Community of graduates
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 16, 2010 1:50 AM
Wayne Community College graduates make their way to their seats at the start of Friday's commencement ceremony.
As the sun blazed late Friday afternoon, the bleachers outside Wayne Community College began to fill for the commencement exercises.
While some used paper fans distributed along with programs, others sought comfort beneath the shade trees nearby.
Derek Brock of Rosewood was positioned near the walkway where graduates would soon pass by, anxious to capture a photo of his wife before she took her seat.
Wendy Brock was graduating from the substance abuse counseling program in the public services department. It probably wasn't easy returning to school after raising a family, her husband said, but he'd tried to be supportive, taking over "working in the garden while she worked in the books."
"I'm proud of her," Brock said. "She's been on the A/B honor roll, dean's list twice, and recognized as an outstanding student in her program."
Friday marked the college's largest graduating class, with 566 graduates -- receiving 406 associate degrees, 84 diplomas and 127 certificates.
Tanisha Eutsey, Student Government Associate president, talked of the life of a college student -- late-nights studying, meeting assignment deadlines, juggling between having a life and earning passing grades.
"We've traveled the same road to get here today, but our road doesn't end here," she said, encouraging her classmates to remember that whatever future paths they may take, "all roads lead home" and every once in awhile to circle back to WCC.
Graduate Connie Henn, who obtained an associate in arts degree, shared about her own journey, which began in 2007 when she enrolled for her first class after being out of school for 18 years.
By that time, she also had the responsibilities of being a wife and mother, so admittedly battled some anxieties.
"I was, as you can imagine, frightened and unsure of both my ability to do well in school after so many years, as well as uncertain about how I would be perceived by other students," she said. "Would they think I was too old? Too stupid?"
Her fears proved unfounded. Not only was she welcomed and made comfortable by students and staff, she thrived in college -- tutoring other students, participating in honors programs, receiving a nomination for the All-USA Academic Team that resulted in a Coca-Cola Scholarship.
In the fall, she will attend East Carolina University and pursue a teaching degree.
But her heart will always belong to Wayne Community, which gave her friendships and connections, as well as academic opportunities.
"I truly believe that there is no finer place to acquire a degree, diploma or certificate than from Wayne Community College," she said.
Two awards were also presented during the ceremonies.
The George E. Wilson Excellence in Teaching Award -- a $4,000 cash award and funds to attend a national conference for outstanding teachers -- is given annually to an instructor who demonstrates the highest standards of teaching.
This year's recipient was Peggy Helms, an accounting instructor who arranges the desks in her classroom in a "C" shape for better focus and participation, and was described by one nominator as teaching her class like family.
The Four Oaks resident earned a nursing degree from Duke University and also holds a second bachelor's degree from Mount Olive College and two master's degrees.
The other honor -- the President's Award for Distinguished Service -- was presented for the third time in the college's 53-year history.
It was given to Fran Boyce, described as a volunteer who took on roles as a teacher, consultant, project manager, solicitor, negotiator and champion, then brought her new husband, Larry Boyce, into the fold, where he went on to chair the Foundation's golf tournament, which brought in record amounts for scholarships.
"Fran has led the Foundation of Wayne Community College into a new world of databases and financial management, the likes of which many nonprofits can only dream," said Dr. Kay Albertson, WCC president. "We cannot tabulate the value of her passion, dedication, attention to detail and patience, in addition to many, many, many hours she has spent training our staff and researching and customizing software."
Albertson's remarks to the graduates centered around her theme for the college this year, inspired by the title attached to artwork done by a 4-year-old in the college's day care -- It's Shining.
The words represent the college's achievements and how it has given hope, spread opportunity and shared success in the community, she said. At the same time, she added, it is about reflection.
"It is just showing, reflecting all that is bright around it -- and that would be you, graduates," she said. "You had an internal spark that motivated you as a college student and you fed that spark with knowledge and skills. With each class you finished and each semester you completed, you began to glow with achievement and confidence. So it is, indeed, your personal growth and accomplishments that make this college shine."