05/08/11 — Turning tassels

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Turning tassels

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on May 8, 2011 1:50 AM

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Mount Olive College students await their turn to receive their diplomas as family and friends applaud during graduation exercises Saturday. More than 300 students were graduated in the school's 57th spring ceremony.

The printed program was explicit in its directions.

One asterisk denoted portions of the commencement ceremonies when the audience was to stand. Two meant the spectators gathered in Mount Olive College's Kornegay Arena were to hold their applause until each graduate's name was called.

But for the friends and family of the 319 graduates at Mount Olive's 57th commencement ceremony, that request was too much to ask.

As their names were called, congratulations were shouted from across the arena as the parents, spouses, children and loved ones audibly showed their favorite graduates their pride.

For D.L. Henry, though, who earned his bachelor's degree in business administration, his loved one was right next to him in the throng of gowned graduates.

A Goldsboro native and comedian, Henry was taking classes at Washington in New Bern when he learned he would need to move to Austin, Texas, to begin work on a syndicated sitcom based on his life.

Still a few classes short of his degree, he turned to his wife, who was a few credits short of her bachelor's degree in criminology from Mount Olive, and MOC Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Jordan. Dr. Jordan arranged for Henry and his wife, Nakia, to finish up their coursework online and the two flew in from Texas Saturday to walk together.

The ceremony featured Wayne Community College President Kay Albertson, who offered a message for the graduates as the commencement speaker.

Dr. Albertson spoke extensively about her college's connection with MOC, noting that 30 of those receiving their degrees in Mount Olive that day had at one point been enrolled at WCC.

Hers was not a message of accomplishment, however, but one that asked the graduates to view earning their degree as just another step.

"This should mark the beginning of a new venture," she said.

Dr. Albertson invoked the language from the little engine that could, stating all of those gathered to receive their degrees had persisted, in the face of any adversity, and conquered the obstacles in their path.

"We knew you could," she said, referring to the loved ones and faculty members present who had offered support.

But in the reality of an economy where even college graduates are feeling the pinch of job losses, that next venture isn't set in stone for everyone.

"It is an anxious feeling because you don't know what comes next," freshly graduated Kelly Minshew, 22, of Stantonsburg said.

Ms. Minshew, a softball player for the Lady Trojans, earned her degree in recreation and leisure studies with a concentration in exercise science and wants to teach physical education and coach. Despite the lack of hirings, she said she has been talking to school principals and is confident she'll find something.

Josh Fail, 22, of Goldsboro is in a similar situation, although he has been in contact with several employers in need of his skills as a computer information systems major.

"There are a couple of people talking to me," he said. "I work at a computer repair store now, but actually a guy at the IT department in Mount Olive and some guys in Durham are trying to get me to work with them."

But Saturday, for Fail, wasn't so much about arranging employment, but more about celebrating with his parents and fiancee, Lauren Dudley.

His plans following commencement? Going to his church for a barbecued chicken dinner.