Louisiana, French proudly serves as principal of Queensborough Elementary School in Shreveport, Louisiana. Being taught the importance of pride, dignity, and dedication, has led him to accomplish transformative work. He was named principal of Queensborough Elementary in 2017, a failing school since 1999 that was facing a state takeover. Despite the challenges of high mobility rates, poverty, and a crime-stricken neighborhood, French accepted no excuses. He worked diligently in establishing relationships with the community, teachers, and his students. Under his leadership, the school experienced tremendous growth as evidenced by being removed from the state’s academically failing list, receiving recognition as Louisiana’s Outstanding School, and ranking #1 of the Top 10 High Performing Schools for 3rd Grade Literacy, and the highest in Progress and Growth (2019). Queensborough was also recognized for having the highest growth in the district with a 97.3% progress index and school performance score increase of 8 points. The school currently has 100% certified teachers, and every staff member on his campus is a certified Apple Educator. This includes paraprofessionals and all support staff. 

French is a recipient of the Greater Shreveport Chambers Young Professionals Top 40 under Forty, he has also received honors as a Northwest Louisiana Council Boy Scouts of American Spirit of Scouting Award recipient, Community Change Agent Award, and Brother of the Year for Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. 

Grambling State alumna Dr. Rachel Hickerson Francis will address graduates at the final ceremony on Friday, December 17. A third-generation Gramblinite, she is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. where she was president for a one-year term 2007-2008. She was also inducted into the Earl Lester Cole Honor’s College, named a NIHM-CORE Scholar, and a member of The Society of Distinguished Black Women, Chemistry Club, NoBCChe, Favrot Student Union Advisory Board, and Miss Senior 2008-2009. Dr. Hickerson furthered her studies at Florida A&M University where she majored and graduated with her doctorate in pharmacy in 2013. While there, she was inducted into Rho Chi, a pharmacy honor’s association, and was a member of the Sigma Chapter of Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society. Dr. Hickerson is currently the financial secretary of the Southwest Louisiana Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. and currently works as the Pharmacist-in-Charge at Teche Action Clinic Pharmacy. She loves to help people and provide patients with the care they need and deserve. 

Social distancing will be practiced with seating and masks must be worn during the event. The clear bag policy will also be enforced at the assembly center. Guests are asked to leave gifts, balloons, and large purses in their vehicles. For more information, please visit 


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