Commencement Q&A with graduation announcer Ric Smith
As the stadium announcer at Jordan-Hare for the past 14 years, many are familiar with Ric Smith's voice, but what they may not know is that he also announces the name of every student at graduation in May, August and December. And he's been doing so since spring of 2008.
As a senior lecturer in the School of Communication and Journalism, Smith teaches a variety of courses focusing on mass communication, media law, and news and sports announcing. He also directs the internship program for all majors within the School. As part of a special project for the graduating students from the School of Communication and Journalism, Smith is working with the School to send the students an audio file packaged with sound effects and Smith announcing their names, just as he would at graduation.
Smith's professional background is in broadcasting and corporate communications. In broadcasting, his experience includes serving as general manager of WMXA-FM. He has worked as a field reporter/producer for ABC Radio Sports, ESPN Radio, WSFA-TV, and other media outlets.
While May graduation has been postponed until August, Smith says he continues to look forward to the array of celebrations and emotions that goes along with the main event.
Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Valley, AL and lived there until I was 17. Then my family moved to Sumter, SC. I went to the University of South Carolina for my undergraduate degree, then came to Auburn for graduate school. Coming to Auburn was a lot like coming home. I had grown up attending Auburn football games and spending time on campus, so it was good to be back.
How did you become the graduation announcer?
The person who had been announcing names retired, so the graduation committee asked me to do it for that one time. I have to say that I really didn’t want to do it. My vacation begins at the end of the semester, so announcing names meant that my vacation would be delayed. What I did not expect was how much I would enjoy it. I also did not expect the level of emotion. Graduation day is a good day for everyone—students, families, friends, faculty and staff. There is so much emotion: joy, pride, sadness, relief. For some graduates it’s one of those things. For many, it’s all of those emotions at once. When students walk up on stage, they are smiling, laughing, crying, dancing, shaking. They look up into the crowd to find their families. I have the honor of calling names for the fourth generation, the third sibling, the second try, the first college graduate ever. That’s an amazing thing to be a part of. My friend, Beth Yarbrough, once said to me that since football is such an important part of the Auburn University culture, every Auburn student should have their name called at least once by the stadium announcer. I’m glad I have the opportunity to do that.
What is your favorite part of being part of such an important day to so many?
Auburn does such a great job with the commencement ceremony. So many people work so hard to make it a wonderful event. I’m glad I get to be a part of that day and share it with the Auburn family.
Is there a least favorite part?
I have to say I’m pretty tired at the end of the day. I don’t talk much when I get home. But it’s a good kind of tired.
What words of wisdom (or comfort) can you share with graduating students and their families?
Our Spring 2020 commencement ceremonies were scheduled for May 2-4. Those will be sad days since we won’t be together, but they will also be days for reflection and celebration. I would encourage the graduates to do something to make the weekend special. And I look forward to the time we can all come back to campus and celebrate together.
Last Updated: April 30, 2020