05/08/05 — Diplomas awarded to 325 graduates at MOC

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Diplomas awarded to 325 graduates at MOC

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 8, 2005 2:09 AM

MOUNT OLIVE-Mount Olive College enjoyed the largest enrollment in its history this academic year, said President J. William Byrd during commencement exercises Saturday afternoon in College Hall.

Diplomas were conferred upon 325 graduates, having completed studies at locations in Mount Olive, Goldsboro, New Bern, Research Triangle Park and Wilmington. Fall term peaked at 2,796 students, he said, with spring term numbers at 2,790.

Dr. Thomas R. Morris, a benefactor of seven annual awards for students and professors at the college and four awards within the Original Free Will Baptist Church, was the graduation speaker. He was also named a "distinguished friend," Byrd said.

"The Board of Trustees of Mount Olive College does on some rare occasions choose to recognize a person for outstanding achievement in their work and extraordinary service to the college," Byrd said. The award was last presented in 1997.

Morris grew up on a Wayne County tobacco farm, working his way through college selling Bibles door to door. He was later commissioned as an army medical officer and lost his vision during the Korean conflict. In his remarks to the graduates, he mentioned the rampant growth of the crime of identity theft.

"They may steal your money; they may steal your good name," he said. "But no one can ever steal your college education."

Five student awards were also presented during the ceremonies.

*Jamie L. Thompson of Kinston received the Perret award, presented for the highest academic average to the rising junior who has completed two years of full-time study at the college. Ms. Thompson has a grade-point average of 3.985 and is majoring in religion.

*Kelley Frances Holmes, a summa cum laude graduate with a bachelor of science degree, received the Lora W. and Maurice H. King Award, given to the non-traditional student with the highest academic average. Ms. Holmes completed her studies at the Research Triangle Park location.

*Daniel R. Pettus of Goldsboro received the distinguished 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. Pettus graduated with a 3.918 grade-point average, earning a bachelor of arts degree in religion.

*The Martin Award, given in honor of Lorelle F. Martin, professor emerita who taught at the college from 1957-1987, annually goes to the graduate with the highest academic average. Nathaniel Grubbs of Elizabeth City, a summa cum laude graduate with a bachelor of science degree in biology, was this year's recipient.

*Dr. David Rigsbee, chair of the language and literature department, received the Morris Award for Excellence in Teaching at the college. He joined the faculty in 1997 and is a published and highly honored poet.