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Catawba College 2005 Graduates Ready for Both Dreams and Real Lives to Begin

May 07, 2005

Category: Evening & Graduate, Students


“I can’t wait to move on – to put everything we’ve learned into action, especially music,” said Jason Rigney of Danville, Va., a 2005 Catawba College graduate.   “You can’t really know the business until you’re in it.”

Rigney was one of 300 Catawba College graduates who received their diplomas in two separate ceremonies held Saturday in Keppel Auditorium on campus.   This cum laude graduate plans to leave Salisbury later this month bound for Nashville, Tenn., accompanied by the three other members in his band, Labeling Deloris.   Rigney’s fellow band member, singer and rhythm guitar player Jennifer Reiff of Wilmington, also graduated with honors during Saturday’s ceremonies.

“In fact,” Rigney bragged, “the whole band got straight As this semester.”   Other band members include Catawba sophomore Andrew Boudouris of Waynesboro Va., the band’s drummer, and Jason’s older brother, Brad, who plays bass and lives in Danville, Va.

The band shares a collective dream of breaking into the music business and Rigney said Nashville seems to be just the right sort of place for that.   “It’s close to the (economic) living conditions we’re used to and they (Nashville music executives) value songwriting and both Jennifer and I do that.”

It’s a different dream that graduate Daniel Lynch of Pilot Mountain will be pursuing after his years at Catawba earning his degree in mathematics and playing Division II football.   Although he was released this year by the New England Patriots, he believes professional football is in his immediate future.   He’ll be trying to land a slot on either an arena football team or a Canadian football squad.

“I’m gonna play football somewhere.   The Patriots want me to get a year of experience before I come back and try out for them,” said Lynch, who played in the Cactus Bowl in early this year with fellow Catawba College football player, quarterback Luke Samples of Elkin.   Samples also graduated Saturday.

“I never imagined it coming to this,” Lynch explained.   It (graduation) seemed so far away when I started at Catawba and now it’s here.”

Marriage is in the immediate future for fellow graduates David Hughes of Pittsboro and Heather Hawkins of Troutman.   The couple plans to marry June 25 in the Omwake-Dearborn Chapel on campus, but on Saturday their feelings about graduation were anything but united.

“I’m just waiting for it to get here and get gone,” quipped Hughes, while Hawkins, a magna cum laude graduate, simply smiled and explained she’s excited about her future.   The two already have jobs lined up.   Hawkins will become a lateral entry science teacher and head volleyball coach at Statesville Senior High School in the fall, while Hughes will work in sales at L.B. Trailer in Harmony.

Magna cum laude graduate Emily McGaughy of Upland, Calif. finished her coursework at Catawba in December, but she flew back to North Carolina this week to participate in graduation exercises.   “I needed to touch base one last time,” she noted.   “You don’t work as hard as you do in college to not reap the benefits, to not take the diploma in hand and make the mom proud.”   Armed with her bachelor’s degree in religion, McGaughy plans to purse a master of arts degree and a master of divinity degree this fall at Pacific School of Religion in Berkley.

For Catawba, the graduation exercises marked the 154th year that the institution has granted degrees.   Close to 200 students in Catawba’s traditional day program walked across the stage in Keppel Auditorium to receive their diplomas in a 10 a.m. ceremony.   At 2 p.m., more than 100 students in the Lifelong Learning program received their degrees.   In a least two instances, familial ties bridged the two ceremonies.

Summa cum laude graduate Ashley Wilhelm of Cleveland, a student in the traditional day program, shared the joy of commencement with her mom, Tonya Ketchie Wilhelm, a graduate in the Lifelong Learning program.   Both received their diplomas in different ceremonies.   Commencement was also a shared, but separate experience for Demetrius Carlos Phipps, Jr. of Newport News, Va., a graduate in the traditional day program, and his wife, Tahira Shenika Phipps, a graduate in the Lifelong Learning program.

In his charge to the graduates, Catawba College President Dr. Robert Knott reminded them that “not one of you arrived at this day and place solely on your own effort.   Along the path, you have been challenged, nurtured and sustained by teachers, family and friends. While you were among us you drank from wells you did not dig – wells of wisdom dug by many who went before you and served to lead you along the way.   To them you owe a debt you can begin to repay through the continued development and use of your abilities and learning put in service to others.”

Whitener Award Recipients
Two students in the traditional day program were recognized during the 10 a.m. ceremony as recipients of the Whitener Awards.   These awards have been presented annually since 1927 to honor the man and woman in the graduating class who embody to a high degree the qualities of good character, leadership and scholarship. They are presented in memory of Dr. Edgar Whitener of High Point who served as a trustee of Catawba College from 1921 to 1966 and chairman of the board of trustees from 1925 to 1944.

Cristyn Harrison of Hickory, who double majored in therapeutic recreation and athletic training and double minored in Spanish and psychology, was the female recipient.   Her overall grade point average of 3.78 consistently earned her a place on the Dean’s List, the Presidential Honor Roll, and membership in several honor societies including Alpha Chi, Phi Epsilon, Phi Sigma Iota, and Psi Chi.

Additionally, Harrison was a student-athlete and served as co-captain of Catawba’s volleyball team.   She was a member of the Helen Foil Beard Society and president of the Student-Athletic Advisory Council.   She also volunteered for projects for Special Olympics and Make-A-Wish Foundation and was recognized for her volunteerism and community service at Catawba’s annual Awards Convocation, where she received both the Paul Fisher Service Award and the Patricia R. Whitley Award.   Harrison’s name is also among those listed in Who’s Who Among American College Students.

