Commencement Spring 2013 Ceremony

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Alumna tells 2013 ECU graduates

May 10, 2013

By Jeannine Manning Hutson
ECU News Services

An East Carolina University alumna who has dedicated her career to children’s educational programs urged graduates May 10 to “Keep going! Keep being who you are!”

ECU alumna Valeria Lovelace urges graduates to "keep going" during the keynote address at the 2013 spring commencement. (Photo by Jay Clark).
Dr. Valeria O. Lovelace told the graduates during the 104th spring commencement ceremonies for East Carolina that 40 years ago she was sitting in their place.

“I had butterflies in my stomach as I thought of my future. Now I marvel at the doors that a degree opened for me,” she said.

During the ceremony, Chancellor Steve Ballard conferred 2,710 undergraduate degrees and more than 980 graduate degrees, including 69 from the Brody School of Medicine.

“We are proud of every one of you,” the chancellor said to the sea of purple gowns and black robes before him on the field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Lovelace is president and founder of Media Transformations, an educational research and production company. She has worked on children’s programming for “Sesame Street,” “Go, Diego, Go” and “Dora, the Explorer.”

“As Dora, the Explorer would say, ‘You did it!’” Lovelace said. She praised the graduates for the persistence and determination to earn their degrees.

A graduate checks in with a friend or family member during the ceremonies. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
The native of Mount Olive described to the graduates, most of whom grew up watching Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, the role that television played in her life, including her early memories of “Howdy Doody” and “Captain Kangaroo.”

She encouraged the graduates to use their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts to join “The Dream Makers’ Team” by keeping a running tally of their acts of kindness, encouraging young students to stay in school and sharing their accomplishments.

Lovelace’s message hit a mark with Pamela Wilson of Elizabeth City, who earned her master’s degree in education, focusing on birth-kindergarten, as a distance education student. “I used to watch ‘Sesame Street’ as a kid, and I liked her comments (on children’s education). That resonated with me.”

Wilson, who is a pre-kindergarten teacher, noted that she is a first-generation college graduate. She earned her undergraduate degree in education from ECU in 2007. And she proudly added that her daughter, Kirstie Mathews, will start ECU in the fall pursuing a nutrition degree, after she completes her course work at the College of the Albemarle.

Recognized during the ceremony were university award winners, including Dr. John Stiller, who received the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. Hari Nath, a member of the Board of Governors, said of Stiller, “He is one of those people who was born to teach.”

Also recognized were the five undergraduate students who received the Robert H. Wright Alumni Leadership Award:

  • Arun Ajmera of Greenville, who earned dual degrees in biology and chemistry and plans to attend the Brody School of Medicine;
  • Mukund Mohan Patel of Greenville, who earned a biology degree and plans to attend the Brody School of Medicine;
  • Sarah Morgan Hunter of Henderson, who earned a degree in business administration and plans to attend ECU to earn her MBA;
  • Danielle Nicole Martin of Greenville, who earned an interdisciplinary degree in neuroscience and who plans to attend medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
  • Alyssa Diane Robinson of Charlotte, who earned a communications degree and plans to attend graduate school at N.C. State University.

Ajmera is among the first graduates of the Honors College at ECU, which builds on the tradition of academic excellence and innovative programming developed under the Honors Program.

The College was launched in 2010, and five students received their degrees May 10, completing their studies in three years. They are Arun Ajmera, Matthew T. Edwards, Chelsea M. Hughes, Mary S. Sanderson and Laura R. Ross.


Graduates celebrate with cheers and silly string at the close of commencement ceremonies. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)