The University of Louisiana at Lafayette's fall graduates, young and old, were urged to embrace change and keep a positive attitude at commencement exercises Friday.     

Speaker Lloyd “Red” Lerille, owner of the city's oldest and largest health club, said a willingness to make changes is an important part of building a successful life.

“If you’re going to be a success in life, you’re going to have to keep changing things,” he said. “Y’all have been at the university for three, four, five years; look at the changes you’ve seen.”

Around 1,400 students received bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and 23 received doctorates at the general assembly at 11 a.m.

University President E. Joseph Savoie, , led college deans, administrators and guests to the stage, and David Danahar, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, led the ceremony.

During his welcome speech, Savoie urged the new graduates to remain positive.

“There’s an overabundance of critics these days, and it’s easy to be negative because not much in life is perfect,” he said. “You can decide to take a positive approach to almost any challenge you face … That may not be the easiest path, but it will always be the right one.”

After Savoie’s speech, Lerille and Donald Mosing were awarded honorary doctorates in educational leadership and systems engineering, respectively.

“They are graduates who have supported the university over the years and exemplify the characteristics we associate with Ragin’ Cajuns such as hard work and innovation,” Savoie said.

Mosing, 87, was president of Frank’s International, a publicly traded company named after his father. He earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the then-Southwestern Louisiana Institute of Liberal and Technical Learning in 1950; however, he began working for Franks in 1943 when the company was short on workers during World War II. He served as president of his family’s business until 2011, when he retired. He holds over 40 patents — one of which was recently issued.

“This guy just never stops,” said Keith Mosing, Donald Mosing’s son. “To get his last patent at 87 years old and he’s still working on it is just amazing.”

Lerille, best known as owner of Red Lerille’s Health and Racquet Club, graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1987 and was the 1960 Mr. America and Mr. Universe. He opened his first health club on Johnston Street in 1963, and later opened “Red’s” in 1965.

He received the Club Industry 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award, which acknowledges people who have impacted the health club industry. Lerille is also the 2013 recipient of the Lafayette Civic Cup Award, which is bestowed based on an individual’s contributions to the community.

In addition to running Red’s, Lerille also enjoys restoring antique airplanes.

During his speech, he credited his longtime habit of posting pictures of his aspirations to his wall as his avenue to success.

“You gotta have goals,” he said. “You gotta keep putting something up there — a new picture.”

Students were also honored for their achievements.

One student from each college was recognized as the UL-Lafayette Alumni Association’s outstanding graduates. Students selected were nominated by their college’s dean for excellence in community service, leadership and scholarship.

Honorees include: Nataly Elendt, Casey Dugas, Amanda Sphar, Benjamin Como, Amélie Desormeaux, Angelle Patout, Juliane Mahoney and Erica Didier.

The Alumni Association also chose outstanding graduates from the graduate programs. Honorees include Ian Madray, Thomas Mouton, Jade Bujard, Jude Monte, Nolan Williams, and Daniel Forest.

Administrators Ellen Cook, assistant vice president for academic affairs, and Anita Cook Hazelwood, Health Information Management program director, became UL-Lafayette’s first two students to earn a doctorate in educational leadership with a concentration in higher education. The university began offering the concentration in 2013, in addition to the K-12 education concentration already offered.

The ceremony was one that Brianna Moran, who earned her bachelor’s in performing arts, described as a “bittersweet moment.”

“UL’s been my home for four-and-a-half years,” she said. “Now, I’m moving off to Disney to do the Disney College Program.”

In addition to working for Disney, Moran said her long-term goals include furthering her education.

“I want to be in entertainment and perform for a while, and then eventually, way later on, go back and get my master’s to teach at either the collegiate level or a pre-professional company,” she said.

Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.​