Luke Samples of Elkin was the male recipient of the 2005 Whitener Award and was an outstanding scholar and student athlete during his years at Catawba College.   He double majored in business administration and sports management and maintained an overall grade point average of 3.56.   His academic performance also earned him a regular place on the Dean’s List.   Like Harrison, his name is included in the 2005 Who’s Who Among American College Students.

Samples also distinguished himself on the football field, serving as quarterback for the Indians.   During his career, he was selected as the most valuable player in the South Atlantic Conference and this year, was tapped to play in the Cactus Bowl where his performance also earned him MVP honors at that event.   An active volunteer, he has contributed his time and energy to projects for Habitat for Humanity and others at Trinity Oaks.

Barbara Andrews Award Recipients
For the second time in consecutive years, two students in the Lifelong Learning Program shared the Barbara Andrews Award.   Recipients were Donna Jackson Patch and Timothy Michael Rusher, both of Salisbury.

The award was established and named in honor of Barbara Andrews, the creator of the Lifelong Learning Program at Catawba, and selection is made by the faculty.   It is given annually to the graduating senior in Catawba’s Lifelong Learning program who most successfully embodies the attributes of character, leadership and scholarship. Candidates must have earned at least a 3.5 cumulative grade point average.

Both Patch and Rusher majored in business management and were summa cum laude graduates who regularly were listed on the Dean’s List.   The two were also members of Catawba’s Beta Sigma Chi Chapter of the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society.

Patch, who would like to attend law school, is employed in the Human Resources Department at Avgol America, Inc. in Mocksville.   She and her husband are parents of four children.

Rusher is employed as an independent business consultant and he and his wife are parents of a son.

O.B. Michael Distinguished Alumna Award
Catawba College honored Dr. Shirley Peeler Ritchie ’52 of Salisbury during graduation exercises with the O. B. Michael Distinguished Alumna Award.

This award has been presented annually since 1938, by the Catawba College Board of Directors of the Alumni Association, to a graduate of the College who has made an outstanding contribution to the College and/or the larger society. Originally called the Citizenship Cup, it was established by the Reverend O.B. Michael, Class of 1919, in memory of his father, an alumnus of Catawba College and pioneer teacher and preacher.

Ritchie’s family has long been affiliated with Catawba.   Her father, the late Clifford A. Peeler, served on Catawba’s Board of Trustees and she is also a trustee, serving as secretary to the board.   Additionally, Ritchie has also been a member of the college faculty, serving in the teacher education department.

Her family is also well-known in the area, associated not only with Catawba, but with Cheerwine, a Salisbury original concocted by Ritchie’s grandfather, the late L.D. Peeler, in the basement of his wholesale grocery store.   Today, that company has 400 employees and operates as two entities – Carolina Beverage Corporation, run by Ritchie’s son Mark, and Piedmont Cheerwine Bottling Company, run by her son Cliff.

Ritchie earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.   She completed post-doctoral studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.   During her tenure on the faculty at Catawba between 1981 and 1993, she served on the faculty senate and was a member of the tenure committee.   She directed elementary education and the sixth grade summer program for gifted students held annually on campus.

She has previously been honored by Catawba with the Swink Award for outstanding classroom teaching, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, and an honorary doctorate of pedagogy.   She received the Champion for Young Children Award from the Rowan Partnership for Children, where she serves on the Board of Directors. Active in her church, St. John’s Lutheran, she also serves as chair of its Child Development Center and is a member of Rowan Regional Medical Center’s Special Care which insures quality care and education for pre-school children.

Ritchie is married to husband Raymond, also a Catawba alumnus from the class of 1953, and in addition to their sons, the couple has a daughter, Celia R. Jarrett, and six grandchildren.

Retiring Faculty Recognized
During Saturday’s graduation exercises, Catawba recognized Dr. Karl Hales, chair and professor of communication arts, who will be retiring from the College after 39 years of service, effective June 1, 2005.

Hales joined the Catawba faculty in 1966 and served for two years in the late 1970s as vice president of student affairs.   During his tenure, he has also served as the college marshal for 15 years, and lent his voice to announce home football games in Shuford Stadium for 25 years. For 14 years, he also announced men’s basketball games.   And, for more than a dozen years, he has served as the College’s faculty athletic representative. Hales will continue to teach some courses in the Lifelong Learning program and will also continue as the voice of Catawba football.

Baccalaureate and the Marshal’s Walk
Catawba held its Baccalaureate Service in Omwake-Dearborn Chapel on Friday, May 6 with remarks provided by the Reverend Fred Jordan of Brevard, a 1967 alumnus and parent of 2005 graduate Margaret Jordan.   His message was entitled, “Crossroads.”

Following the service, the graduates holding lighted candles were led by College Marshal, Professor David Pulliam, and Bagpiper Patrick Coleman of Brecksville, Ohio, parent of 2005 graduate Connor Coleman, from the Chapel along Oliver’s Way to the exterior of the Robertson College-Community Center.   There, the incoming SGA President Danielle Petrin of Indian Trail, outgoing SGA President Peter Arnold of Edgewater, Fla., and Pulliam spoke briefly to the seniors.   A reception for the students and their families followed in Peeler Crystal Lounge.