05/09/04 — Mount Olive College holds 50th commencement

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Mount Olive College holds 50th commencement

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 9, 2004 2:07 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- More than 2,000 people packed into College Hall on Saturday afternoon for the 50th commencement ceremonies at Mount Olive College.

It was a year of records, said President J. William Byrd. He said 295 graduates received diplomas, but that number rose to 572 for the year with the inclusion of December 2003 graduates.

"Likewise, Mount Olive College is enjoying the largest enrollment in its history this academic year," he said. The fall term peaked at 2,456 students, he said, and the spring term enrollment, that will be completed next month, is at 2,520 students.

Since Mount Olive began as a junior college, it has expanded to four-year status and added satellite programs in Goldsboro, New Bern, Research Triangle Park and Wilmington.

Of the spring graduates, he said the breakdown was 106 from Mount Olive, 53 from Goldsboro-Seymour Johnson, 45 from Wilmington, 49 from New Bern, and 42 from RTP.

This year's graduation speaker was Robert Greczyn Jr., CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. He is also a member of the board of directors of the recently-establisehd Mount Olive College Foundation.

He told the audience he had two criteria as he prepared his remarks: significance and brevity.

He said that success is not about getting, but about giving back. He also urged them to spend the future wisely -- in work, in play, and in other pursuits that are meaningful -- and to contribute positively to the world.

"Whatever your dreams are, you can do it because we have the great fortune to be in America, because we have the freedom to succeed, to do whatever we choose to succeed," he said.

He offered them the same advice he said he has given his own children.

"I say it's not important what they choose to do with their lives," he said. "What is important to me is that whatever they choose to do, that they love it and whatever they choose to do, that they do it absolutely the best that they can do it."

An outstanding educator and four students were also recognized during the program.

Irene Weldon, associate professor of music, received the Dr. Thomas R. Morris Award for Excellence in Teaching.

At the college for 23 years, Ms. Weldon was described as one who believes in the potential of every student and has been successful "'pulling it out of them' by first instilling in them the confidence and belief she has in them herself."

Following are the student awards:

*The Perret Award, given to the rising junior with the highest academic average, went to David Marquez, originally from Venezuela. An exchange student who graduated from Topsail High School, Marquez is a baseball player and a sophomore biology major at the college, with a 3.845 grade-point average.

In presenting the award, Dr. Ellen Jordan, vice president for academic affairs, explained why Marquez was absent from the ceremonies.

"Six weeks ago, his mother was kidnapped," she said. "He stayed here and completed all his studies ... but he is being reunited with his family and it's going to be a very happy Mother's Day."

*Emily Joy Daughtry of LaGrange received the Dr. Thomas R. Morris Award for Academic Excellence, a $2,000 cash award given to the graduate who best exemplifies serious academic pursuit and love and breadth of learning.

She received a bachelor of science degree in accounting and graduated with a 3.87 grade-point average.

*Karen Southard of Clayton received the Lora W. and Maurice H. King Award, given to the non-traditional student with the highest academic average.

Mrs. Southard is director of clinical operations at Wayne Memorial Hospital and has been a registered nurse for 22 years. She completed her studies at the Research Triangle Park location and received a bachelor of science degree in management and organizational development.

*Bjorn "Sascha" Kahrs of Goldsboro was recognized as the graduate with the highest academic average.

A native of Germany, he received a bachelor of science degree with a double major in computer information systems and psychology. He attended Wayne Country Day School and is a previous Perret Award recipient at the college.