05/13/07 — More than 370 graduate MOC

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More than 370 graduate MOC

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 13, 2007 2:02 AM

More than 378 graduates tossed their mortar boards Saturday as Mount Olive College bid farewell to the Class of 2007.

The school's 53rd spring commencement also added another number to the record books -- more than 3,300 students enrolled at all levels at the college this year.

And on Saturday, another set of firsts -- 20 students earning degrees through the WATTS School of Nursing in the Research Triangle and Cameron Rae Jones, the college's first environmental science graduate.

The speaker for the afternoon was Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, who congratulated the class on receiving their diplomas.

"I know you have all worked hard and today is your big day -- the one you've been working for," Mrs. Perdue said to the class. "Regardless of why you came here, you have made a big achievement."

Among those receiving special honors were Tyler Barwick of Mount Olive and Jessica Hauf of Goldsboro. The Martin Award recipients earned the highest academic average in their graduating class -- each only bringing home one B during their college careers. The award is named after Lorelle F. Martin, a professor emerita who taught science at Mount Olive College for 30 years

Miss Barwick, the daughter of Ken and Debra Barwick, graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in fine arts.

Miss Hauf, who also graduated summa cum laude, is the daughter of Dan and Tammy Hauf. She received a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in sociology.

Both students were active members of the Student Government Association and were involved in several other organizations on campus.

Katherine Somek, of Sudbury, Ontario, was the recipient of the Dr. Thomas R. Morris Award for Academic Excellence. The $3,000 cash award was given to Miss Somek in recognition of her academic prowess and her love of learning.

Miss Somek maintained a grade point average above 3.7 and was chosen by a committee of faculty and student government representatives.

But Saturday also marked a sad day for Mount Olive College graduates. One of their own, James Russell Rollins, a 43-year-old non-traditional student from Pine Level, died April 20 before he could receive his degree in criminal justice administration.

His family, wife, Angie, and three children, Cody, Braidy and Samantha, were there to accept the distinguished Lora W. and Maurice H. King Award on his behalf. The award, established in 1997, honors a high-achieving non-traditional student.

Despite the trials and tribulations each graduate endured during his or her time at Mount Olive College, Mrs. Perdue said the end result is a chance to walk across the stage.

"No matter why you started, I know that all of you stayed up late over tests. I hope you all had a really great teacher and counted the moments to this day," she said. "No one can take this away from you. You've earned it."

But once that day and moment have passed, Mrs. Perdue said the Class of 2007's work has just begun.

It will be their job to create world peace, end poverty, cure cancer and embrace diversity.

"I really want you to remember this -- we can do anything if we have the faith and courage to dream big dreams," Mrs. Perdue said.

And despite the real world with its job titles and its salaries, she added that each graduate should find something he or she loves and take every opportunity to make a difference for themselves and others.

"Mount Olive College has given you a first-rate education. Now you have to go out, take that education, seize the moment and make a first-rate difference. That is your basic challenge, and I believe this is your call to arms," Mrs. Perdue said.