At Winter Commencement 2009, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke awarded diplomas to 537 graduates.
UNCP’s 11th Winter Commencement on December 12 was presided over by Chancellor Charles Jenkins, who has served the University in several capacities since 1971.
Chancellor Jenkins reminded an audience of approximately 4,000 in the English E. Jones Athletic Center that there are 537 “great stories to tell.”
“I know many of them, and they are fantastic stories,” Chancellor Jenkins said. “Many have overcome the greatest barriers to be here today.”
Keynote speaker was Dr. Susan Cannata, a literature professor and winner of the 2009 UNC Board of Governors Award for Teaching Excellence. She encouraged the graduates to tell their stories.
“How can you transform the world?” Dr. Cannata said. “I recommend listening to stories and telling some of your own.
“I have heard your stories...your trials and tribulations,” Dr. Cannata said. “Take away from UNCP your experience in the form of stories.”
Dr. Cannata said stories are the glue that binds families and societies together. She said there is an innate desire to hear stories and to tell them.
“The two simple acts of telling and listening build relationships, build communities,” she said. “The sharing of stories has the power to make a real difference.
“If you don’t think you have anything interesting to say, you are sorely mistaken,” she concluded. “Think of today as the first page in your next story and make it a good one.”
UNCP’s graduates are as diverse as their stories, and they followed different paths and overcame many obstacles. They were proud of their accomplishment and grateful to many people.
It took Isabelle Brayboy five-and-a-half years to earn a social work degree. She married and had a baby as an undergraduate and reflected on what it takes to get a degree.
“It took a lot of support from my mother and family, and the support of others too,” Brayboy said. “You have to stay organized and have professors like Georgiana Mack and Frederick Stephens who really helped.”
Beverly Hill, who earned a nursing degree, offered a unique perspective as a mother of two, including a college graduate and a college student.
“It’s taken me 25 years to get here,” Hill said. “Working full time was hard, but I want more options in my career.
“Parents must be supportive because this is a different generation; they think differently,” she said.
Georgia Ivie is a grandparent and earned a Master’s degree in art education; her second at UNCP. She overcame health and other issues to be the oldest graduate Saturday at 71.
“A staff member at UNCP challenged me by asking ‘what have you got to lose?’” Ivie said. “I love art, and it was a challenge at my age.”
Ivie worked hard and thrived. Today, she teaches art to visually impaired students.
“Who helped me?” she said. “The list is long: (Dr.) John Labadie, Ann Horton-Lopez, Paul Van Zandt, Ralph Stephens and Dr. Olivia Oxendine, who is a great mentor.”
Ivie is moving on to her next challenge and issued a challenge to others.
“My blind students really try,” she said. “You have to try, and you have to want to learn.
“We’ve got to get these kids educated, and parents and teachers have to be responsible,” Ivie concluded. “We’re only a generation away from failure in this nation.”
Tim Bennett earned his music education degree at age 32 and said determination and the support of faculty were important.
Nursing grads – From left: Paula Blackburn of Scotland County, Beverly Hill of Columbus, Jennifer Rich of Cumberland and Amy Locklear of Robeson
“This is a tough program,” Bennett said. “I had great professors like Dr. (Jaeyoon) Kim who was a teacher, mentor and friend and Dr. (Tim) Altman who knows music and gave me useful advice.”
Sunni Fagan, who also earned a music education degree, said personal discipline is important.
“It took me six years because I switched majors,” Fagan said. “If you don’t have a good work ethic and manage your time, it’s a problem.”
Marajo White, who worked a part-time job at UNCP’s Bookstore, thanked her family and the faculty and staff of the University. She double majored in biology and chemistry.
“You have to be dedicated, and you have to have a family to back you up,” White said. “I wanted to do something great, and my family is proud of me.
“I’d like to thank my husband, my mom and dad, Dr. (Meredith) Storms for her patience and Ms. (Karen) Swiney, the Bookstore manager.”
To view Winter Commencement 2009, please go to www.uncp.edu/commencement/.