Whole Foods Market Chairman John Elstrott told LSU’s latest crop of graduates that the keys to living a happy and fulfilled life lie within family and purpose.

“Find your true purpose in life,” he told LSU’s largest-ever spring graduating class Thursday night. “Find a way to match it with your unique skills, your ideals, your aspirations and passions.”

Elstrott was the keynote speaker during LSU’s main spring commencement ceremony Thursday night at

the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on campus. Colleges will have separate graduation events Friday to award degrees to students.

Elstrott, a business professor and entrepreneur, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from LSU in 1972.

During his nearly 20-minute speech, Elstrott touted the principles of “conscious capitalism.”

“Higher-purpose businesses are the future of capitalism,” he said.

He said those ideas can relate back to any job.

“Don’t settle for less,” he told the graduating class. “You deserve a career that inspires you. That way you will be truly, truly happy.”

The 3,979 students graduating from LSU this week include 3,036 receiving bachelor’s degrees, 719 receiving master’s degrees, eight receiving education specialist certificates, 110 receiving doctorate degrees, nine receiving doctor of musical arts degrees; 84 receiving doctor of veterinary medicine degrees; and 13 receiving post-baccalaureate certificates. The Advocate will publish a list of all the graduates on Saturday.

In addition to being the university’s record-largest class, this spring’s graduates represent record numbers for black and Hispanic students. About 68 percent of the undergraduate class — 2,070 students — were recipients of scholarships through Louisiana’s Taylor Opportunity Program for Students.

The oldest graduate is 61, and the youngest is 16 — LSU’s youngest degree-earner ever.

“Today is just the start for us,” LSU graduate and former Student Government President Clay Tufts told the crowd. “Now is the time to continue to strive for excellence in our professional careers.”

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander pressed on students their “responsibility and obligation to those in need of similar education and opportunities.”

“Make the world a much better place,” he said.

Elstrott’s speech leaned heavily on efforts to make a difference through business, recounting the missions behind Whole Foods of fostering healthy eating, better communities and sustainable agriculture. But he told the students it’s also important to “be good alums.”

“Don’t forget LSU. LSU has been good to you,” he said.

Several of Friday’s diploma ceremonies will have keynote speakers. They include the following:

  • James Carville, noted political consultant and LSU alumnus, will speak at the Manship School of Mass Communication ceremony at 5:30 p.m. in the Maddox Fieldhouse.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Executive Vice President, COO, CFO and Treasurer Peggy Scott will speak at the E.J. Ourso College of Business ceremony at 12:30 p.m. in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
  • Gregor Trumel, consul general of France in Louisiana, will speak at the College of Art & Design ceremony at 10 a.m. in the Student Union Theater.
  • LSU Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Ann Duplessis, an executive at Liberty Bank & Trust Co., will speak at the College of Agriculture ceremony at 1 p.m. in the Maddox Fieldhouse.
  • Ron Neal, co-founder and co-owner of Houston Energy, will speak at the College of Science ceremony at 9 a.m. in the Maddox Fieldhouse.
  • Rebecca LaPorte, civil engineering graduate, will speak at the College of Engineering ceremony at 4 p.m. in the Maravich Assembly Center.

For the full schedule, visit www.lsu.edu/commencement.

Follow Advocate reporter Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp for scenes from Friday’s individual diploma ceremonies on campus.