The 484 graduates on December 9 represented the largest class in the history of Winter Commencement at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Commencement Speaker Dr. Robert Brown
Commencement speaker Dr. Robert Brown, a long-time UNCP history professor and winner of the UNC Board of Governors 2006 Award for Teaching Excellence, congratulated graduates and delivered one final history lesson.
On this day in history in 1886, Dr. Brown noted, inventor Clarence Birdseye was born. There is a lesson in the life of the man who invented the modern frozen food industry.
Neither a scholar nor a genius, Birdseye had a remarkably productive life, and Dr. Brown said all graduates are capable of great things.
“Birdseye said of himself: ‘I do not consider myself to be a remarkable person. I never made exceptionally high grades when I went to school. But I am immensely curious about the things which I see around me and this curiosity, combined with a willingness to assume risks, has been responsible for such success and satisfaction as I have achieved in life,’” Dr. Brown said.
The history lesson was followed by a lesson on the value of a college degree. College graduates’ average annual salary is $51,500, while high school graduates earn $28,600 and high school dropouts only $19,000 annually, he said.
“By receiving this degree, you will be joining an elite group in the United States, not to mention the world,” he said “And, by earning it you will be gaining privileges as well as responsibilities.”
However, a college degree holds far greater rewards, Dr. Brown said.
“The financial advantages of a college degree aside, what else makes a college degree valuable?” he queried. “College graduates frequently have careers that are, according to one article, ‘professionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating.’
“This sense of opportunity, of doors opening, is truly liberating,” Dr. Brown continued. “And, bear in mind, if your first job or employment opportunity is not ideal, you have the resources to make it better.”
Civilization will also benefit from its college graduates, Dr. Brown said.
“Above all, even if you forget many of the facts you memorized, we hope you will retain from your college experience the qualities of insight, discernment, and wisdom,” he said. “As citizens and college graduates, you now possess at least some of that knowledge and, I hope, the wisdom to make informed and responsible choices when called upon to do so.”
The record number of graduates was due, in part, to the large number of graduate students, a sometimes overlooked group at commencement ceremonies. The obstacles to obtaining an advanced degree can be great for these students.
“It took me three-and-a-half years,” said Rhonda Brink, a teacher at Wagram Elementary School. “The hardest part is working full time.”
Kattie Zimmerman, a school counselor at Parkton Elementary, had an after-school job too.
“I started at 7 a.m., finished work at 5:30 and then went to class,” Zimmerman said. “As a graduate student, you have to balance a lot more.”
Aubrey Swett worked full-time at UNCP, part-time as pastor of Shannon Missionary Baptist Church and earned a master’s degree in counseling in four years.
“Managing work, family and school is the most difficult thing,” Swett said. “I’d like to thank my wife Betty Jo. She kept the family on track.”
There were 150 graduate degrees awarded. The two most popular programs this year were school administration with 55 graduates and reading education with 34.
For more information about Winter Commencement 2006, please see www.uncp.edu/commencement (a Webcast is available at the site) or call 910.521.6249.