In the past month, Doll Ferguson has taken five exams, worked 120 clinical hours, written papers and a 15-page journal. Next up is the NCLEX, the national licensure exam to become a registered nurse.
It’s all worth it, she said, because now she’s an East Carolina University graduate.
Pirate nurses were among the ECU graduates who decorated mortarboards as part of their celebration. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
This Pirate nurse will be working in the telemetry/cardiac unit at Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington.
“It’s the greatest challenge I’ve faced in my entire life,” said Ferguson of Greensboro. “It has been some long years, but I made it. I definitely wouldn’t have made it without my friends and family, and I had great instructors.”
Her dad, Donald Ferguson, is an alumnus, which influenced her decision to attend ECU, along with the fact that “it has the best nursing school.”
“I feel like I’m living a dream,” she said. “I’ve waited for this day to come and I feel like I’m not even here.”
While there’s been little time for a social life in such a rigorous program, Ferguson has provided 200 volunteer service hours and is a member of the nursing honors society and nursing leadership.
Abby Lassiter of Oak Island couldn’t be happier for her daughter, Brittany Sullivan, who earned a master’s in child development and family relations. Sullivan also earned her bachelor’s in elementary education at ECU. Her brother will attend ECU in the fall, and they are the first in the immediate family to attend college. “We’re so incredibly proud,” Lassiter said. “Every goal that she’s set, she’s reached.”
Sullivan hopes to teach at ECU, and taught an online class last semester. Her research thesis involved comparing how teachers interact and have relationships with English language learners and non-English language learners. She traveled to elementary schools in Greene, Wilson and Carteret counties and enjoyed being in the classroom.
Her boyfriend, Zach Hewett of Shallotte, received a master’s of business administration and is looking for a job. His mother, Cindy Hewett, is an ECU alumna, along with her grandmother, who attended then East Carolina Teacher’s College. Zach’s father is also an ECU alumnus.
“It’s been very emotional,” said Jeanette Pleasants of Bunn, who was there for her daughter Brittany Pleasants, who received a bachelor’s in business education. “She’s come a long way.”
Graduate school bound
The Department of Geology, one of the smallest at ECU, was represented with graduates at the very front and at the back of the College of Arts and Sciences line that snaked below the stadium seats in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Bringing up the rear was Anne Ditlevson, 28, and Stephanie Balbuena, 21, both of Greenville. After two years of being a barista, Ditlevson decided to go back to school.
“ECU was the most professional school,” she said. “Anytime I emailed or called, they got back to me immediately. That meant a lot.”
Discovering and majoring in geology has been a great surprise, she said. “Geology is like a mystery. You’re solving something every single day. I feel like a rock detective.”
May 10 was a great day to be a Pirate grad. (Photo by Jay Clark)
Spring semester, Ditlevson and Balbuena were part of an environmental forensics class looking for petroleum and oil-based compounds in the Tar River. “We didn’t find it, which is a good thing,” Ditlevson said. But they did find vanilla, caffeine, and an organic compound used in anesthetics.
Ditlevson has been accepted to graduate school in education and wants to be a science teacher. Her husband, an art teacher, has been accepted in the master’s in school administration program, so they’ll both be at ECU.
Balbuena will take a year off and go to Italy to work before applying to master’s programs in paleoclimatology.
First in line was Lindsay Pugh of Burke, Va., who received a bachelor’s in geology and comes from a family of Pirates. She fell in love with the campus and decided to attend ECU too. “I’m like the 10th person from my family to come here,” she said. “My parents and aunt both attended here.”
She is looking for work and investigating graduate programs.
Rebekah Ferguson, who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in speech and hearing science, celebrated with fellow student Stacey Bastin of Swansboro.
The pair had gotten to the stadium before 8 a.m. to be first in line for allied health sciences graduates. Ferguson is going to graduate school for audiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Bastin will attend graduate school in speech pathology at Western Carolina University. She hopes to eventually work with aphasic patients. “My grandfather had Parkinson’s and that sort of started me down this path,” said Bastin, who is the first in her immediate family to attend college.
Class of 1963
At the start of the commencement, 17 alumni from the class of 1963 were recognized. Among them were Jerry Cummings and his wife, Diana Foster Cummings, of Graham. Diana was class treasurer and a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma, the first ECU sorority to have a house. Theirs was the first class to graduate in the stadium, which was really only a football field back then, the Cummings said.
It’s been at least 10 years since they’ve been to campus, although Jerry grew up nearby in Tarboro. “We see a few things we recognize, but much has changed,” Jerry said.
“I keep up with the Sigmas, and they still shine,” Diana said. “We’re proud of our campus and we’ve watched it grow from a distance.”
They also are the proud grandparents of a 1-year-old granddaughter, Reese Elizabeth, who they would like to see wear purple and gold one day.
“I walked down the aisle for ECU graduation in a black gown, and one week later walked down the aisle in a white gown to marry Jerry,” who was wearing his dress Marine Corps white uniform, she said. The couple lived in Quantico, Va., and at Camp Lejeune before Jerry left active duty. He spent 28 years in the reserves.
Diana worked 39 years for the Social Security Administration. Jerry worked for three different textile companies, first as an engineer then as a manager, before taking on a third career of building houses. Now retired, they enjoy singing in their local choral group and are active in their church.
“I got a great education here,” said Buddy Wyatt of Surry, Va., the 1963 class vice president who received a math and science degree. He is a retired nuclear engineer and manager who worked in shipbuilding in Newport News and for the U.S. Navy. “I met a lot of great people, and I’ve lost a lot of friends who went here.”
Members of East Carolina's class of 1963 lead the processional of ECU graduates into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. (Photo by Jay Clark)