Photo Gallery | Lots of storylines in Catawba College Commencement
SALISBURY - 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. Cameron Lovelace of Cherryville received his diploma on May 12, but is already working fulltime at Team Chevrolet in Salisbury; to date, he has sold more than a half dozen vehicles there.
Alexander Kalmbach of Mason, Ohio, is also a fortunate graduate. His degree in business administration has helped him land a fulltime job with Intelligrated, Inc. in Ohio, and he’s hopeful that his new company will help pay for him 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.’ ”
Three Catawba College graduates were recognized for academic excellence during Commencement Exercises on May 12. Two were honored as the Whitener Award recipients during the 10 a.m. ceremony, while one student was honored as the Barbara Andrews Award recipient during the 2 p.m.
The Whitener Awards are the most prestigious awards given by Catawba College to graduating seniors in the traditional day program. The awards are presented each year at the Graduation Ceremony in memory of Dr. Edgar Whitener of High Point, North Carolina, who served as a trustee of Catawba College from 1921 to 1966 and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1925 to 1944.
The medals honor the man and woman in the graduating class who embody, to a high degree, the qualities of good character, leadership, and scholarship. Recipients are nominated with final selections made by the faculty. This award has been presented annually since 1927.
Claire E. Robinson
The female recipient of the Whitener Award for 2012 is Claire E. Robinson of Houston, Texas. A theatre arts major, with a concentration in design and production, she minored in English, distinguishing herself both in and out of the classroom.
She has been involved with Blue Masque – a Catawba student organization founded in support of theatre arts, Alpha Psi Omega – the theatre arts honor society, Alpha Chi – an academic honor society, and Phi Epsilon – an honorary scholastic society.
An Honors student at Catawba, she has been active in the college’s Honors Program Student Council, serving as a representative on it for two years and as its chair for two years. She has been instrumental in organizing her fellow Honors students in preparing and serving breakfast several times a semester at the local Rowan Helping Ministries.
She has served as a tutor in our Writing Center, working with her peers of all skill levels in one-on-one sessions to improve their writing skills. She has also served as co-manager for the Corner Coffee and in that capacity, she has helped organize campus events and develop work schedules and work shifts at the coffeehouse.
The male recipient of the 2012 Whitener Award is Yakir Malul of Rishon Le-Zion, Israel. He majored in business administration, with a concentration in accounting, and minored in sociology. His efforts in the classroom have consistently landed him on the Dean’s List.
In recognition of his academic performance in his major concentration -- accounting, he was recently a 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.
A competitive student-athlete, he has been a member of the Swim Team during his college career, earning academic all-American honors. He has also served as a resident assistant.
Active in the Student Government Association on campus, he has served as sophomore class senator, executive treasurer, and most recently, as executive president. He has been a member of the Philomathians, a men’s service organization on campus, and has served on the CatawbaPalooza Planning Committee. He has found time off campus to be an active volunteer at the local homeless shelter and the animal shelter. He has even volunteered to provide swimming lessons to children at Nazareth’s Children’s Home.
The Barbara Andrews Award
Each year, the college recognizes with the Barbara Andrews Award the graduating senior in the School of Evening and Graduate Studies who most successfully embodies the attributes of character, leadership and scholarship. This award was established and named in honor of Barbara Andrews, the first director of this Program at Catawba College.
The selection is made by the Catawba College faculty from the six graduating seniors in the program with the highest grade point averages. Students eligible are those who have attended Catawba for at least two years and have earned a cumulative grade point average of at least a 3.5.
Dawna Marie Messier
Dawna Marie Messier is the 2012 recipient of the Barbara Andrews Award. She earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree, following in her husband’s footsteps by earning her degree from Catawba, after he earned his in May 2010. She also has two children who are currently college students, one enrolled at UNC Charlotte and the other at UNC Chapel Hill.
Prior to attending Catawba, she attended the University of New Hampshire and Keene State College. Her future educational plans may include pursuing a master’s degree in library science since she says she would love to work in a library. Messier currently works as a guidance secretary at Harris Road Middle School in Concord and her prior employment has been in the grocery industry.
Active in the community, she is a former Girl Scout pack leader and PTSO member. She has volunteered at numerous shelters and delivered meals on wheels.
A 1956 Catawba College alumnus and six-time U.S. Ambassador, William Lacy Swing, received the O.B. Michael Award for 2012 at the college’s 10 a.m. commencement exercise on May 12.
