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‘Hello to the world’: Catawba graduates open new chapter

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As more than 200 Catawba College graduates turned their tassels at Saturday’s graduation ceremony, they were reminded of the turn to a new chapter of their lives.

New alumni and their families celebrated their achievements at the 168th commencement at Keppel Auditorium on Catawba College’s campus. Fighting back tears, Jayni Johnson, the senior class president, told his fellow graduates to “realize that this is not a goodbye, but a hello to the world.”

Johnson spoke of being a first-generation college student and through the guidance of his mother and late grandmother, his life was transformed at Catawba College with the 2019 class.

“This institution has the capabilities to change any trajectory of one’s life through an education,” Johnson said. “Catawba, you hold the key to a meaningful and fulfilling life. Catawba allowed and enabled us to blaze our own trail and to become accountable through scholarship, character, culture and service.”

Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins addressed the graduates and their parents, recalling watching her own kids graduate.

“I remember being a new graduate, but I also remember being a mom of students that are graduating, and I think I did a bigger happy dance for my own kids graduating from college,” Heggins said.

Provost Constance Rogers-Lowery spoke of the feelings in the auditorium.

“What a great day it is,” Rogers-Lowery said. “For our graduates, it’s a day of joy and celebration, and for parents, a day of pride, rejoice and perhaps a little relief.”

Click here to view more photos from the graduation.

Johnson saidCatawba is “a home away from home.”

“Catawba is like no other institution,” Johnson said. “It thrives and strives off of love and community within and around it.”

Greg Edds, Rowan County Board of Commissioners chair, provided some laughs, coming to the lectern to begin his speech with “I’ve stepped on my skirt twice now,” referencing his robe.

Edds said life is a series of stages, like learning to walk and talk, graduating high school, learning to drive and now graduating college.

“Today you take one of the biggest steps of your life: a significant stage begun and now completed,” Edds said. “To you, we say congratulations.”

Heggins also offered some advice to the new alumni — to remember that they are enough.

“I want you to really embrace that, to understand that what you have is enough,” Heggins said. “When I say that, it doesn’t mean to not continue your education if you so desire to do that, but what I want you to know your talents, your strengths, your knowledge, don’t ever let someone diminish that for you.”

She asked the graduates to say it out loud.

The auditorium filled with graduates saying “I am enough.”

Professor Erin Dougherty, faculty senate chair, challenged the graduates to continue to learn in the changing world.

“The world is complicated and there’s not always a strand to follow in this giant web of interconnectivity,” she said. “If you’ve learned nothing else from us, I hope you have learned to explore, discover, to think to challenge, to quest.”

Graduates individually walked across the stage to receive their diplomas and applauses from their friends and families.

Emily Hoffler and Dustin Chapman were awarded the Whitener Medals for showing of character and scholarship at Catawba College. Steven Coggin, a biology professor and director of the Glenn and Addie Ketner Center of International Studies, was also recognized for his upcoming retirement on July 31.

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