PEMBROKE — Marie Gaumont is ready to change the world.
Gaumont, who graduated on Saturday with a degree in mass communication, plans to return to her native Sweden to pursue a career in public affairs. She wants to use what she learned at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke to make a difference.
Gaumont is among hundreds of students who graduated from UNCP and St. Andrews University of the weekend.
UNCP Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings conferred degrees on 686 graduates on Friday and Saturday in two separate ceremonies.
St. Andrews held its 121st Commencement on Sunday on the DeTamble Library Terrace for 115 graduates.
Rev. Dr. James L Morgan Jr. was the commencement speaker. He is the president and CEO of The Morgan Company, an investment firm based in Laurel Hill.
“There will always be this one constant: if you dare to try to find your vocation, with a big V—that work you are called to that meets the world’s deep hunger, this long life you are about to live will be fulfilling and full of deep gladness,” Morgan said. “The world’s needs will change, but your deep gladness will not. You may discover more gifts, more ways of following your path and connecting to your world, but that basic sense of being called to use your gifts will always be there.”
The SAU graduation weekend began Saturday with the baccalaureate ceremony in the Physical Education Center.
Rev. W. Robert Martin III, a 1986 graduate of St. Andrews, who returned to Laurinburg to serve as pastor for Laurinburg Presbyterian Church, delivered the sermon. The topic was: The Galilee Directive—Out to the Margins” which focused on looking forward.
“What journey will you now take, degree in hand, so as to change not only you but the world you will inhabit,” Martin asked the graduates. “Be on your way—and as it has done for me, may such a journey change you some so that you might change the lives of others.”
Graduates were escorted by the St. Andrews Pipe Band from the residence side of the campus to the terrace next to DeTamble Library.
St. Andrews Board of Trustee Chairman Joe Strickler spoke followed by two senior class speakers chosen by their peers. Linda Diane Widmer of Vass represented St. Andrews at Sandhills and Wendy Alexandra Varisco of Covington, La. spoke for the St. Andrews campus.
“I followed my heart and pursued a degree in education … Teachers make a difference every single day, and I am so happy to be a part of that impact,” Widmer said. “So, whatever you decide to go out and do, make sure it makes you happy!”
Varisco advised her fellow graduates to, “Use every tool in your toolbox” that they learned while at St. Andrews to face new the challenges ahead.
The Class of 1991 Distinguished Faculty Award was presented to Professor Betsy Dendy for her teaching, willingness to assist students and her involvement with the Gender Justice Club.
The Algernon Sydney and Mary Mildred Sullivan Award was given to graduating senior Tariq Jean-Claude Getrouw of Suriname who created an international aquatics program to teach children in Africa how to swim. The award recognizes the recipient’s selfless gift of time and energy in the service of others.
In his commencement address at UNCP, United States Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., encouraged graduates to use the values that founded the university to change their worlds.
That change occurs when “individuals make conscious efforts to pursue something better for their community, not just for themselves,” he said.
It was Burr’s second commencement address at UNCP. The first one was in May 2005.
The senator offered the graduates other encouragement.
“Take lessons learned [in history] and use them as part of your motivation to always learn, always teach, never take for granted efforts and sacrifices of those who came before you,” Burr said.
Candidates for master’s degrees were addressed Friday by Cherry Maynor Beasley, Anne R. Belk Endowed Professor for Rural and Minority Health in the Department of Nursing at UNCP.
Inspired by the university’s alma mater, Beasley encouraged graduates to be courageous, strong and true.
“The rising sun over Old Main reminds us all that we should welcome light on what we do here, requiring us to be courageous, strong, true and loyal,” she said. “Your presence here this evening is the best example of our mission coming to fruition.”
Beasley added, “Use your knowledge, skills and virtues to serve and to lead, thus, enriching the human experience for others and yourself.”
Graduates praised their professors on Saturday.
“It was the professors. Dr. Daren Nelson, he was the reason I picked this major,” said Billy Prutzman, of Lumberton.
Prutzman received a Bachelor of Science in Geo-environmental Studies. He will begin his master’s program in civil engineering at UNC Charlotte this fall.
“It was nice to have all my family here. They’ve supported me all the way. It was nice to see the look on their faces during this accomplishment,” Prutzman said of graduation day.
Chancellor Cummings advised the graduates to remember their values and find their passion.
“Go into your world. Know your guardrails, find your barely controllable passion,” he said. “Your future, your destiny will be the result of your decisions. Choose to be extraordinary. Choose a path of excellence in all you do.”
Cummings encouraged the new alumni to combine their education with their values and passion to realize their success.
“Your UNC Pembroke education has put you in a position to find your passion,” he said. “Go find it.”