Catawba College President Craig Turner both congratulated and issued a challenge to the graduating seniors in the class of 2009. His remarks came in the form of a charge to the Catawba's 263 graduates during a 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. ceremony held Saturday, May 9th in Keppel Auditorium on campus.
Assuming his role as a teacher in his first commencement exercises as Catawba's 21st president, Turner offered "familiar, simple, direct, and short" advice for the graduates "to consider as you exit our doors and enter new ones." He advised them to "be a person of hope," "be a person of faith" and "be a person who loves."
One hundred and fifty-five students graduated from Catawba's traditional day program during the 10 a.m. ceremony, while 109 students in the College's School of Evening and Graduate Studies received their diplomas during the 2 p.m. exercise. At both 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., an almost at capacity Keppel Auditorium held families and friends of the students while the students' professors watched the proceedings from seats on stage.
Two of three triplets from Marmora, N.J., Ryan Taccarino and his sister, Nicole, walked across the stage to receive their diplomas during the 10 a.m. ceremony. Ryan earned his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration in information systems, while Nicole earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education. In graduating from Catawba, they followed in the footsteps of their mother, 1976 college alumna Suzanne Adams Taccarino.
Both Taccarino siblings have their eyes set on their futures. Ryan will return home after graduation to begin his job search for a position in network administration, while Nicole will remain in Salisbury where she plans to complete her student teaching in the fall, "hopefully in a kindergarten class," she said.
Charlie Aldridge of Salisbury finished the coursework in his communication arts major in December, but returned to campus to participate in the 10 a.m. commencement ceremony with his classmates. He is working now in the Rowan-Salisbury Schools as a language facilitator, but hopes to soon land a job in Latin America. "I want to teach English as a second language there," he explained. "I enjoyed my time at Catawba and I feel well-prepared now for the professional world."
2009 graduate Danielle Schneider of New Castle, Del., got good news about her future this week. On the eve of her graduation, she learned that she had landed a job teaching Spanish at a private school in Wilmington, Del., about 20 minutes from her home. But landing the job, she explained, took some immediate action. She finished exams on May 4th, flew home to Delaware on May 5th, had a job interview at the private school on May 6th, and then traveled back to Salisbury by car with her family for commencement activities on May 7th. While standing in a retail store in Salisbury on the afternoon of May 8th, she got a phone call from the school offering her the position. It was an offer she did not refuse.
Now, unlike the majority of her graduating peers, Schneider's employment future seems secure. "It was worth all the gyrations I went through," Schneider said. "It's a really terrific school and a great opportunity for me."
On Sunday, May 10th, Schneider leaves with more than 30 other students from Catawba for a college-sponsored, 28-day Spanish language immersion program in Costa Rica. She hopes to hone her Spanish language skills even more before she enters the classroom as teacher this fall.
Shahin Soltan Mohammadi of Gothenburg, Sweden, also received his diploma on May 9th. He is still weighing his future options. He has applied to graduate school in Sweden, but he is unsure if he will go there. He might decide "to do graduate school in the States," he said, "or I might take a year off and work and make some money."
Shane Flowe of Salisbury, Catawba's director of Public Safety, was among the graduates participating in the 2 p.m. ceremony. He smiled as he explained that he had earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in administration of justice "to set a good example for my 11-year-old daughter, Nicole."
Catawba's May 9th commencement exercises mark the close of the 158th academic year at the institution which was founded Newton, N.C., in 1851.
PHOTOS: 2009 GraduationEvents