Swing, a native of Lexington, N.C., has enjoyed a long career at the U.S. Department of State, serving as a six-time ambassador and managing some of the largest diplomatic missions and foreign development and humanitarian aid programs in two hemispheres. He has served as Ambassador to Congo-Brazzaville, Liberia, South Africa, Nigeria, Haiti, and Congo-Kinshasa. He currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland, where he serves as the Director General of the International Organization for Migration.
The O. B. Michael Award has been presented annually since 1938 by the Catawba College Board of Directors of the Alumni Association. It is given 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.
While a student at Catawba, Swing earned his bachelor’s degree with three majors – one in religion and philosophy, one in English and one in history. He graduated from Catawba magna cum laude and went on to Yale University where he earned a bachelor of divinity degree. He completed post-graduate studies at Tubingen University in Germany and at Harvard University.
When he served as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Swing successfully led all facets of the largest UN peacekeeping operation in history. Prior to his work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he served from 2001 to 2003 as the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Western Sahara and Chief of the Mission for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. His diplomatic assignments in countries facing significant migration movements gave him a deep understanding of the many factors affecting international migration.
Two long-serving faculty members at Catawba College were recognized during the college’s commencement exercises on Saturday, May 12. Dr. Michael Baranski, a professor of biology with 38 years of service, and Dr. Laurel Eason, a professor of English with 21 years of service, will retire at the end of this academic year.
Dr. Michael Baranski
Baranski joined the Catawba faculty in 1974 and has spent his career at Catawba teaching a wide range of subjects, most notably field courses. He has also taken a leadership role on campus promoting environmental preservation, conservation, and awareness among his students and the public at large.
A native of West Virginia, Dr. Baranski earned his bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from West Liberty State College, now West Liberty University. He earned his doctorate in ecology and botany from N.C. State University.
During his career at Catawba, Baranski has inspired his students to pursue careers in subject areas that he taught, published and presented acclaimed scholarly work, and garnered awards and accolades from his peers in academe.
The Association of Southeastern Biologists honored him in 2009 with its Meritorious Teaching Award in recognition of his excellence in teaching. In 2008, he was the recipient of the Elizabeth Ann Bartholomew Award, given annually by the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society.
He has served for over two decades on the N.C. Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Advisory Committee and has conducted natural areas inventories for the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Trust for N.C., the N.C. Natural Heritage Program, the Rowan County Parks and Recreation Commission, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He has also served as president of the North Carolina Academy of Science, the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society and the Association of Southeastern Biologists.
Although Baranski has been a member of the faculty at Catawba College, he has also had teaching appointments at other institutions, including the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, the Highlands Biological Station, North Carolina State University, Duke University and UNC-Charlotte.
With a nod to his passion for the environment, Lake Baranski in Catawba’s Ecological Preserve is named in his honor. An endowed scholarship at Catawba also bears his name for his foresight and willingness to take the environmental lead long before that was the acknowledged “right thing” to do.
Married to wife Julie, the couple has two adult children.
Dr. Laurel Eason
Dr. Eason joined the faculty at Catawba College in 1991 and will retire after 21 years of service at Catawba, but her career as a teacher has spanned a total of 47 years. She has taught at other institutions including Montgomery Bell Academy, the Universities of Tennessee and Arkansas, Battle Ground Academy, Vanderbilt University and The University of Tubingen in Germany.
Eason attended Wesleyan College for two years before earning her undergraduate degree in English from Emory and Henry College. She earned her master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Arkansas. Later, she earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in German Language and Literature from Vanderbilt University.
She studies and writes about literatures of the West, especially of the 19th Century American, British, German, and Russian novels. At Catawba, she has taught English and German and has served as a Freshman Advisor. She says that some of her fondest Catawba memories involved “one-on-one conversations with students and colleagues, and ‘electric moments’ in class.”
Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa while a student at the University of Arkansas, she was named one of six Outstanding Teachers of the Humanities in Tennessee by the Tennessee Humanities Council in 1988 and in 1990, was the recipient of a year’s fully funded sabbatical for a study of five Victorian novels from five Western countries from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She was awarded Catawba’s Swink Prize for Outstanding Classroom Teaching in 2008.
Eason has been married for almost 46 years to Dr. Douglas Eason who recently retired as president of Mitchell Community College in Statesville. The two are parents of two adult children.