Erskine Bowles, president of the UNC system, delivered the address at East Carolina's 101st spring commencement.
ECU graduates 3,400 at spring commencement
(May 7, 2010)
After her father was gunned down in his Rocky Mount convenience store 15 years ago, Rana Mallah was even more committed to graduating from college.
The journey took longer than she hoped, but on May 7, Mallah received her bachelor’s degree in East Carolina University’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
“He would be proud,” said Mallah, a 30-year-old political science graduate. “I had to take care of my family first. If he was around, I think this day would have come a long time ago. But I did it.”
Mallah was among the almost 3,400 graduates honored at the university’s 101st spring commencement. The 3,396 graduates included 67 doctors of medicine, 14 doctors of philosophy, 10 doctors of education, and 30 doctors of physical therapy.
Erskine Bowles, president of the UNC system and former White House chief of staff, delivered the keynote address and urged graduates to follow five principles:
First, under-promise. “If I tell my wife I’ll be home at 8 and I get home at 7:30, I’m a hero. But, you know, if I tell her I’ll be home at 7 and I get home at that exact same 7:30, I’m a dog,” he said. “My experience is, that if you produce beyond the expectations of the American people, or beyond the expectations of your boss or your client or your spouse, you’ll have a hard time not being given more and more responsibility.”
Second, always do quality work. “There is absolutely no substitute for quality,” he said. “If you’re going to do something, do it right.”
Third, he said, encourage creativity and embrace change: “If you’re going to be successful, you can’t ever believe that the way you’re doing it today is as good as it can be done.”
Fourth, add to the woodpile. “When I was a little boy, my daddy used to say that all of us had the responsibility to add to the community woodpile,” Bowles said. “He instilled in his kids the belief that everyone needed to take time to help their fellow citizens. He stressed that anyone can be there for you when you’re up, but it’s the good ones that are there for you when you’re down.”
Lastly, he said, take time for your family. “Look for a family-friendly place to work, one that encourages you to spend time with your family – and do it,” he said. “Spend time with your spouse. Spend time with your kids. Fill up those memories. Believe me, it’s those memories and those relationships that will sustain you through the good times and the bad.”
Recently selected to co-chair President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Bowles said he will continue to fight for ECU in his final six months as university system president.
“I’m going to work just as hard as I possibly can to make sure that we get the resources for this university so that every kid that follows you gets the same kind of quality education, the same kind of knowledge and skills, that you now have to compete and compete successfully in this new world of work,” Bowles said.
Graduates also heard from Dorothy Spruill Redford, who was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree. An extensive lecturer on African-American geneaology, antebellum history and slavery’s legacy, she is former manager of Somerset Place. She has published “Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage” and “Generations of SomersetPlace: From Slavery to Freedom.” Among awards she has received are the Congressional Black Caucus Carter G. Woodsen Award and, with eminent historian, John Hope Franklin, the N.C. Humanities Council John Tyler Caldwell Award.
Several special awards were presented during the commencement ceremony.
Five graduating seniors received the 2010 Robert H. Wright Alumni Leadership Award, which recognizes academic achievement, service and leadership qualities. Daniel Landon Allen of Wake Forest; Brooke Jacinda Barton of Lake Toxaway; Kyle Shane Bowen of Chesapeake, Va.; Jason Lewis Morton of Jacksonville; and Nina Fay Rose of Charlotte accepted their awards from Carl Davis of the East Carolina Alumni Association.
Thomas D. Raedeke, associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science, received the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, which came with a commemorative bronze medal and a $7,500 cash prize. Raedeke holds an undergraduate degree in history from Concordia College, a master’s degree from the University of Idaho at Moscow and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. In 2006, he received the UNC Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award and the ECU Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2005. He also received the East Carolina Scholars-Teacher Award in 2004.
Among the day’s jubilant graduates were Dane and Megan Barrett, a married couple who each earned an M.D. They are headed to the University of Virginia for their residencies; she will be training in obstetrics and gynecology and he will be an ear, nose and throat specialist. “There’s kind of a nervous energy and an excitement that goes hand-in-hand with getting a degree,” he said.
Mallah, the political science graduate, said she hopes to stay in Greenville and work on the computer business she runs. She looks forward to seeing her siblings, now university students themselves, graduate.
“This has been so very important for my mom,” she said.