08/19/12 — Into the future

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Into the future

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on August 19, 2012 1:50 AM

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Graduates of Mount Olive College march toward Kornegay Arena Saturday afternoon for the school's summer commencement ceremonies. Degrees were conferred upon about 320 graduates, with MOC alumnus Robert Kornegay delivering the commencement address.

MOUNT OLIVE -- A.J. Humphrey didn't recognize the meaning of the red, white and blue cords around the necks of a handful of the Mount Olive College graduates who passed by her Saturday, but she offered some words of encouragement while pointing them out as they streamed into Kornegay Arena wearing green robes.

"I was just trying to make them feel better," the 19-year-old marshal said. "They looked nervous."

She couldn't be blamed for not knowing what the cords meant -- the 59th commencement ceremony at Mount Olive College was the first instance where the college honored veterans with red, white and blue cords as servicemen and women received their degrees alongside hundreds of classmates.

Raymond Evans III of Jacksonville was one of those carrying the cords.

Evans was in the U.S. Marines for 10 years and said he used his G.I. Bill benefits to get his associate degree in general studies.

He graduated with honors, but the additional cords helped distinguish him from his wife, Melissa, who graduated summa cum laude.

Although she logged the better grades, he had two cords around his neck as the couple greeted family after the ceremony, including their sons Jacob, 9, and Kellen, 5.

"It's absolutely a real privilege," Evans said of wearing the veteran cords. "It was a pleasure to be recognized by an institution for a commitment I made to my country and family years ago."

The cords were also draped around the neck of Charles Cannon III of Greenville, who said the gesture was a good one.

Cannon was also a Marine and, like Evans, isn't content with only an associate degree. Both have plans to pursue their bachelor's degrees. Cannon wants to work in human resource management and will look to earn a bachelor's in that field.

About 320 degrees were conferred during the ceremony as graduates marked what commencement speaker Robert Kornegay called a transition to the next phase of their lives.

"Graduation marks the beginning of new opportunities on every front," said the manager of marketing and member relations at Tri-County Electric.

Kornegay, who considers himself a non-traditional graduate, received his bachelor's degree from Mount Olive in 2008 to further his career with Tri-County.

For 23-year-old Kourtney Humphrey, though, graduation means it's time to begin her job search in a down economy.

Regardless, she's glad to have her degree in management and organizational development after years of work.

"I didn't think the day would get here," she said.