UNCP graduates 444 on December 13


On a cool and crisp December 13, 2008, morning, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke graduated 444 in Winter Commencement ceremonies.

View webcast of commencement (requires Real Player)

 Keynote speaker Dr. Mark Canada

Keynote speaker Dr. Mark Canada

Joy, memories and thankfulness mixed with anticipation. Keynote speaker Dr. Mark Canada, a faculty member and winner of the 2008 UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award, urged graduates to become heroes.

“Now is your turn,” Dr. Canada said. “We need heroes in social work, business, education and families.

“Some of you will find jobs in the months ahead, and some of you will serve your families and communities without a paycheck, but all of you will have a chance to serve,” he said.

“Let future generations say of us, ‘they did more than all of their ancestors combined,’” he said. “Let them say, ‘they ended poverty, racism, child abuse and war.’

“Let them say, ‘they studied and revered the great generations that preceded them and became even a greater generation,’” he concluded. “Let them read the pages of our story and exult in the triumph and the glory of human achievement.”

Graduates were hopeful as they commenced their lives in a difficult economy, as David Parks noted.

“I’m moving to Charlotte, and I want to work for an international oil and gas company, which is a perfect fit for my double major in biology and Spanish,” Parks said. “I’m getting married when my girlfriend graduates. I’ll move furniture if I have to.”

Many UNCP graduates have jobs lined up or began their careers. They were thankful for that and many things.

“I’m thankful for the support of my family and the scholarship help I received,” said Matthew Blue, a mathematics education major. “I will start teaching at St. Pauls High School in January.”

Graduates at CommencementGraduates Sandra Roberts and John Schrenker got a head start in the working world. Both began teaching jobs in December with the help of an early release program.

“I’m a third grade teacher with Richmond County Schools,” Schrenker said. “I’m thankful for my family today.”

“I am teaching first grade at St. Pauls Elementary School,” Roberts said. “I’d like to especially thank my husband and two children, who are all here today.”

Lena Locklear, RN, BSN, worked full time while she studied for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

“I hope to move into management and enroll in a master’s program soon,” Locklear said. “This degree was not easy because I took a heavy course load.”

In her welcoming remarks, Student Government Association President Hannah Simpson encouraged the graduates to celebrate their accomplishments.

“Sure, there were good times here,” Simpson said. “But do not be held back by a daunting economy; instead, remember the historic and life changing events that you participated in over the last four years.

“The problem is not the problem,” she said. “It’s the attitude you bring to the problem that matters,” she said.

Other welcoming remarks were brought by Dr. Cheryl Locklear, a member of the UNC Board of Governors, a UNCP graduate and former trustee; Dr. Anthony Curtis, chair of the Faculty Senate; Jason Bentzler, president of the Alumni Association; and Dr. Breeden Blackwell, chair of the Board of Trustees and a UNCP graduate.

In his parting remarks, Chancellor Meadors encouraged the graduates to honor their heritage but “keep your focus on the future.”

“The thing that distinguishes most successful people is how hard he or she works,” he said. “Work hard and be passionate about your work.

“It’s been our pleasure to have you here,” he concluded.

Of the estimated 444 graduates, 94 earned advanced degrees. Commencement was held in the Main Gym of the English E. Jones Health and Physical Education Center and was attended by 3,500 faculty, family and friends.