12/19/04 — Mount Olive College graduation held Saturday

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Mount Olive College graduation held Saturday

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on December 19, 2004 2:01 AM

More than 300 students from all five Mount Olive College campuses had another reason Saturday to celebrate the season: Their graduation.

Dr. Donald Ribeiro, a Pitt County physician, Mount Olive College trustee and ordained Free Will Baptist minister delivered the commencement speech.

Ribeiro said he had been blessed with the gift of "free-flowing speech."

"That means I like to hear myself talk," he added. But he assured the audience that his speech, like his stature, would be short.

He told the graduates that important events often happen quickly and may seem of little importance, but they could change a person's life forever.

When he was 13 a teacher suggested he become a doctor, telling him that since this was America, he could be anything he wanted to be.

Ribeiro said he learned that wasn't quite true because he had to give up his dream of becoming a basketball player for the North Carolina Tarheels when he reached his final height of 5-foot-5.

"My hoop dreams went up in smoke," he said.

A few months after his conversation with his teacher, he had another life-changing event.

On April 13, 1974, he became a Christian.

That's when he realized that the message from his teacher was almost true.

"As a child of God, you can be whatever God wants you to be," he said. "Because nothing is impossible with God, and never underestimate your ability to influence someone's life."

During the ceremony, Edward Kelley Smart received the Thomas R. Morris Award for strong leadership and academic excellence. Dr. Ellen S. Jordan, vice president for academic affairs, said that Smart only received one "B" the entire time he was at Mount Olive College.

Smart can use the $2,000 cash award as he pursues a divinity degree from Campbell University.

Frank B. Holding was given an honorary law degree for his "high standards of excellence in his work and life." Holding, a Smithfield native, is the executive vice chairman and director of First Citizens Bank.

Mount Olive College is a private, liberal arts institution sponsored by the convention of Original Free Will Baptists. It has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro and the Research Triangle Park.