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ECU holds annual fall commencement
Almost 3,200 degrees awarded during ceremony
GREENVILLE, N.C. (Dec. 22, 2009) — Celebration was the order of the day for East Carolina University’s 101st Fall Commencement on Friday, Dec. 18.
Chancellor Steve Ballard, welcoming graduates and their families to the ceremony in Minges Coliseum, noted it was “another great day to be a Pirate,” which earned a cheer from the audience.
Almost 3,200 degrees were awarded at fall graduation, according to the ECU registrar’s office. Approximately 2,092 were undergraduate degrees, 1,062 were graduate/professional degrees, and 21 were doctorate degrees. Figures include degrees for students who completed graduation requirements in the summer, but who participated in the December commencement ceremony.
ECU geography professor Derek H. Alderman delivered the keynote address and used a tool of his discipline – a map – to encourage the graduates to find their place in the world.
“Maps help us have a sense of where we are in the world and where we are going,” said Alderman, who received the 2009 UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest teaching award given at the university. “What do you want the map of your career to look like?”
Alderman is also president of the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers. He is the 2008 winner of the Research Award for Outstanding Research and Scholarly Achievement for the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences.
“You’ve worked hard to transform yourself,” he said. “I speak for ECU that we’re proud of what you’ve become.”
Alderman asked family members in the audience to stand so the graduates could recognize their families’ contributions to their achievements.
“I see a few tears (in the audience) and I don’t know if it’s because they’re proud of their loved one or they’re thinking of the money they’re going to save,” he said, which drew laughter and applause from the parents.
As he concluded, Alderman asked the graduates to hold to the principles that his department imparts to its students.
“First, continue the learning process after you leave ECU. Maintain passion for innovation,” he said. “Next be a good professional (in your career). Build bridges rather than walls. Your career will be linked to others.”
Alderman added, be a leader and a follower, and avoid what Martin Luther King Jr. called a drum major instinct, the instinct always to be the one leading the parade.
Alderman is a recognized scholar of the civil rights era and naming of streets for MLK; he co-wrote the book, "Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory," published in 2008.
Alderman urged the graduates to “continue to improve the community. Leave the world a better place than you found it. And to achieve this, listen to others who often go unheard.”
“Congratulations again, and happy mapping,” he said.
Continuing the tradition of their college, the nursing graduates came into the arena with cheers and streams of Silly Strings flying. The majority of their mortarboards were decorated with items ranging from traditional nursing caps to Christmas tree lights.
“I’m excited, happy and glad it’s over,” said Dená Davis, a nursing graduate from Beulaville. She is headed to work at an intensive-care unit at Moses Cone Health System in Greensboro.
“I’ve been waiting for this forever,” said Jamie Sullivan, who has a job waiting for her at WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh.
Some nursing graduates do not have jobs waiting for them, but Davis thinks that will change when more employers hire in January. Davis and Sullivan are thrilled to have positions already.
“It took a lot of work, a lot of resumes, but we got them,” Davis said.
Said Sullivan, “Studying and applying for jobs are pretty much what we did this semester.”
Jeannine Manning Hutson
East Carolina University
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