Graduates’ four years marked by big change at Campbell

BUIES CREEK – Life is about to change dramatically for the 577 students who received their undergraduate and master’s degrees at Campbell University’s two commencement ceremonies held Saturday at the John W. Pope Convocation Center.

And it’s fitting for those who’ve spent the past four years in Buies Creek, as Campbell has changed drastically in their short time here.

“Change” was the theme of University President Dr. Jerry Wallace’s commencement speeches Saturday. From the return of football to the groundbreaking of North Carolina’s first medical school in 35 years, Campbell experienced unprecedented growth and change from 2008-2012.

 “Your’s has been a special and historical time,” Wallace told the graduates, pointing out that as freshmen, their class was the first to occupy the convocation center for the first-year medallion ceremony.

Students from the College of Arts & Sciences, Lundy-Fetterman School of Business and School of Education walked the stage in Saturday’s morning ceremony; while students from Campbell’s extended campuses – Research Triangle Park, Fort Bragg and distance learning – received their degrees in the afternoon. Campbell hosted ceremonies for the Norman A. Wiggins School of Law, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Divinity School Friday.

Honorary degrees were awarded to longtime Campbell supporters Bob Barker (former Campbell University Board of Trustees chairman) and his wife, Patricia Barker. The Barkers received a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree for their decades of dedication to Campbell’s success.

Summa Cum Laude graduate Ben Dyer, a biochemistry major; and Harnett County businessman Daniel B. Andrews received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards, presented annually to one student and one citizen who exhibit “a spirit of love for and helpfulness to other men and women.”

A posthumous degree was awarded to Amanda Littlejohn, the softball standout who lost her battle to cancer on Sept. 1, 2011. In April, Campbell’s newly renovated softball complex was named in Littlejohn’s honor.

Wallace told the graduates Saturday they’ll be entering a job market that has struggled in recent years, meaning a quality education is more important today than in years past. He pointed out that in large part because of the “change” and growth the last four years, Campbell’s “brand” has become more noticed and more respected by employers throughout the state and nation.

“When you receive your hard-earned degree today, Campbell will be your educational reference,” Wallace said. “Campbell’s name will forever be on your resume … in your engagement announcement, in your wedding announcement, in a frame on your wall, in your obituary, even on your license plates.”

The ceremonies were the climax of a day of nervousness, excitement and relief for the graduates themselves.

“I probably got four hours of sleep last night,” said Stedman Davis of Roxboro, who received his Bachelor of Business Administration Saturday. “I think I was anxious … it’s a big day. More excitement than nerves.”

Davis’ excitement was in part because he has a job lined up after graduation. He said four years ago, he had offers from a number of schools but chose Campbell for several reasons, one being that it reminded him of his hometown.

“Of all the schools I could have attended, Campbell couldn’t have been a better choice,” Davis said. “I had a great time.”

Holding a white Teddy bear wearing a graduation cap and covered in writing for his girlfriend (also graduating Saturday), Chris Mizelle of Ahoskie said it was a day of relief for him.

“My finals are done, and it’s time to walk,” said Mizelle, who will enter the seminary in the fall. “This is an exciting stage of my life.”

New Jersey native Kate Scro will be heading to Atlanta after graduation to work for Bank of America, making commencement the last step before her new life.

“I had a lot of great memories in Buies Creek,” she said. “But I’m excited to move on. I’m ready for that next step.”

To end his speech, Wallace offered advice borrowed from his wife, Betty Wallace, a 1972 Campbell graduate.

“Remember to always say ‘thank you,’” Wallace said. “Say ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, ma’am,” and ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir.’ Clean up your mess. Stand when any human being enters the room. Never walk in front of a lady. Enjoy your milk and cookies … and never forget to flush.”

Story by Billy Liggett

Photo by Bennett Scarborough