Although it was a bit chilly, the reception for the nearly 700 new graduates at Nicholls State University's 101st commencement Saturday was warm and supportive.

Students were ecstatic to be moving on to the next phase of their lives and were looking toward their future.

"I'm relieved I made it and I'm ready to move on to the next part of my life," said Larose native Brody Eymard, who graduated in petroleum engineering technology.

While some graduates were planning to pursue higher degrees, others had lined up jobs or were still looking for their path forward. But many were just glad that they made it through college.

"I'm really excited that I graduated, but I'm most excited about not having to study anymore," said Josie St. Pierre, a Lockport native who graduated with a degree in human resources management.

The commencement address was given by local journalist and author John DeSantis.

DeSantis told the class of 2017 stories of the culture of generosity and selflessness he witnessed in the region following Hurricane Andrew that attracted him to stay in the area. He told the graduates that spirit is their culture, too.

However, DeSantis said although many things are temporary and can be taken away by a hurricane like Andrew, the education and degrees students earned at Nicholls can never be taken away.

"This is all about you. You chose study over sleep. You ate ramen noodles because everything else cost too much. ... You did everything required to earn those diplomas. Remember, it can never be taken away. A home can be lost to foreclosure or fire and people get laid off of jobs, but that degree cannot be taken away. A storm cannot take it. A flood cannot take it. God almighty himself cannot take it away," DeSantis said.

The last piece of advice DeSantis gave the graduates was for them to remember what they can do to help others, which will in turn help them as well.

"Now is the time when you can look for the blessings that you can give to others in service that you may receive the further blessings that await yourselves. Good luck, Godspeed and congratulations to all of you in the class of 2017," DeSantis said.

-- Staff Writer Dan Boudreaux can be reached at 857-2204 or Follow him on Twitter @dan_boudreaux.