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370 turn tassels at Mount Olive College

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on May 6, 2012 1:50 AM

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Stephen Evanko breaks into a big grin Saturday during Mount Olive College's spring graduation ceremony.

MOUNT OLIVE -- The strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" brought a green flood into Kornegay Arena Saturday afternoon as 370 students graduated from Mount Olive College.

This was the first year the college's undergraduates donned the forest green robes in a change from the more traditional black robes used in the past.

Looking down on the green sea of graduation candidates, though, there was one alumnus who perhaps had reason to be green with envy -- Josh Fail, who graduated in spring 2011.

His wife, Lauren Fail, was his fiancee back then, and she said the year since the two attended commencement has been a whirlwind of milestones, culminating with her earning a degree in mathematics and science education.

"I've been planning a wedding, going through my senior year of college, we bought a house, we got married, I've been student teaching," Mrs. Fail, 22, said following the graduation ceremony, "And now I'm here."

And the couple weren't the only two members of the family to stand proudly as MOC graduates. Both Mrs. Fail's parents, Ricky Dudley and Lisa Herring, are Mount Olive alumni. Her sister, Leanna, is planning to attend school at MOC.

Fail, 22, said he preferred the black gown, although his wife insisted that hers was more indicative of school pride.

"I'm proud to wear Mount Olive green," she said.

Kason Cheeks knows a thing or two about wearing Mount Olive green, too.

The 6-foot-5-inch forward for the Trojan men's basketball team received his degree in criminal justice after being a part of the team's run to the conference final this year. He has a three-prong plan for after college to unite his three passions: music, law enforcement and basketball.

He plans to play basketball in Dubai where he'll hopefully create opportunities for his music career. He'll look for a job in law enforcement later in life, but immediately after graduation, he's already looking to the future.

"It's like that feeling when ..." he said, his voice trailing into a loud sigh of relief and a shoulder shrug. "I'm more focused on what's next."

For Fabrizio Ceppi that likely means an internship in New York that may lead to more job options. Ceppi, 22, said receiving his degree in visual communications brought both relief and nervousness.

"It's bittersweet," he said. "I almost don't want to leave."

The graduates received congratulations first-hand from State Rep. Efton Sager, who served as the ceremony's commencement speaker.

Sager invoked an oft-quoted line from N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano in encouraging the newly minted graduates to pursue their dreams against all odds and to never forget the friends, family and faculty that made them who they are.