In 1972, Campbell University’s Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) welcomed its first cadre of students. At today’s 2018 winter commencement ceremony, one of the Campbell Battalion’s most distinguished and decorated alumni reminded new graduates to work hard, overcome fears and be kind to themselves.
Commencement speaker Susan S. Lawrence is an Iowa native, a retired United States Army Chief Information Officer and director of Accenture Federal Services. Lawrence graduated from Campbell with a psychology degree in 1979, and received an honorary degree during today’s ceremony, but said that college was not originally part of her post-high school plans.
Lawrence thought she would step into the role of wife and mother at a young age, but reconsidered when her boyfriend of three years was killed in a car accident. Looking for a way to go to school, she boldly enlisted in the military, a decision that brought her to Campbell University to become an officer and eventually took her to the highest ranks of the army.
“It was unimaginable to me that I should become CIO of the United States army. I started from empyting garbage cans and grew myself into a valued member of the team,” Lawrence reflected. “Wherever you’re headed after graduation, write down your unimaginable goals…and when you see your goal in sight, write the next unimaginable goal.”
Campbell University President J. Bradley Creed conferred more than 400 degrees at Saturday’s ceremony, including 39 associate degrees, 350 bachelor degrees, 41 master’s degrees and 57 doctoral degrees.
Maria Kurtzweil, who graduated with a health sciences degree in December 2017, took to the stage again this year to receive her second undergraduate degree in biology and pre-graduate studies.
After 20 years of service in the army, Kurtzweil came to Campbell from Fort Bragg. She is determined that her four-year old daughter, who cheered her on this morning, will see her accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
“You can’t limit yourself. I’m trying to do something so that when she’s my age, she knows what it looks like to set a goal that’s challenging for yourself.”
Kurtzweil echoed Lawrence’s remarks on pursuing unimaginable goals.
“You want a goal that you can look back on and think ‘yes, this year was awesome,’” she said. “Next year I think I’m going to run a marathon just to run it.”