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 the 686 graduates to which Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings conferred degrees on Friday and Saturday in two separate ceremonies.
In his commencement address, 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.
Twins Victoria and Alexandria Locklear, natives of Pembroke, both received degrees in biology with a bio-medical emphasis. Both plan to attend physician’s assistant school and want to work in pediatrics.
Surrounded by family and friends, Victoria and Alexandria remember their time at UNCP marked by the connections they made with others.
“The most memorable experience for me is meeting new friends and meeting professors who really care about me, who educated me, and made me a better all-around individual,” Victoria said.
Alexandria said, “I’m going to most remember the time the professors took with students and my time in my sorority that made me a well-rounded person.”
Thousands of family members and friends were in attendance to share the experience with graduates.
Dajer Fernandez, outgoing student body president, received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with his parents and grandmother watching from the front row. Before this week, Fernandez had not seen his family for more than four years.
He addressed his classmates on Saturday and offered advice for living a fulfilling and happy life.
“Values, purpose, friends, faculty and staff, experiences and stories and those we meet along the way, those are the truly important things in life,” Fernandez said.
His plans include living in the Research Triangle area trying to experience jobs that can further develop him as a professional and guide him toward a better understanding of what he wants to do in graduate or law school.
Mother and daughter, Alexis and Princesa Hurd, had opportunities to see each other more frequently throughout their time as students at UNCP. The Hurds were given their diplomas together on Saturday and stopped center stage to savor the moment together.
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.”
Jodi Phelps is executive director of University Communications & Marketing at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.