Graduate made his home in Buies Creek

BUIES CREEK – Robert Connolly grew up a military brat. Born in California, he spent most of his adolescent years on the East Coast before moving back west (way out west) to Hawaii, where he graduated high school.

In his first 18 years, he never stayed in one place more than six or seven years. Most of his stops lasted two to three years.

So when Connolly says he thinks of Buies Creek as “home,” there’s precedent. 

Connolly will receive his MBA from Campbell University’s Lundy-Fetterman School of Business Saturday, culminating eight years as a Campbell student. He received his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology in 2009 after coming to Campbell (site unseen) in the fall of 2004.

“When I was looking at colleges, it was between Campbell, Appalachian State, Wingate and others,” Connolly said. “Being a small private school with a Baptist affiliation, Campbell was my top choice. I went to a small Christian school in Hawaii, and I really liked that setting.”

He also wanted “laid back,” a far cry from the Washington, D.C.-Maryland area where his parents live now. Before long, Buies Creek began feeling like home to Connolly, who took pride in getting a North Carolina driver’s licence and voting in state elections.

“Steps like that made it feel more ‘official’ to me,” he said.

He also got involved. During his senior year, Connolly and four of his friends joined the cheerleading squad just in time for the return of Campbell football.

It was on that squad where he met Mary Catherine Day, now his fiancee.

Alas, Connolly’s time in Campbell will end shortly after he walks the stage Saturday morning at the John W. Pope Convocation Center, a building that didn’t exist when he first stepped foot in Buies Creek. Connolly and his soon-to-be-wife will move to Florida this month as he seeks a doctorate in physical therapy from the University of San Augustine.

The two will be sad to leave “home,” but are excited about the next step.

“Campbell University has been great for me, getting me ready for the next stage,” Connolly said. “The culture here is great; the morals they instill in you and send you away with are important. We’re both going to miss it, because this is where our story began. But we’ll have lot of good memories we’ll be taking with us, and coming back one day … that’s not an unrealistic thing.

“We’ll always be Fighting Camels.”

Below is a complete list of Campbell University commencement ceremonies, which begin this Friday and end Saturday.



When: 10 a.m. on Friday, May 11

Where: Progress Energy Performing Arts Center, Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh

Commencement Speaker: Maj. Gen. William K. Suter, U.S. Army; Clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States

Maj. Gen. William (Bill) Suter has been the Clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States since 1991. He is the 19 person to hold that position. Prior to coming to the Supreme Court, Suter was a career Army judge advocate. He retired with the rank of Major General.

Suter has served in numerous positions of responsibility around the world, including appellate judge, deputy staff judge advocate of the U.S. Army in Vietnam, staff judge advocate of the 101st Airborne Division, commandant of the JAG School, and the assistant judge advocate general of the Army. 

His military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal and the Parachutist Badge.

General Suter is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and the Tulane University School of

Law in New Orleans. He is a frequent lecturer at law schools, bar association meetings and civic functions. His hobbies include skiing, fishing, bird watching, and gardening.



When: 3 p.m. on Friday, May 11

Where: John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center in Buies Creek

Commencement Speaker: William Atkinson, president, CEO of WakeMed

William K. Atkinson serves as president and CEO of WakeMed Health & Hospitals, the largest private employer in Wake County and one of the largest health care systems in North Carolina. 

WakeMed is ranked as one of the nation’s top five hospitals in disaster preparedness, maintaining Wake County’s only Level I Trauma Center and its heart program leads the state in number of procedures.

Atkinson has more than 25 years of experience leading hospitals in both rural and urban settings. Prior to joining WakeMed, he served as president and CEO of New Hanover Health Network in Wilmington, Columbia Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver and Columbia Aurora Regional Medical Center in Aurora, Colo.

He has served as chairman of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, North Carolina Institute of Medicine, North Carolina Hospital Association and the North Carolina Center for Hospital Quality and Patient Safety.

Atkinson holds a doctorate in public policy and a master’s degrees in public administration from the University of Colorado at Denver. He also completed a master’s degree in public health from the University of South Carolina and is a graduate of the Executive Management Program from Yale University.

He is a native of Greensboro.



When: 7 p.m. on Friday, May 11

Where: Turner Auditorium, D. Rich Building in Buies Creek

Commencement Speaker: Dr. Daniel Vestal

Dr. Daniel Vestal has been a voice for Christian discipleship for over 40 years. He is a leader within the Baptist denomination and has been involved in ecumenical efforts and interfaith dialogue. He has served on the Executive Committee of the Baptist World Alliance and the Steering Committee for Christian Churches Together in the U.S.

Since 1996, he has been executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and was instrumental in beginning CBF in 1990-1991. He has been a pastor of Baptist churches in Texas and Georgia for 27 years and has traveled extensively as a preacher and teacher.

Educated at Baylor University (B.A., M.A.) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., Th.D.) he was the founding chairman of trustees for the George W. Truett Theological Seminary and was awarded the George W. Truett Distinguished Church Service Award by the Baylor Alumni Association in 2008.

He was honored by being inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. International Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in 2000.

Daniel has written numerous articles, contributed to seven books and authored four books, the latest being published by Upper Room Ministries, “Being the Presence of Christ: A Vision for Transformation.”





When: 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 12

Where: John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center in Buies Creek

Commencement Speaker: Dr. Jerry Wallace

Campbell University President Dr. Jerry Wallace is the University’s fourth president in 125 years, succeeding Dr. Norman A. Wiggins in 2003. Prior, Wallace was vice president for Academic Affairs and provost from 1984 to 2001.

A native of Rockingham, Wallace earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Government from East Carolina University. An ordained Baptist minister, he received the Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. He also earned the Master of Science and Doctor of Education degrees from North Carolina State University.



When: 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 12

Where: John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center in Buies Creek

Commencement Speaker: Dr. Jerry Wallace