BUIES CREEK — More than 500 students earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Saturday’s main campus spring commencement ceremony for Campbell University’s College of Arts & Sciences, Lundy-Fetterman School of Business and School of Education.
Commencement speaker Karen McNeil-Miller, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, told those graduates — and their 4,000-plus family and friends who made for a standing room-only Pope Convocation Center — to soak up the day as much as they could, because it will be one of the few days in their life that’s “all about you.”
“The day you’re born is all about you. Your funeral is all about you. Unfortunately, you don’t get to enjoy either of those events,” she said. “So enjoy it, because come tomorrow, it’s not about you anymore. All other days in your life should be about somebody else. They should be about you being in service to or in service for somebody else.”
McNeil-Miller shared the stories of four Campbell graduates who faced challenging journeys to the commencement stage. She shared the story of Kaylin Yost, a two-time Big South Conference Women’s Golfer of the Year and member of the Big South All Academic Team who overcame being born with displaced hips and an early diagnosis that she’d never walk to become a nationally ranked college athlete.
She pointed out Mario Bonilla, a homeland security graduate who came to Campbell after 10-plus years of service in the U.S. Army and a 15-month tour of duty in Iraq. And she talked about James Kearney, born with spina bifida and deaf, who brought his interpreter to Campbell University four years ago to help make his transition easier. That interpreter, Lynn Castles, took advantage of her time at Campbell by returning to school herself and earning a degree. Kearney and Castles walked the stage together Saturday to become Campbell graduates.
Campbell University President Jerry Wallace started the commencement ceremony on a light note, pointing out the oarge crowd that morning and adding — in his best Southern drawl — “My, my, my.”
“I often brag that we don’t get traffic jams in Buies Creek, but today, I got in one,” said Wallace.
Saturday’s commencement marked the second-to-last spring graduation for Wallace as Campbell’s president. He announced in April that the 2014-15 academic year will be his last before he takes a year-long break and returns in 2016 as the school’s chancellor. Wallace is only the fourth president in Campbell’s 127-year history. The search for the school’s fifth president has begun.
Ben Thompson, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, pointed out Wallace’s retirement during his comments, leading to a standing ovation from the nearly 4,000 people on hand.
For Daniel Craver of High Point, Campbell University will be remembered as the place where “brotherhoods were born.” “I’m leaving here with people I will consider friends for life,” Craver said.
Suanne McKay of Lillington and Erica Scott of Fayetteville earned their Master of School Administration degrees Saturday, and both said they’ll always remember the “crucial conversations” that made up a large chunk of their curriculum.
McKay said their group of five will always be indebted to professor Peggy Smith. “She prepared us well,” McKay said. “She’ll always be more than a professor to us.”
Scott is leaving this summer to teach at the American School in Dubai. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Scott said. “And Dr. Smith and the School of Education allowed me to follow my dream.”
Lourdes Rose of Buies Creek earned her degree in trust and wealth management Saturday, as well as her MBA. The Greensboro native, who also played tennis during her time at Campbell, said she chose the school’s trust program in part because of its impressive record of job placement.
The choice paid off. Starting June 30, Rose will be a trust advisor for Regions Bank in Tampa, Fla. “It was a challenge balancing school work and athletics, but I learned a lot by doing it,” Rose said. “I’m excited about today, and I can’t wait to get started in Florida.”