Family, friends celebrate 470 graduates at Winter Commencement

Mother-daughter graduating duo, charter class among highlights of December commencement event

Amy Fisher is hooded after receiving her Doctorate in Health Sciences on Saturday.

Katelyn Fisher never crossed paths on campus with her mother, Amy Fisher, despite the fact that both have been enrolled at Campbell University the past few years. Katelyn was in Buies Creek to study exercise medicine and occupational therapy while Amy’s classroom was her home in Lillington, taking online courses as a student in the charter class of Campbell’s new Doctor of Health Sciences program.

On Saturday, mother and daughter finally shared a moment together on campus as each donned a cap and gown for Campbell’s Winter Commencement ceremony. They were among the roughly 470 to receive a degree on a big day made even more special by the happenchance of their shared graduation. 

“It was very emotional for me to be right in the middle of all of it and watch her walk the stage,” Amy said following the ceremony. “I’m extremely proud of her. She’s worked so hard being part of the band, working two other jobs and still graduating early [in three and half years].”

Katelyn, whose next stop is grad school, called the day “surreal.”

“We never thought we’d end at the same time, but I’m glad we did,” she said. “I’m proud of her, too.”

Charter class graduates 

Amy Fisher was one of 19 members of the charter class of the Doctor of Health Sciences program, which launched in August 2020 as North Carolina’s first such program, which is 100-percent online. The interdisciplinary doctorate equips students with skills and expertise “to positively shape the future of health care and health-related organizations” through three concentrations — health administration, rural health and interprofessional education. 

Graduating students are expected to work in health care, academia and government relations.

Amy Fisher, who has worked as a medical technologist and as the manager of blood services at Cape Fear Valley Health, said she is aiming for a role in hospital administration with her doctorate. She called the program and its director, Dr. David Coniglio, “incredible.”

“From the get-go, the whole team has been amazing — the counselors supported us along the way and worked hard to help get us through our presentations last summer.”

The graduates are entering the health care field at the right time. Demand for doctoral-level health sciences professionals has increased 134 percent between 2016-2019, and the demand is projected to continue for faculty in health care professions, health care administrators, medical directors, research analysts and directors, health information specialists and health care providers.

Trustee, longtime supporter honored

Buies Creek native and current Campbell University trustee Dr. Leah McCall Devlin received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award during Saturday’s commencement. 

Devlin has more than four decades of experience in public health practice in North Carolina, including 10 years as the Wake County Health Director and 10 years as the State Health Director for North Carolina where she served under two North Carolina Governors.

Devlin also served as professor of the practice at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health from 2009 until her retirement in 2023.

The award is named for late 19th century lawyer Algernon Sydney Sullivan, whose foundation’s mission is to inspire young people to lead lives of integrity, characterized by service above self and service to the community. 

“Receiving the award was an incredible honor,” Devlin said Saturday. “It was inspiring to be part of a commencement service and see how Campbell University provides such an opportunity for so many. Service is at the core of the mission of Campbell, and that mission is instilled in these students. I think so much of these graduates, and I am very deeply grateful, humbled and honored today to be a part of it.”

Devlin is the daughter of legendary Campbell basketball coach (the late) Fred McCall, who also served as vice president for development for many years, and Pearle McCall. She has served on Campbell’s Board of Trustees since 2014, including service on the Executive Committee of the Board and as Vice Chair of the Board.

Home away from home

It’s tradition at Campbell commencement ceremonies for the provost to ask family and friends in the crowd to save their cheers and applause for the end of each degree group. It’s also tradition for those family and friends to completely disregard the request.

Perhaps the loudest group — at least for the three seconds after her name was called — was the family of Monserrat Andrade, a kinesiology graduate from just outside of Winston-Salem. Andrade was heavily involved in student groups during her time at Campbell, joining the TARTAN team to help incoming freshmen adapt to college life, and joining student ministry groups.  

“My time at Campbell was significant in discovering my identity, especially finding my identity rooted in Christ,” she said. “Joining the student ministry was transformative, molding me into the leader I am today. Through this journey, I discovered purpose, a supportive community and the women I am and continuously striving to be.”

Andrade called Campbell her “second home” and said she’ll miss the warm, welcoming community. 

“This campus has been a home away from home, offering not just an education but lasting memories and relationships,” she said. “I’m thankful for the experiences Campbell has had in my life.”