Catawba College awarded 286 students their diplomas in two separate commencement exercises held Saturday, May 10th in Keppel Auditorium. A few of the graduates followed in the footsteps of relatives when they attended Catawba and earned their degrees.
2008 graduate Brett Wilhelm of Cleveland received his diploma from Catawba three years after his sister, Ashley, and his mother, Tonya Ketchie Wilhelm, accepted theirs at the institution. He is considering following in his parents' footsteps and using his sociology degree to pursue a career in law enforcement. Brett's father, Mark Wilhelm, is the chief of police in Salisbury, while Tonya Wilhelm works for the Kannapolis Police Department. Ironically, two of Brett's cousins, Jacqueline White of Mount Ulla and Hillary Hampton of Salisbury, also earned degrees from Catawba on May 10th , sharing Brett's graduation day.
When Mollie Landers of Williamsport, Pa., walked across the stage and received her diploma, she completed the Catawba education that her maternal great-aunt, Frances Shade Bower of Milton, Pa., had begun 62 years before. Mrs. Bower, who attended Mollie's graduation, was a student at Catawba for only two years, from 1946 to 1948, before finances forced her to transfer back to Lycoming College in Pennsylvania where she completed her degree in 1950.
"It was 60 years ago this month that I went home to Pennsylvania and have never been back," explained Mrs. Bower, a retired science teacher. "I was so elated to be returning that I was telling folks at my church that I had been invited."
Through their conversations about Catawba, Mollie and her great-aunt even discovered that they had lived in the same residence hall on campus, Barger-Zartman, during their time as students.
Mollie, who majored in religion and philosophy with a concentration in outdoor ministries, will attend Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., this fall as a Catawba College Lilly Fellow. In 2007, she was the first student from Catawba to attend National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Patagonia, Chile.
Mollie's father, Phil Landers, noted that Mollie's graduation will mark the end of 20 consecutive years of tuition payments for him. Mollie is the youngest of the five Landers' children, all of whom attended and graduated from college.
Salisbury brothers, Samuel Ross Ketner and Charles Matthew Ketner, both graduated from Catawba on May 10th, but in different ceremonies. Sam, a day student and a member of the soccer team, earned his degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing. Matt, three years older than his brother, was a student in Catawba's School of Evening and Graduate Studies who earned a bachelor of business administration degree.
The Ketner brothers will not be among those Catawba graduates who are hunting jobs after graduation; both are already gainfully employed. Sam works for Capital Ford in Raleigh in a management training program, while Matt is employed as a pilot with Continental Airlines.
Graduating senior Brad Roach of Washington, N.C., was not among his peers for commencement exercises. The former Catawba College Indians quarterback was attempting to line up a job playing football for the Baltimore Ravens. Brad is at an NFL camp with that team, trying out as a free agent.
During the 2 p.m. ceremony, Carlin Ours' 85-year-old grandmother from Keyser, W. Va., Geraldine Reinhart, looked on as he graduated with magna cum laude honors. Carlin, who lives in Mooresville and is currently employed as an electrical superintendent, is planning to use his college degree to launch a career change and a plunge into more education. This fall, he will enter Wake Forest Divinity School and plans to become an ordained Lutheran minister.
"I should have gone [to college] years ago," Carlin explained. "My dad wanted all of his kids to go to college and I finally have."
Pat Lippard of Salisbury attended son Steve's 2 p.m. graduation exercise with her friend and Steve's godmother, Tippie Miller of Salisbury. "He came here as a day student before, but he quit," Pat explained of her son. "Now he's in his 40s, works fulltime, has three children, and he told me that this time around at Catawba, he got something out of it."
The May 10th Commencement Exercises marked the last at the institution for Catawba's retiring 20th President, Dr. Robert Knott. Dr. Knott's six-year tenure at the college ends May 31st. He will be succeeded on June 1 by Dr. W. Craig Turner, former president of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.
PHOTOS: Graduation 2008
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