87-Year-Old Participates in Catawba's Commencement Exercise
May 14, 2011
It was 87-year-old Martha Rhea Hartley Platt of Salisbury who was the first baccalaureate candidate to walk across the Keppel Auditorium stage during Catawba College's Commencement Exercise on Saturday, May 14. For Platt, it was an opportunity to remedy a regret she had had for 52 years.
Although she is a 1959 alumna of the college, Platt never had the opportunity to receive her diploma during her class graduation. She received her bachelor's degree from Catawba in the mail. She missed the chance to participate in her commencement due to a mix-up that caused her to be one class short of graduating.
After her niece, Debbie Garrigues, contacted college officials about Platt's regret, the first-generation college graduate and a woman who worked for nearly 30 years as an educator got her chance at all the pomp and circumstance. In her cap and gown among members of the Class of 2011, Platt participated in Senior Investiture on May 12, receiving her hood during a ceremony at Omwake-Dearborn Chapel. Friday, May 13, she attended graduation rehearsal, and Saturday, May 14, she was back on campus, at ease among the graduates who robed and processed.
"Being around all these young people gives me energy," she proclaimed, and as she accepted her diploma from Catawba College President Dr. Joseph Oxendine on May 14, her wide smile and spry steps affirmed that. Members of Catawba's Class of 2011 gave Platt a standing ovation as she walked across the stage, while television crews from two Charlotte media outlets were on hand to record the event.