12/18/05 — Mount Olive College has record number of graduates

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Mount Olive College has record number of graduates

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on December 18, 2005 2:08 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The largest graduation class in Mount Olive College history was challenged Saturday not to be afraid to take risks in the business world.

The speaker, Kim Quinn, a 1988 graduate of the school and president of Prima Tech USA of Warsaw, the nation's only producer of animal health delivery systems, said the 380 graduates must be prepared to meet the global challenge.

Quinn offered the graduates five suggestions for success in business:

*Surround yourself with competent people you can count on and motivate them because you have a huge responsibility if the company fails.

*Know your strengths and weaknesses, and get people who build on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.

*Focus on your customers -- a suggestion that he called "a no-brainer."

*Find the competitive edge with the best price, high quality and proximity to market.

*Recognize the importance of the support of your family.

"It's no surprise," Quinn said, "that starting a business is an enormous and demanding undertaking."

To show how demanding it was, he said he had to leave at halftime of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship basketball game to take care of business.

Quinn told the graduates that they would have to borrow money to get started -- and then pay it back -- meet a payroll, produce and market a product, and close sales. He said the chances of a new, small business surviving for five years was only 30 to 50 percent.

Quinn asked the graduates to decide if they are self-starters, can get along with others, can make decisions and take risks, have the physical and emotional stamina to drive a business through good times and bad, follow through to success, and accept disappointment if the business fails.

He also said new entrepreneurs should ask others for honest opinions on how to get started.

Quinn's company is one of only four in the world that delivers animal health care systems. It has annual sales of more than $5 million and more than 40 employees.

The school president, Dr. William Byrd, said he expected the school to graduate more than 700 people this year in the winter and spring. That figure, he said, would top last year's total of 640 in the two graduations.

The total included 155 from the Mount Olive campus, 48 from the Goldsboro campus, 55 from the New Bern campus, 59 from the Research Triangle Park campus and 63 from the Wilmington campus. The new Washington campus opened in October.

The only individual honor presented -- the Thomas R. Morris Award for academic excellence and a $3,000 payoff that went with it -- was presented to Roberto A. Bermudez of Warsaw. He graduated with high honors in biology and has applied to medical school.

The immediate past president of the school's alumni association, Romey McCoy, congratulated the new graduates.

The college's concert choir and the town's community instrumental ensemble performed special music; Myranda Gulledge, a graduating senior, sang the national anthem; Class President Michelle Thomas offered the invocation, and Dr. David Hines pronounced the benediction.

Byrd's closing remarks were interrupted near the end of the program with a fire alarm. It stopped once, drawing cheers from the large audience at Kornegay Hall, and then started again. It stopped about three minutes later.

"Someone found a way to make my remarks briefer than I intended," he said.

Byrd noted that the graduation was really a commencement, a beginning for the students. He concluded with Garrison Keillor's words, saying, "Be well, do good work and keep in touch."