UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

At December Commencement, Lots of Stories

011211NewsAndNotes_Commencement2UNCG awarded 1,549 degrees – 1,145 bachelor’s, 326 master’s, 10 specialist in education and 68 doctorates – at December commencement. Behind every one of those degrees is a story.

Commencement speaker Lew Brown (Bryan School) spoke about Ashley Carney from Raleigh. In an email to Brown, Carney described herself as having been an indifferent high school student with mediocre grades.

She only came to UNCG after admissions counselor Amy Blakeley (now Matthews) used a day off to drive her to and from Greensboro for a campus visit. She credits Yolanda McLean in the UNCG Financial Aid Office with helping her make the successful transition to college.

Carney graduated cum laude Thursday with a bachelor’s in consumer, apparel and retail studies. Without telling Carney, Brown invited McLean and Matthews, who Carney calls an “angel,” to the December ceremony. They were among the thousands cheering as Carney shed tears of joy.

“I hope Ashley’s story has reminded you of the power of one – the power of one person to shape the life of another,” Brown said. “The power of Amy. The power of Yolanda.”

The student speaker, Radmila Petric, talked about how her family came to the United States to escape civil war in Sarajevo. Learning a new language and adjusting to life in a new country were difficult. So were her studies as a master’s student in biology. Research projects took her to the oak woodlands of central California, the coastal plains of North Carolina and the Arctic lakes of Alaska.

“It was difficult being away from loved ones for long periods of time, not to mention working long hours, showering only once a week and sharing small quarters with people you barely knew,” she said, “but the skills I acquired as a graduate student at UNCG are invaluable. … I have loved the challenge.”

Chancellor Linda P. Brady presided at the ceremony, where UNCG awarded its first three history PhDs to Theresa J. Campbell, Cory Joe Stewart and Angela Page Robbins. Campbell and Stewart were hooded by professor Robert Calhoon; Robbins was hooded by associate professor Lisa Levenstein.

In addition to telling Carney’s story, Brown shared emails he received from other graduating students. He asked them to tell him in 140 characters or less the most important thing they learned at UNCG:

Candice Burrows from Eugene, Ore., wrote, “Everyone has something to say that merits being heard. It is not a selfish ‘something,’ it is a gift to those who listen. Take the gift – listen.”

Henry Miller from Clemmons wrote, “Returning to UNCG as an adult after dropping out in 1977 has convinced me that at 19 I did not know as much as I thought I did.”

Megan Bocci from Greensboro wrote, “I learned that if I have the determination of a 1-year-old, I can succeed at anything.”

Michael Hicks from Heppenheim, Germany, wrote, “College gives you more questions than answers, but with a richer mind, you make better choices.”

Kathy Vannachith from Visalia, Calif., wrote, “The most valuable thing I learned is that you can never be too early for anything, especially parking.”

Jared Lance from Oak Ridge wrote, “To learn about history, literature and art is really to learn about us. To learn that we are more alike than different gives me hope.”

Brown also passed along some advice of his own: “We call this a commencement ceremony. The word commencement means the beginning. Graduation is not the end of learning but just the beginning. Learn or re-learn something every day. Keep on learning and growing.”

Read the full text of Brown’s address here.

In addition to Brady and Brown, participants included David H. Perrin, provost and executive vice chancellor; John Gamble, chair of the Faculty Senate; Ann Goodnight, member of the UNC Board of Governors; and Keith Ayscue, president of the Alumni Association.

Dr. Daniel Winkler, faculty marshal and mace bearer; Stephen Pritchard, chief marshal; and Malik Barrows, undergraduate tassel turner, also took part in the ceremony. The University Bell was rung by Angela Fate of the December class and Ann Phillips McCracken, an alumna of the Class of 1960.

By Dan Nonte
Photograph of Dr. Lew Brown by Chris English.