UNC Pembroke graduates 374 in May 7 ceremony


U.S. Senator Richard Burr encouraged graduates of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke to find opportunities in a rapidly changing world.

Richard Burr
Senator Richard Burr

Sen. Burr was the keynote speaker at UNCP’s May 7 Commencement. On a day marked by blue sky and 70-degree weather, 374 students graduated in an outdoor ceremony that was attended by more than 4,000.

One pair of graduates had special reason to celebrate on Mother’s Day weekend.

“I’m so proud of my mom,” said graduate David Beck.

Beck graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Business and his mother, Connie, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education. Connie, a teacher assistant with the Cumberland County Schools, said there were many long nights in the computer room of the family’s Hope Mills home.

“This is the best Mother’s Day,” Connie said. “All four of my children and five grandchildren are here. Our house was booming last night.”

Ms. Beck was proud of her accomplishment. She graduated cum laude and a member of Alpha Chi honor society.

Connie and David Beck

“You start something that you don’t know if you can finish,” she said. “It’s a dream I’ve had forever. I loved every minute of it, even the student teaching.”

Sen. Burr asked graduates to dream of a future that may be as turbulent as the past four years. He noted that when many of the graduates were freshmen, “on a beautiful, sunny day – September 11th – America was under attack, and the world changed in an instant.”

There were other changes, Sen. Burr said.

“Another difference is that the world has become a much smaller place,” he said. “ Today, technology challenges the way we think about life’s bigger questions, such as, ‘What is fair? What’s right?’”

To locate a model of opportunism in the midst of change, graduates need look only as far as their University, Sen. Burr said.

“I’m proud to know that your school will be the first university in North Carolina to offer an undergraduate major in biotechnology this fall,” he said. “Biotechnology is an increasingly important industry here in North Carolina, and UNCP will be on the forefront of changes in biotechnology that will revolutionize business, agriculture, health care and technology.”

The junior senator from North Carolina, who has two school-aged sons of his own, expressed confidence in North Carolina’s future and the future for the 2005 graduates.

“As a Senator, I look forward to watching you and your peers find innovative ways to meet the challenges we face here in North Carolina,” Sen. Burr said. “I have every confidence that you will find new and better ways to meet these challenges.”

From Left: Fang Jin, Quingli Meng, Dr. Ju Yang Zhang, Yu Xi and Tonghui Su

Commencement 2005 was marked by the graduation of five Chinese nationals, who received Master of Public Administration degrees through a joint program with UNCP and the Chinese University of Mining and Technology (CUMT), located in Xuzhou of Jiangsu province. They are: Dr. Ju Yang Zhang, an orthopedic surgeon and hospital administrator, Quingli Meng, an English professor, Tonghui Su, a journalist, Yu Xia, a government administrator and Fang Jin, a pharmaceutical sales manager.

“Our professors were wonderful, and our English is improved,” Su said. “If you want to be a good reporter, you must travel, a very famous Chinese journalist once said.”

Chancellor Allen C. Meadors offered special congratulations to the Chinese guests and welcomed two visiting CUMT administrators, Dean Zhou Zhi Ren and Dean Chi Zhong Jun.

In his parting remarks to graduates, Chancellor Meadors also peered into the future and encouraged graduates to put a human face on their challenges.

Officer commissioning - From left: MSG John Torre and new Second Lieutenants Andrea Miyagi, Erazo Keila Sanchez, Jong Choe, Jeremy Johnson and Ashley Weaver

“Don’t let our technology-dominated world dehumanize your lives and priorities,” he said. “Be agents of peace and solidarity in every way.”

Chancellor Meadors said individuals still have the power to change history.

“I offer special congratulations to those of you who are the first in your family to receive a college degree,” he said. “You have changed the course of your family history, and your success today will inspire future generations to follow in your footsteps.”

Offering greetings to the graduates were Jeff Davies, vice president for finance of the UNC Office of the President, Carl Meares Jr., chair of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Jesse Peters, chair of the Faculty Senate and Jeffrey Alejandro, president of the Alumni Association. Dr. Breeden Blackwell, a trustee, introduced the keynote speaker.