BUIES CREEK — On hand to celebrate the Class of 2013's commencement ceremony for the College of Arts & Sciences Saturday were about 20 members of the Class of 1963 ... an important class in the 126-year history of Campbell University.
Members of that class — on campus this weekend to celebrate their 50-year reunion — were the first students to graduate from then Campbell College with a four-year degree. Campbell officials voted 54 years ago, as this class was entering its first year of college, to enact a four-year curriculum at the school and shed the name "junior" from its title, Campbell Junior College.
Representing the class at Saturday's commencement at the Pope Convocation Center, the Hon. William H. Ledbetter Jr. said a lot of people who'd committed to Campbell backed out after hearing the news. Those who stayed, he said, had confidence in the vision of the board of trustees at the time.
"Being back on campus, looking at this graduating class … it gives us a sense of vindication that we made the right choice," Ledbetter said. "Fifty years from now after you’ve completed your long and successful careers, I’m confident you’ll look back and agree with us that you made the right decision.”
A total of 901 students received undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees over the course of Campbell's five graduation ceremonies Friday and Saturday. The largest group of students walked the stage at Saturday morning's College of Arts & Sciences ceremony, which represented the majority of undergraduate students.
Dr. Janelle A. Rhyne, medical director of Cape Fear HealthNet and the daughter of longtime Campbell supporters Clyde J. and Eunice Rhyne, delivered the commencement address and pulled from her own experiences in encouraging the graduates to "follow your head, follow your heart and, most importantly, love what you do."
Rhyne said she studied anthropology as an undergraduate, but during her coursework, she became more fascinated with human biology.
“It dawned on me that I’d rather become a physician,” she said. “So I went to med school and began an amazing journey studying the human body. The initial decisions you make in life do not have to govern your subsequent decisions.”
She also shared the many failures of Abraham Lincoln, who’d lost several elections and suffered many hardships before becoming president.
“Don’t think of your shortcomings as something insurmountable,” she said. “Take important lessons from your setbacks. Few others will dwell on your shortcomings as you might.”
And finally … a tip for the “social network” era.
“Never post anything on the Internet you don’t want to see in the news headlines or on YouTube. Once you’ve sent something online, you’ve lost control of it.”
The ceremony marked the end of a journey for some graduates and the beginning of "real life" for most. Sara-Beth Testerman of Lexington, who earned her degree in English Saturday, said what she'll remember most about Campbell — and the reason she chose Campbell in the first place — is the school's sense of community.
“I made so many great friends here, and over time, the faculty became my friends, too," she said. "Campbell is really good at including you in everything. Everyone knows who you are.”
Testerman will attend law school in Charlotte in the fall, with the goal of one day becoming a family attorney.
Logan Self, a criminal justice graduate from Greensboro, was a pitcher for Campbell University’s baseball squad, which enjoyed back-to-back 40-plus win seasons for the first time in school history the past two years. He said being a part of that program will have a big impact on his life.
“It’s just been amazing being a part of the team and seeing the transformation [into a winner],” Self said. “Campbell was never really known as a baseball school, and now we’re nationally ranked and we’ve helped put our name on the map.”
Molly Trexler of Gold Hill earned her bachelor of arts degree in music with a teaching licensure. She hasn’t lined up a job yet, but she’s confident her degree from Campbell will lead to a career as a music teacher.
“[The job search] has gone pretty well, but it’s harder for a music teacher than it is for, say, an elementary teacher or a science or math teacher because there are limited openings,” she said. “But I definitely feel Campbell prepared me well. My professors refer to us as friends and colleagues now that we’re graduating, and they’ve offered to help us in whatever we need moving forward.”
Criminal justice graduate John Shaw of Greensboro plans on enrolling in the Greensboro Police Academy to start his law enforcement career. Shaw’s degree had a homeland security focus, and he said he hopes his experience as a police officer will lead to positions at the state or federal level.
“Our first [homeland security] class was on dealing with terrorism, and from there I was hooked,” he said. “Classes on national and international security … they were all very interesting. I’m excited about my career options.”
— By Billy Liggett, photo by Bennett Scarborough