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UPDATED: 3/31/20 - 11:28 a.m.

Persistence Pays Off for Catawba College Graduates in Class of 2017

May 13, 2017

Category: Academics, Alumni, Business & Economics, Evening & Graduate, Events

Morgan receives his diploma from President Lewis

Catawba College awarded degrees to 265 of its graduates on Saturday, May 13th and Dustin Morgan of Mocksville was one of the recipients. He says he feels fortunate to have earned his degree and confides that he has faced and overcome adversity to get to this point.

Morgan began his college career at Louisburg College, then transferred to Catawba in 2009 as a Business Administration major. He had hoped to continue playing football at Catawba, but his unfamiliarity with rules for playing eligibility only allowed him to play football for one season. In transferring, he lost credit hours, and when he switched his major to Music Business, it further affected his ability to graduate in a timely fashion. He was also out of financial aid. Then, the severe illness and death of his grandmother, a very influential figure in his life, caused him to flounder and lose focus.

He had to drop out of Catawba in spring of 2012 owing a balance. He went to work, holding three different jobs – a full time job at FedEx, a part-time job at Costco and a part-time position with a landscaping company. It took him several years of working and a little help from his best friend to pay off his balance at Catawba and return to college, but he did.

In the fall of 2016, he re-enrolled in the School of Evening and Graduate Studies, pursing a major in Business Administration with a concentration in Information Systems. And this time, he successfully completed his goal.

“It’s definitely a humbling experience. I believe in finishing what I start no matter how long it takes and I’ve achieved that,” the 29-year-old Morgan said. “I’m the first in my family to earn a college degree and even though I’m still paying off a balance for earning it, it’s worth it. I’ll be able to use my degree to get a better job and break the cycle of struggling.”

Quite a few graduates in the traditional day program already have their next steps in place following commencement. Some are headed to graduate school and others have jobs.


When Brad Smethurst departs Catawba, the Toronto area native is headed north, back across the border, to an associate position in the Assurance Group of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Smethurst, recruited to Catawba on a tennis scholarship, was a four-year varsity athlete who pursued a major in Accounting and a double minor – one in Information Systems and the other, an individualized minor in French Language and Culture. His plans are to join three others in his family, including his parents and his brother, in careers as CPAs.


Rebecca Aclin of Glenn Dale, Md., heads to work as a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Crystal Reyes of Salisbury has a job as a financial services representative at State Employees Credit Union in Kannapolis.

Salisbury resident Justin Burroughs, the male recipient of the 2017 Whitener Award, will head to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to pursue a Ph.D. in Polymer Chemistry. Caleb Garner of Robbins heads south to pursue a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in Lighting and Sound Design and Technology from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Some graduating from the School of Evening and Graduate Studies hope to improve their employment positions, including April Roher of Concord, the 2017 recipient of the Barbara Andrews Award. With her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management, this transfer student from CPCC says she is actively seeking a promotion with her longtime employer.

In his charge to the 2017 Catawba graduates, President Brien Lewis shared: “You have successfully transitioned from Catawba student to Catawba alumni, and in your diploma folders, each of you will find a Catawba Alumni Association membership card. This card, we hope, will serve as a reminder to you of your time and accomplishments at our institution and it will also allow you some privileges and benefits as an alumni association member.

“So graduates, as you go forth, know that Catawba will watch and support you as you follow your dreams, your hearts and your intuition – and we will celebrate proudly with you as you reach your highest potential. And remember that wherever your life’s journey takes you, Our Catawba will always be here to welcome you ‘home’ to your alma mater.”

Founded in Newton, N.C., in 1851, 2017 marks the 166th year in the life of Catawba College.

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