Lou Zeisman credits his UNC Pembroke education for setting him on a career path that allowed him to command upwards of 6,000 personnel during 30 years of distinguished service in the U.S. Army.
Zeisman was commissioned as a second lieutenant after completing the ROTC cadet program in 1990 before rising to the rank of colonel and executive officer for U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter in Hawaii.
On Monday, Zeisman returned to UNCP as the New Student Convocation keynote speaker and encouraged 561 students to apply their next four years and ignite the fire that launches their dreams. Convocation is a traditional ceremony marking the start of the academic year. Classes begin August 16.
"The theme this year is launching dreams," Zeisman said. "I love this because, over the 30 years of my military career, I've been able to live my dreams every day. I had the opportunity to lead some of the best young people in the world during peacetime and in combat. My dream began on this campus in 1986."
Zeisman, a former wrestler, shared how he met his wife, Melissa, a cheerleader, at UNCP. He deployed to combat five times and served with distinction with various special operational units before retiring from the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Liberty.
"I had no idea when I left (UNCP) that I was going to spend the next 30 years in the U.S. Army, but I had a roadmap," he told the Class of 2027. "You are in the right place at the right time to start thinking about the roadmap to your future.
"My message to you all is––launch your dreams today. It won't be easy, but it can be accomplished through hard work, focused priorities and efforts with a never-quit attitude."
Ashley Smith said she felt charged and excited to begin her college journey to "make my father proud."
"He's been in the Army for 17 years and didn't grow up having a lot, but he went to college when he was in the military, and now he's given me everything to make my dreams come true. So that's what I want to do," Smith said.
Joseph Amador of Fayetteville chose UNCP to be close to home. He plans to earn a business degree and open a marketing firm.
Jackson Mossolle wants to be an elementary school teacher. Like Smith, Mossolle left Givens Performing Arts Center with a sense of urgency and a desire to explore the career field through internships.
"I was able to intern at an intermediate school while I was in high school, so I got to work with fourth graders, and it was nice to be lead them," Mossolle said. "I'm hoping to get into one of my major courses next semester and begin looking for opportunities to work in a classroom as an intern."
Miles Parker said the campus gave him a feeling of home during his first visit. He came to UNCP to study exercise sport science and to learn more about the human body.
"I'm excited to meet new people and accomplish new goals," Parker said. "I believe UNCP is a place where I can grow and become a better man and a better person."
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings implored students to use their time wisely while taking advantage of the opportunities UNCP offers, such as research, service learning or study abroad.
"At UNC Pembroke, our goal is to provide you with challenging experiences to help you grow academically and personally," Cummings said. "These experiences will prepare you for a life of success and significance. All these experiences and much more will shape you and prepare you for your commencement."