Speaker urges graduates not to hesitate in shaping future
By Mark Wineka
Whether he realized it or not, Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy Jenkins Sr. took a courageous chance Saturday that fit right in with commencement speaker Rick Anicetti’s message.
Rain showers had punctuated the morning, and college officials decided the commencement ceremony would have to be held in Varick Auditorium ó dry, but of the size that would never accommodate the large crowd on hand.
About 15 minutes before the 10 a.m. start and under still threatening skies, Jenkins made the call to move everything back to the original graduation site: Alumni Memorial Stadium.
It proved to be a good, brave call, allowing 148 Livingstone seniors to celebrate their graduation without a raindrop touching their heads or those of family members and friends who packed the stadium bleachers behind them.
“There were inconveniences and delays,” Jenkins said, apologizing for the 40-minute delay, “but I hope you believe it was worth it.”
Anicetti, president and chief executive officer of Salisbury-based Food Lion LLC, likes to tell a story about alligators.
A rich, older man getting close to death called family members together on his vast estate and walked them out to the swimming pool, which was filled with alligators.
The man explained how he admired people who displayed courage, and he liked to reward brave acts.
Any family member who swam through the pool of alligators and made it to the other end would be rewarded with the man’s estate and his entire fortune, he explained.
The relatives gathered at the pool looked at each other, but none stepped forward. Finally, as they began walking away toward the house, they heard a splash.
A young woman ó one of the cousins ó was swimming for her life through the gauntlet of alligators. She miraculously made it to the other end without being harmed. The old man was waiting for her there to pull her out of the water.
“Anything you want is yours,” the man said.
“I have but one question,” the woman said. “Who pushed me in?”
Anicetti told the Livingstone Class of 2009 that in these difficult economic times, when uncertainty seems to lie around every corner, the alligators are real.
“But you cannot hesitate at the water’s edge,” he said.
Anicetti said he cringes when he hears people say that all the country has to do is wait out the current economic crisis and things will automatically get better.
He challenged the Livingstone graduates not to hesitate. No other time is more appropriate than now to defy the odds and rise to the next level while others are waiting, Anicetti suggested.
The United States has just elected its first black president. But it also faces unprecedented economic, social and medical issues, making it the best of times and worst of times, Anicetti said.
“It must be your time,” he told the 2009 class.
Anicetti, who oversees the operations of more than 1,200 grocery stores in 11 states, told the students their education and accomplishments at Livingstone were phenomenal. That experience will separate them from others, and they must take advantage of it in the future, he said.
“Leverage it for all it is worth,” Anicetti added, describing their Livingstone years as just the beginning of a learning process that could be filled with “rich and wonderful chapters waiting to be written.”
He advised the graduates to work for respect, be accountable and be responsible to the people who love them.
“Do not give in to the alligators in your mind,” he said.
Of the 148 Livingstone graduates Saturday, 65 are from North Carolina and 12 from Salisbury.
The Salisbury graduates included Donna Allen, Yolanda Bost, Candace Brown, Ryan Neely, Mary McIntyre, Larry Darnell Jones, Jerome Funderburk Jr., Lawrence Edward Hayes, Ricky Laws II, Alexander Sirleaf, Shatoya Johnson and Ashley TiMira Perkins.
Other area students included Rodney Harris of New London, Joey Rucker of Statesville and Shawntez Davis of Albemarle.
Otherwise, the Livingstone graduates come from all parts of the country, from Los Angeles to New York, from Washington to Las Vegas, from Memphis to Philadelphia, from Portland, Ore., to Pittsfield, Mass., and from Killian, Texas to Atlanta.
Graduates also were from St. Croix and the Bahamas.
“American Idol” winner Fantasia attended the Livingstone commencement in support of her graduating relative, Kadejia Washington of High Point.
Class valedictorian was La’Courtney Delores Setzer of Hickory; salutatorian, Shona Nicole Emerson of Pittsboro. They both graduated summa cum laude with cumulative grade point averages between 3.7 and 4.0.
Livingstone also had five magna cum laude graduates, with grade-point averages between 3.5 and 3.69. They included Rashel Boone of Portsmouth, Va., Lisa Donatien of Miami, Fla., Chanel Gilliam of Charlotte, Shondell Stover of Liberty Hill, S.C., and Krystle Thompson of Detroit.
The school also had 16 cum laude graduates with grade-point averages between 3.3 and 3.49.
They included Darnell Almanzar of Hempstead, N.Y., Robert Blackwell of Inggold, Va., Yolanda Bost of Salisbury, Tia Charlow of Nassau, Bahamas, Lawrence Edward Hayes of Salisbury, Rodney Harris of New London, Alexis Jennings of Memphis, Dustin Johnson of Greensboro, Kalyela Josephs of Jacksonville, Michael Mabry of Gary, Ind., Micala Mackey of Linden, Joseph Martin-Toney of Coatesville, Pa., Nicole Nicholas of Charlotte, Joey Rucker of Statesville, Brandie Shaw of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Lionel Vincent of Las Vegas.
Bachelor degrees were awarded in criminal justice, elementary education, English, history, liberal studies, music, political science, psychology, religious studies, sociology, theatre arts, accounting, biology, business administration, computer information systems, mathematics, sports management and social work.
Livingstone conferred honorary degrees Saturday on Anicetti, the Rev. Florence Spearman Brown and the Rev. W. Darin Moore.
Brown is presiding elder of the Clarkton District Cape Fear Conference, Eastern N.C. Episcopal District. She began her journey in the ministry in 1979 and received her degree from Mount Olive College before attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Hampton University and Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury.
She also has years of experience as a healthcare professional. She currently serves on the board of First Bank.
Moore is pastor of the Greater Centennial AME Zion Church in Mount Vernon, N.Y. He attended Livingstone College before going on to Purchase College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology, then to Yale Divinity School.
Moore is a member of the Livingstone College Board of Trustees.
He currently serves as president of the United Black Clergy of Westchester County, founding chairman of Save Our Seed Ministries, president of the Greater Centennial Community Development Corp. and presiding elder of the Nassau District of the Bahamas Conference
Livingstone also honored 22 men and women of the Class of 1959 who attended Saturday’s ceremony on the 50th anniversary of their graduation from the college.
The “Golden Graduates” came from as far away as Miami, New York and Flint, Mich. Golden Graduates attending from Salisbury included Barbara McClain Neely and Rosetta Robinson Shinholster.