Chowan University’s 163rd Commencement Honored its Students
Chowan University held its 163rd Commencement on Saturday, May 7 at 10 am in the Hawks Athletic Center. At the ceremony, 197 students received their diplomas. The ceremony was led by the chief faculty marshal, Dr. Hunter Taylor, Dean of the School of Business and Design. Each school was led by its chosen gonfalonier and candidates for graduation in the processional. Jenna Grim served as gonfalonier for the School of Arts and Sciences, Michaela Worthington for the School of Business and Design, Destiny Robinson for the School of Education and Professional Studies, and Luke Staats for the School of Graduate Studies.
Rev. Mari Wiles opened the ceremony by reading scripture and delivering the invocation. Following the national anthem, President Kirk Peterson brought greetings and congratulations. Dr. Peterson reflected on this class’s college journey, noting, “it was not easy to be a college student, especially during this pandemic. There were immense obstacles and overwhelming challenges along the way, but you stayed focused, you were not defeated, and you succeeded! Your success is because of your commitment to excellence!” The Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Kemper Baker, also shared his congratulatory remarks with the class.
Commencement is a celebration of the accomplishments of each student who walks across the stage. Every year, rather than bringing in an outside speaker Chowan University takes a more relatable approach by inviting members of the graduating class s to speak to their peers and the audience. In addition, five members of the class that were invited to share their Chowan experience at last week’s Senior Banquet (Patrick Krack, Skadi Kylander, Diamond Martin, Zyon Pye, and Allison Traub), and five students were selected to speak at commencement: Jason Jenkins III, Ahmeika Jones, Harri Lovett, Meredith Morgan, and Gerard Parsons.
Jason Jenkins reflected on the different pace of life in Murfreesboro than in his hometown of Annapolis, Maryland. He shared that it was his father that helped him gain a new perspective during the toughest year of his collegiate career, and he challenged his fellow graduates to “take the time to challenge your perspective every day and search for things every day to be grateful for. I challenge you to look at the glass as half full and thank God for the opportunities he has blessed you with. Wherever you may go in life and whoever you may meet it will always be important to understand the way you look at things and find the positives in them.”
Ahmeika Jones from Opa-Locka, Florida reflected on her Chowan experience and gave recognition to a few of the faculty who helped her believe in herself. She shared that “since day one at Chowan, someone saw potential in me, and faith in my future. Choosing Chowan has given me the ability to find myself. My advice to you all is never to be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take advantage of the opportunities being presented to you.”
Harri Lovett, an international student from Wexham, Wales shared that the essential parts of life are people and opportunities, both of which he acknowledged helped him achieve. He took the opportunity to remind everyone that “the great facilities we have like the one we are in today are wonderful for harnessing the talent, however bricks and mortar don’t really mean anything, buildings have not picked me up when I have been down or helped me see past my own perceived limitations or provide me the platform to soar, nor have they held me close to their hearts in my darkest moments. Without inspirational human beings to occupy these spaces they are just empty spaces. It is the many wonderful people I have met along my journey who have nurtured and encouraged on a daily basis who I will remember fondly in the years to come.”
Meredith Morgan from Canton, North Carolina acknowledged that this graduating class “may not all have had the same story, we have all been a part of our own journey at Chowan University.” She reflected on the unique journey this class has taken. “In March of 2020, the spring semester of our sophomore year, our school was shut down due to an outbreak of Covid-19. At first, we were excited because it started out as an extended week of spring break. Then, it took a turn for the worst, and we were asked to collect our belongings and evacuate campus. Our spring athletes had their seasons cut short, classes were moved to online, which I honestly can’t say was the worst thing, and we had the fear of never returning back to normal on our minds. In the fall of 2020, we were relieved to return back to campus for the next school year only to find out that there were new rules and more restrictions in place than before. But as I stand in front of you all today, I am happy to see all of your smiling, unmasked faces. This past semester, we have been given the opportunity to have one last seemingly normal college semester before graduating and moving on to the next chapter of our lives.”
Rounding out the student perspectives, Gerard Parsons’05 from Rosedale, Maryland, a baccalaureate alumnus who returned for his master’s degree shared with those celebrating he shared his various career experience and his unconventional path of education. He acknowledged that when he decided to pursue his master’s degree “there was no doubt in my mind that Chowan being my alma mater was the institution I wanted to use. My fond memories of the faculty, environment and support I received here at Chowan came rushing back to me. I will have to admit that working full time, raising a family, and attending school is no easy task, but doable and moreover satisfactory.”
Following the speeches, Dr. John Dilustro, Associate Provost gave special recognition to the graduating senior having the highest cumulative academic average. This year, there was a four-way tie, each having a 4.0. This year’s recipients of the Senior Scholastic Award are:
- Emily W. Kaissieh from Beit Jala, Palestine
- Arina Karbolina from Almaty, Kazakhstan
- Skadi Danielle McNally Kylander from Gates, North Carolina
- Laura Ann Lowe from Rich Square, North Carolina
Dr. Dilustro then recognized the recipient of the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award which is chosen by his or her colleagues on the faculty of the University. The 2022 Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award was awarded to Dr. James “Bo” K. Dame.
Following the conferral of the degrees by Dr. Peterson, he invited Dr. Maurice Fluitt ‘09, President of the Chowan University Alumni Council, to bring a welcome from the Association. He welcomed the class in joining the ranks of over 13,000 alumni and issued a four-prong challenge to the class – be an advocate for the university, stay in touch with the university, get involved, and to support their alma mater.
Dr. Peterson shared scripture from Luke 12:48 which states, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” He then had each graduate turn their tassel as the final portion of the ceremony. Following Dr. Benjamin Thorboun leading the University’s Alam Mater, Rev. Mari Wiles delivered the benediction preceding the recessional.
Please join Chowan University in congratulating the class of 2022!