Jobs, better jobs, and more education were on the minds of Catawba College graduates Saturday, May 12, following two commencement exercises held in Keppel Auditorium.
"I feel really great to have a fulltime job to go to," explained Jacqueline Hodgson of Pittsfield, Mass., a graduate of the traditional day program who double majored in Business Administration and Spanish. Her fulltime job will take her to Provo, Utah to utilize her Spanish skills working in customer service for Vivint, a home automation company.
Closer to home, graduate Jessica Gaskill of Salisbury will soon begin work in a marketing position for Shat-R-Shield of Salisbury.
Alexander Kalmbach of Mason, Ohio, is also a fortunate graduate. His degree in economics and finance has helped him land a fulltime job with Intelligrated, Inc. in Ohio, and he hopes to go to graduate school after he has worked there a year or so.
Other graduates, like Lori Fraley of Cleveland, will be seeking more education. Fraley, who majored in chemistry, will be starting pharmacy school at UNC Chapel Hill in August, but until then she says, "I plan to continue working at CVS here in Salisbury as a pharmacy technician."
Yakir Malul of Le-Rishon, Israel, also has his sights set on more education. He majored in business administration, with a concentration in accounting, and minored in sociology, and has been accepted into the Master of Accountancy program at North Carolina State University and is currently one of the 14 finalists for a full fellowship into that program.
Graduate Stephanie Cook of Alpharetta, Ga., earned her bachelor's degree in communication and will go on to graduate school at High Point University, pursuing a master's degree in strategic communication. She hopes to land a part-time job while completing her graduate coursework.
Clay Davis of Kannapolis began working on his degree in business administration through the School of Evening and Graduate Studies in 2007 and finally had it in hand on May 12. "I could have finished sooner, but I didn't want to go to summer school," he said. He hopes it will help better his career.
Glen Furr of Boonville also hopes his degree in business administration will help him in his career, but he explained that earning it through the School of Evening and Graduate Studies was "a personal goal of mine."
"It's something I started 24 years ago," Furr continued, "and it's something I wanted to do – it's a personal accomplishment."
Catawba President Brien Lewis officiated at the commencement exercises as 295 degrees were conferred. Eleven individuals included in the degree total were awarded Master of Education degrees, while the remainder of the graduates received bachelor's degrees.
Two Catawba alumni, both members of Catawba's Class of 2002, were tapped to provide the commencement address for the 10 a.m. traditional day program ceremony and for the 2 p.m. School of Evening and Graduate Studies ceremony. Jasika Nicole Pruitt, who portrays Junior Special Agent Astrid Farnsworth in the Fox television series, "Fringe," offered the address for the 10 a.m. ceremony. Robert Kincaid, the vice president of supply chain at RockTenn in Winston-Salem, delivered remarks for the 2 p.m. ceremony.
In her remarks, Jasika Pruitt told the graduates that earning their degree created an opportunity for them to begin to write their own stories. "At my own graduation, I was frozen with fear and unable to fully take part in what was happening because of it; the end of my four years at Catawba had suddenly brought me more freedom than I knew what to do with, because it was now MY turn to map out how I wanted my story to go. It was my turn to write it. I got to decide what I was graduating to next."
Pruitt said her dream of moving to New York City to be on Broadway was something she worked hard to make come true. "For a while after I graduated, my story was to work at Chili's selling baby back ribs." But that job was simply a means to an end because "I knew that writing my own story would not come without its sacrifices."
She eventually saved enough to move to New York City, but she did not find success immediately, rather she found temporary jobs and "survived on peanut butter and Wendy's Dollar menus." Ten years after graduation, she noted that she still has not made it to Broadway, although she has achieved success on television, in films and commercials.
"My hope for you, class of 2012, is that you embrace the responsibility of drafting your own stories with gratitude and grace, that you allow yourselves to be swept up in the beautiful, unexpected moments of your life without losing sight of what makes you feel both happy and whole." Pruitt concluded, "I urge you to write your stories with vigor and commitment. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Relish in the journey of your story, and remember to write in pencil."
Robert Kincaid said that earning his degree at Catawba "allowed me to fulfill a lifelong desire to have a college education which led to my going to grad school at Chapel Hill, which allowed me to advance in my field." But even though his education helped him advance in his career, he encouraged those gathered to "get a life, a real life, not a hell bent pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the speed boat or the larger house."
Kincaid likened life to a yardstick and asked that his listeners live life by noticing the small marks on the yardstick, not "foot to foot."
"Live your life in the details and the wonderful world of the small marks," he said. "Counting the small marks, I'm convinced, will make your life seem longer… no doubt that part of this analogy is very apparent…but my challenge to you is that if you live your life counting those small marks; it will be much, much richer. The details of those ‘small marks' that you've lived in your life will forever paint pictures in your mind and give you a context and perspective as well as a contentment that that will stay with you forever.
"Live your life; don't let it live you."
Dr. Joseph B. Oxendine, who served between March 2011 and April 15, 2012 as Catawba's interim president, had the final word with the graduates at both the 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. exercises. He told them: "In your career plans, I encourage you to pursue the highest goals that you can envision. Strive for positions that stretch your imagination and your aspirations. I have always believed that ‘if you can conceive it, you can achieve it.' "
PHOTOS: Graduation 2012
Three Catawba College Graduates Recognized with Awards
'56 Alumnus Who is a Six-Time U.S. Ambassador Receives O.B. Michael Award
Two Retiring Faculty Members Recognized at Catawba Graduation
2012 Baccalaureate Service and Marshals' Walk
List of Graduates
Tweets from Graduation 2012