Dec 172012

ECU degree candidates wait patiently as festivities get under way at Minges Coliseum Friday morning during Fall Commencement exercises.

Rob Taylor/The Daily Reflector

ECU degree candidates wait patiently as festivities get under way at Minges Coliseum Friday morning during Fall Commencement exercises.

By Ginger Livingston

Saturday, December 15, 2012

With encouragement to use their education to make a difference, nearly 2,200 students turned their tassels at Friday’s 104th fall commencement ceremony at East Carolina University.

The College of Nursing led the celebration, setting off confetti cannons and Silly String when its 205 members stood for recognition. The audience cheered with approval. The audience earlier chanted “purple-gold” as the graduates entered Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

“I was full of joy for them, said Cindy Winstead, a clinical nursing instructor whose daughter was among the graduates. “I know what they’ve been through, how hard they studied and prepared and I fully understood their elation. It’s a tradition for the nursing students at East Carolina.”

Yvonne Upshut, who received her master’s degree in nursing said Friday was an amazing experience.

“This was a personal goal. You have to continue improving and giving your clients the best you can,” she said.

“I’m excited but I’m also nervous. I’ve never not had classes in January,” Ryan McFeeters, who graduated summa cum laude with a chemistry degree, said. “But I’m excited to start the next chapter.” McFeeters said he plans to return to school next year to become a physician’s assistant.

Commencement speaker Ravi Paul encouraged the graduates to live the lives of leaders and people who make a difference. He is a College of Business professor and a recipient of the UNC Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award.

“Let me encourage you to pursue excellence and serve others with undaunted vision as you go out from ECU,” Paul said. “When you do, you not only make a difference in someone’s life, but also inspire others to follow your example.”

Forty-two individuals received their doctoral degrees at this year’s event, a record for the university.

Benjamin Rockett of Wilmington earned his doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Rockett said he pursued an advanced degree because he loves science. He one day hopes to establish his own company for conducting clinical trials.

“I think I am good at solving problems and I want to take my scientific skills to the business world and apply it to something that can possibly help someone,” he said.

The university also awarded an honorary doctorate to Dave McRae, the recently retired chief executive officer of Vidant Health, formerly University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina.

McRae was honored for “unwavering devotion to eastern North Carolina,” Chancellor Steve Ballard said. He led Pitt County Memorial Hospital from a 209-bed facility to a health system with 10 hospitals and centers that serve 1.4 million, Ballard said.

“It took me 37 years to get here,” McRae joked with the graduates, congratulating them on reaching their goals in a shorter period of time.

“I have been able to live my passion, my belief in health care, my belief in a better quality of life,” McRae said.

Contact Ginger Livingston at or 252-329-9570.

via The Daily Reflector.


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