Published: May 11, 2013
By Renee Elder — email@example.com
RALEIGH — Students from a wide array of backgrounds united at PNC Arena Saturday to receive their degrees from N.C. State University and to celebrate that achievement with some 7,000 family members and friends.
Chancellor Randy Woodson awarded diplomas to 5,255 students, including 157 who made it through with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages.
Degrees conferred: 80 associate’s; 3,528 bachelor’s; 1,384 master’s; 191 doctoral, and 72 doctor of veterinary medicine degrees. Another 3,428 students from the class of 2013 received their diplomas in December.
Commencement address: By Philip Freelon, an N.C. State alumnus and founder of the Freelon Group of Durham, the architectural firm chosen to design the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Gazing across a room where international scholars sat knee-to-knee with first-generation college graduates, Freelon urged them all to keep diversity in mind as they go forward in their careers. Excluding people, “even those you don’t understand,” deprives the world of “a teeming pool of potential that deserves a shot,” Freelon said.
The opening scene: Cars lined up at the entrance to the PNC Arena parking lot well ahead of the 9 a.m. event kickoff, many with red window stickers showing alumni or parent-group support. University leaders and honorees headed first to a basement “robing room” to don ceremonial attire. Uniformed ROTC members handed out programs and directed audience members to seats in the arena, where the Amalgam Brass Ensemble played.
Backstage: Gowned graduates lined the hallways under tight direction to get ready for the procession. Graphic design major Hao Li snapped photos as she talked and laughed with fellow master’s-degree recipients Marysol Ortega Pallanez and Claire Kohler. After graduation, the three close colleagues will disperse to their homes: Kohler to Seattle, Pallanez to Mexico and Li to China.
Legacy loyalty: “When Chris told us he didn’t get into UNC-Chapel Hill, we were so happy,” confided Pauline Steward, who drove from Winston-Salem to watch her grandson, Christopher Sponaugle, of Advance, N.C., receive his bachelor’s degree in history. “All three of our own boys graduated from State, and it’s where my husband, Edgar, got his master’s.”
Traditions: After all the degrees were conferred, graduates acted in unison to flip their tassels from the right to the left-hand side of their caps, and those who wore them reversed their school rings so that the “S” faced outward, symbols of their graduation.
Vet school grads upheld their reputation for wearing elaborate, animal-themed mortarboards. Jessica Wofford topped hers with a wing-flapping flying pig, and Casey Williams wore an inflated plastic dog.
Honorary degrees: Indra K. Nooyi, chief executive officer of PepsiCo., and tree expert Mike Wingfield of the University of Pretoria in South Africa were presented with honorary doctoral degrees during the ceremony. Nooyi said she has received many such degrees, but as a former chemistry undergraduate major, she is especially fond of N.C. State: “I am proud of math and science.”
After effect: Cellphones came of hiding as soon as the ceremony ended, with graduates, friends and families trying to find one another in the crowd before heading out to parties, luncheons and other celebrations.