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Pieces of Eight

At attention during the national anthem at ECU’s commencement services are (left to right) Dr. Phyllis Horns, interim vice chancellor for Health Sciences and interim dean, Brody School of Medicine; ECU Provost James L. Smith; keynote speaker Col. Adele Hodges; and ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard. (Photos By Marc J. Kawanishi)

Service, Commitment Key Topics at Commencement

Col. Adele E. Hodges told the graduates of East Carolina University May 5 that when it comes to service and opportunity, size does matter.

“I’m not talking physical size, but the size of your conviction, the size of your compassion, the size of your humanity and the size of your commitment,” she said. “It will serve each of you in the long run.”

Hodges, the commanding officer of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, delivered the keynote address to 982 graduates and an estimated 5,000 of their family and friends at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Approximately 3,900 degrees were conferred this spring.

Hodges, who took command of the Marine base in 2005, told the graduates she had once aspired to become a teacher, and that the future they plan for may not be the one they eventually realize.

“The collective experience spent here is all about self-realization and discovering what you are truly capable of – and hopefully you’ve found that your horizons are limitless,” Hodges said. “Your commitment to your local communities will be a lasting legacy that will be remembered for years to come.”

Silly string, noisemakers and confetti add joy to the moment as ECU graduates celebrate their achievement during the university’s annual spring commencement May 5 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard observed that Hodges’ career in the Marines is an example of the two key elements that every graduate faces: service and opportunity.

“ECU’s motto is ‘to serve,’ and no group embodies the notion of service more than our military forces,” Ballard said. “We are pleased to have a person with us today who lives service. As future leaders, today’s graduates must be prepared, accepting and willing to see opportunities.” Estelle “Bunny” Saunders, representing the UNC Board of Governors, urged every graduate to realize that opportunity for service by becoming advocates for change in their own communities.

“You must ask that impertinent question that has the potential to change the future of eastern North Carolina,” Saunders said. “Hopefully all of you will demand to know, Why not entrepreneurial and employment opportunities in eastern North Carolina? Why not affordable housing? Why not broadband in rural areas? Why not prosperity in your eastern North Carolina community? Why not?”

ECU graduate Brandy C. Sherrer, who delivered the student address, said that the Pirate Nation prides itself on four ideal attributes: service, leadership, ambition and spirit.

“As graduates, not only do we recognize them; we embody them. We are the spirit of ECU,” she said.

“We know what it is like to give our all to the school and the community.”

In addition to the conferral of degrees, four graduates received the Robert H. Wright Alumni Leadership Award: Matthew Herrmann (Political Science); Paulette McFadden (Anthropology and Religious Studies); Melonie Norman (Nursing) of Yadkinville; and Brandy Shaw (Chemistry).

Also recognized were the 2007 teaching award recipients. They are UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, Matt Mahar (Health and Human Performance); UNC Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Teaching Award – Sharon Ballard (Human Ecology), Colin Burns (Arts and Sciences), Cal Christian (Business), Calvin Mercer (Arts and Sciences), Tom Raedeke (Health and Human Performance) and Christine Zoller (Fine Arts and Communication); University Alumni Awards for Outstanding Teaching, Ken MacLeod (Business), Laura Prividera (Fine Arts and Communication) and Karen Vail-Smith (Health and Human Performance); and the Max Ray Joyner Award for Faculty Service through Continuing Education, Jami Leibowitz (Arts and Sciences).


Sixty graduates were hooded during the Brody School of Medicine’s 27th annual convocation on May 4. Above, Dr. P.J. Schenarts (far left), program director for the general surgery residency and assistant professor of trauma and surgical critical care, congratulates graduate Justus Min. Looking on (far right) is Virginia Hardy, interim senior associate dean of academic affairs in the Brody School of Medicine. The graduating class had voted for Schenarts to lead them in reciting the Oath of Hippocrates. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


Convocations Recognize Health Sciences Graduates

Family, friends and faculty members joined in the celebration as the Brody School of Medicine hooded 60 medical graduates at its 27th annual convocation May 4.

This year’s group puts the total number of ECU medical graduates over the 1,700 mark, according to Dr. James G. Peden, the convocation speaker and associate dean for admissions at the medical school.

Peden, who lost a leg to cancer, urged the students to find humor in life’s darker moments. On the day he found out that his leg was going to have to be amputated above the knee, he came home to find a registered letter in his mailbox stating he had won a $300 trail bike.

“You can decide if you want to be happy or not,” Peden said. “Don’t take yourself too seriously to laugh at a joke at your own expense.”

Andrew Smitherman of Pfafftown presented the class response. In addition to thanking his classmates for a wonderful experience in medical school with them, Smitherman also thanked faculty members and “the people of eastern North Carolina for agreeing to be our patients.”

Smitherman also said: “Thank you to our families. You have opened every door of opportunity in our lives, and we are so appreciative of your sacrifices. Also, many of us have significant others who have endured numerous nights when we have come home stressed, sleep-deprived and in, shall we say, a less-than-amiable mood. We are grateful for your loving patience, and, unfortunately, a few more of these days are probably yet to come. So, thank you in advance for continuing to love us when we don’t display particularly lovable behavior.”

James G. Peden

In other convocations, the ECU School of Nursing had 195 graduates, the most in its history. The graduates included four doctoral graduates, the most since the doctoral program began in 2002. The first Phyllis N. Horns Outstanding PhD Student Award was given to Annette Grady Greer. Other honors and outstanding student awards were made during convocation May 4.

Randi Elizabeth Caruso of Elizabeth City received a nursing pin belonging to her great-grandmother who graduated from Jewish Memorial Hospital nursing school in New York in 1931. Another special presentation was the United States Navy commissioning of Lani Ann Kuhlow by her sister, Capt. Sasha Kuhlow of the United States Marine Corps.

Since ECU produces more new nurses than any school in North Carolina, wherever graduates go to work they will likely run into another ECU nursing alum, said Acting Dean Sylvia Brown.

As students embark on a new journey, Brown suggested graduates pack the following in their “travel bag” for life: integrity, a positive attitude, passion, compassion and a zeal for improvement.

“In work as in life, we’re always becoming. We’re never there yet. Focus on the journey, not the destination. Enjoy the trip of life,” Brown said.

Nursing students wore ribbons in honor of Virginia Tech victims.

An ECU graduate searches for a familiar face among a crowd of graduates’ friends and families, just before the School of Nursing convocation on May 4. The school graduated 195 students, the most in its history.

Dean Stephen Thomas began the School of Allied Health Sciences convocation with a moment of silence in memory of the Virginia Tech victims.The school had 189 graduates, including the first transitional class to the doctor of physical therapy program.

Allied Health is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the school. The event was held the afternoon of May 5, the first time that the school’s convocation followed graduation, Thomas said.

Guest speaker Robert Greczyn Jr., president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of N.C., ECU Board of Trustees member and ECU graduate, told graduates: “Your challenge will be to make a difference.You can lead from any chair you sit in. You don’t have to be head of a corporation.”

He challenged graduates to help fix society’s health problems of childhood obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, and to show people who doubt their determination what can be accomplished.

“Losing my first job changed my life,” he said. “Having that radical change meant I had to focus on what I wanted to do. Your failures will be more valuable than your successes.”

The graduates were among the first to take classes in the new Health Sciences Building, where the schools relocated in 2006.

This page originally appeared in the June 8, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at