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It’s a big weekend for college graduations

Former CIA Director Robert Gates will be among the keynote speakers Friday, as several of the Carolinas’ largest universities award diplomas in commencement exercises.

This is the biggest weekend of the year for college graduations, with more than three dozen colleges and universities in the two states conducting ceremonies.

Gates will speak at the University of South Carolina’s commencement exercises at 3 p.m. Friday in Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina, like a number of other schools, holds multiple graduations. Friday’s event is for students in the Business, Mass Communications, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health programs.

Here is the schedule:

FRIDAY

CAMPBELL – 3 p.m., Pope Convocation Center, School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. (additional ceremonies Saturday).

CLEMSON – Littlejohn Coliseum. 9:30 a.m. – Architecture, Arts and Humanities; Business; and Behavioral Science. 2:30 p.m. – Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences; and Health, Education and Human Development. 6:30 p.m. – Engineering and Science.

EAST CAROLINA – 9 a.m., Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

LENOIR-RHYNE – 8 p.m., Moretz Stadium.

UNC WILMINGTON –Trask Coliseum. Friday schedule: 2 p.m. – Business; 5:30 p.m. – Education, Health and Human Services. (additional ceremonies Saturday.)

SOUTH CAROLINA – 3 p.m., Colonial Life Arena – Business, Mass Communications and Information Studies; Nursing; Pharmacy; Public Health). Speaker: Robert Gates, former CIA director. (additional ceremonies Saturday.)

SATURDAY

APPALACHIAN STATE – 9 a.m., Holmes Convocation Center (Health Sciences); speaker: ASU trustee Brenda Wright. 1 p.m., Holmes Convocation Center (Education); speaker: Charles Duke, retiring as Education school dean. 4 p.m., Holmes Convocation Center (Business); speaker: Frank Stewart, president of Ultra Machine and Fabrication. (additional ceremonies Sunday.)

BELMONT ABBEY – 11 a.m., on campus.

CAMPBELL – Both events at Pope Convocation Center. 9 a.m., School Arts and Sciences. 3 p.m., Education and Business. (additional ceremonies Sunday.)

CATAWBA – 10 a.m., Keppel Auditorium. Speaker: Gov. Pat McCrory, a Catawba alum.

CHARLOTTE SCHOOL OF LAW – 1 p.m., Charlotte Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom.

NORTH CAROLINA A&T – 8:30 a.m., Greensboro Coliseum. Speaker: Dmitri Stockton, 1986 graduate and CEO of GMC Asset Management Inc.

NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL – 8 a.m., O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium. Speaker: Fredricka Whitfield, CNN anchor.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE – 9 a.m., PNC Arena. Speaker: Philip Freelon, founder and president of Freelon Group and a 1975 alum.

PFEIFFER – 10:30 a.m., Merner Center. Speaker: Stephen Ray Mitchell, dean for medical education at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

SOUTH CAROLINA – Colonial Life Arena. 9:30 a.m. (Arts & Sciences; Honors College). Speaker: Darius Rucker, country-pop singer and former lead vocalist with Hootie and the Blowfish. 3 p.m. (Education, Engineering and Computing; Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management; Music; Social Work; Fort Jackson Program; Palmetto Program; Interdisciplinary Studies). Speaker: Phillip Lader, former U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom and chair of WPP Group.

UNC ASHEVILLE – 9 a.m., University Quadrangle.

UNC CHARLOTTE – 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Barnhardt Student Activity Center. 10 a.m. – Education; Liberal Arts and Sciences. 3 p.m. – Arts and Architecture; Business; Computing and Informatics; Engineering; Health and Human Services.

WINGATE – 9 a.m., Academic Quadrangle. Speaker: former Carolina Panthers’ player John Kasay.

SUNDAY

APPALACHIAN STATE – 9 a.m., Holmes Convocation Center (Arts and Sciences); speaker: Henry Perry, faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. 12:30 p.m., Broyhill Music Center (Music); speaker: Jack Renner, retired CEO of Telarc Records. 3:30 p.m., Holmes Convocation Center (Fine and Applied Arts); speaker: Amy Armstrong, president of S.C. Environmental Law Project.

DUKE – 10 a.m., Wallace Wade Stadium. Speaker: Melinda Gates, philanthropist and business owner.

UNC CHAPEL HILL – 10 a.m., Kenan Stadium. Speaker: AOL founder Steve Case.

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