Winter Commencement at UNCP a popular institution


The December 11, 2004, Winter Commencement at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke witnessed 402 receive diplomas.

It was UNCP’s 5th Winter Commencement and the largest. The advent of a mid-year ceremony continues to be popular with students.


Grads - Hilca Rosario Lewis of Lumberton, left, and Christina Locklear are ready to march.

“It’s a good idea,” said Hilca Rosario Lewis who picked up her second UNCP degree Saturday. “It’s more rewarding for students who work so hard to graduate.”

Christina Locklear, who worked her way through school, agreed.

“It took me four-and-a-half years; I don’t want to wait till May,” Locklear said. “I can’t imagine one commencement here any more because the school has gotten so big.”

Winter Commencement was held for the first time in the larger English E. Jones Athletic Center. The rubble strewn around the outside perimeter of the Jones Center was a reminder of the ongoing growth and construction at the University.

UNCP is a University that is reaching out to students near and far. Traveling the farthest for Commencement were three Chinese students from the prestigious Chinese University of Mining and Technology (CUMT).


Chinese grads – From left: Yan Qui Wang, Wu Gang and Lan Cui of Chinese University of Mining and Technology traveled to Pembroke to pick up a degree.

The trio – Jiang He, Yanqui Wang and Gang Wu – are administrators at CUMT and received Master of Public Administration degrees. Wu placed great value on his UNCP degree.

“We were very excited to see our teachers again,” said Gang
Wu, who is a CUMT administrator. “They were very kind to us and gave us much scholarly wisdom.”

Another noteworthy group of Moore County school teachers, 23-strong, traveled to Pembroke to pick up Master of Elementary Education degrees. UNCP’s School of Education took the program to them at Sandhills Community College in Southern Pines, N.C. They were excited to be at Commencement.

“Twenty-three out of 25 of us made the trip,” said Sandy Burns. “I am a University of Maryland graduate, but I did not attend my commencement because there were so many people graduating.”

“I’m happy to be here,” said Emily Brady. “For some of us this is our first visit to UNCP.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Patricia Valenti, a 20-year veteran of the English Department offered a dollar and sense analysis of the value of a college degree.


Speaker – Keynote speaker Dr. Patricia Valenti, a UNCP English professor and winner of the 2004 UNC Award for Teaching Excellence

“We all know that many of you were motivated by the fact that higher education literally pays off,” Dr. Valenti said. “Someone with a bachelor’s degree will earn almost twice the annual income of a person with no more than a high school degree.”

One of UNCP’s most distinguished scholars and instructors, Dr. Valenti said research has shown that college graduates have better marriages and more successful children. They have fewer substance abuse problems and live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

But there is far more to a college education, the professor said.

“This semester I asked my students in freshman composition to write about the value of an education,” she said. “One very wise young man wrote: ‘putting a price on education is like putting a price on a beloved family member; they both are priceless.’”

“In the words of John Henry Newman, the 19th century writer on the ‘Idea of the University,’ you have obtained through higher education ‘a habit of mind that lasts through life,’” Dr. Valenti said. “Those of you who are about to graduate have acquired a habit of mind that is curious and inquiring, a habit of mind that replaces fear of the unknown with curiosity and questions.”

“There is noting more delicious than the taste of genuine success,” she said. “At a university, you regularly found yourself in uncharted territory, and realized the profound depth of your own ignorance, but through your hard work and effort and refusal to give up, you mastered a subject.”

Dr. Valenti served as grand marshal for commencement by virtue of winning the UNC Board of Governors 2004 Award for Teaching Excellence. She is the author of several books on the family of early American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Chancellor Allen C. Meadors presided as he has all five Winter Commencements at UNCP.

Offering greetings to students and their families were Frank Grainger, a member of the UNC Board of Governors; Dr. Alan Mabe, representing the UNC Office of the President; Carl Meares Jr., chair of the UNCP Board of Trustees; Dr. Jesse Peters, chair of the Faculty Senate; Venessa Jones, president of the Student Government Association; and Hal Sargent, president of the Alumni Association.