NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University’s will hold its Fall Commencement Exercises Friday, Dec. 16, in Prather Coliseum.

Undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Education and Human Development will receive diplomas at 10 a.m. Undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Nursing and Allied Health and the College of Science, Technology and Business will graduate at 3 p.m. The ceremonies will be streamed online at

Those wishing to get the best available seating should plan to arrive at least an hour prior to the ceremony.

Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Jim Purcell will be the commencement speaker. Purcell was named commissioner in February. He previously served as the state higher education executive in Arkansas and associate vice chancellorfor strategic planning in Oklahoma.

Purcell oversees and supervises the operations of the Board of Regents’ staff and represents the state’s postsecondary education community at the state and federal level as well as with the general public. He is actively engaged in implementing Louisiana’s premier piece of higher education legislation, the Granting Resources and Autonomy for Diplomas (GRAD) Act, as well as the Performance-Based Funding Formula.

Northwestern State will award an Northwestern State University will award an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Earl J. Barbry Sr. of Marksville at the 10 a.m.ceremonies.

Barbry has been chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana in 1977.

He was chairman in 1978 when the federal government acknowledged the tribe, culminating more than 40 years of work by tribal leaders. The Tunica-Biloxi was the first tribe to gain federal recognition under provisions set for the recognition of unacknowledged Indian Tribes.

Barbry, along with the Tunica-Biloxi Tribal Council, now oversees one of the largest labor forces in central Louisiana. The casino complex employs 1,500 people and other businesses employ nearly 200.

Barbry is a nationally known American Indian leader, serving on the board of the United South and Eastern Tribes, representing federally acknowledged tribesfrom Louisiana to Maine. He also has a leadership role in the Louisiana Inter-Tribal Council, an organization that serves federal and state-recognized Indian communities.