Mount Olive College Class of 2006 turns tassels
By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 7, 2006 2:07 AM
The Rev. Gary Bailey told the largest graduating class in Mount Olive College's history Saturday afternoon that there are four aspects of life they should never forget.
"You should remember that we are all in a race. Today and every day, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who are watching us. We must be careful not to allow ourselves to be entangled in sin as we go through life. And you need to find something to laugh at every day," Bailey said.
The 346 graduates on Saturday afternoon plus the December graduates totals 721, which is a new record for the college. Dr. Eugene Sumner, chairman of the academic affairs committee for the college's board of trustees, said he expects the college to also have the largest annual enrollment once the tally is completed at the end of June.
Graduates, their friends and family gathered at the George and Annie Dail Kornegay Arena on campus for the graduation ceremony and to listen to the key speaker Bailey. Bailey is the senior pastor at Stoney Creek Free Will Baptist Church, where he has worked since 1979.
Bailey is also a graduate of Mount Olive College. He also holds a degree from North Carolina State University.
Bailey's main message to the Mount Olive College Class of 2006 was that they all have crossed one of the finish lines of life by graduating.
"You have not finished the race. As a matter of fact, you have only finished the first leg of the race. The second part of the race begins this afternoon," Bailey said.
For some graduates, the next stage of the race starts right away.
By this time next year, graduate Kathy Gattis, 35, of Durham, said she hopes to have her own nail salon. Mrs. Gattis received her degree in applied science by taking classes through a Mount Olive College location near Durham.
The college has six locations that are within about 50 miles of 50 percent of the state's population, Sumner said.
Bailey also told the audience that each graduate has witnesses who will watch over them and help them through the obstacles of life.
"You should be proud of your accomplishments. You've finally arrived, but let me remind you that you didn't get here by yourself," Bailey said.
Whether it was the college's faculty, another former teacher or family, he said each graduate has gotten to this point in their lives through the help and devotion of others.
Bailey also stressed that each graduate should continue to use the education and values taught at Mount Olive College and not become entangled in the sin found in everyday life.
"The world is watching to see if you indulge in sin, or if you keep yourselves pure," Bailey said.
Linda Wooten, 55, said she wanted to get her degree because she has been working as a cashier at an indoor shooting range in Raleigh and was looking to further her career. Once she found out she could take night classes once a week to receive her associate's degree in criminal justice, she decided to go for it.
"It just sprung up and I decided to do it," Mrs. Wooten said.
She added that she also plans to return to school to get her bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
The repeated message of Bailey's speech was that each graduate and their family and friends should find something every day to laugh about.
"After a church service, a little boy told the pastor, 'When I grow up, I'm going to give you some money.' 'Well, thank you,' the pastor replied, 'but why?' 'Because my daddy says you're one of the poorest preachers we've ever had,'" Bailey said.
He added that many of the graduates have been blessed in life and that they should continue to do good deeds every chance they get. Cathy Chestnut, 45, was one of the few graduates that decided to do the right thing, but was not given a choice.
"Because of the No Child Left Behind law, I had to get a degree or lose my job," she said.
Mrs. Chestnut received her general education degree through online courses, and she said she is glad she did because she can continue to help as a teaching assistant at Pink Hill Elementary School. She even plans to come back to Mount Olive College to finish her bachelor's of science degree in early childhood development.
Before the students received their degrees, Bailey said each graduate should not provide everything to their fellow man and the Lord in one fell swoop, but to live life providing happiness to others in smaller doses every day.
"Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get lost.' Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. Usually giving our life to God isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love," he said.
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