St. Andrews Confers 137 Degrees Saturday
St. Andrews Presbyterian College conferred 137 bachelor's degrees at its commencement ceremony Saturday on the DeTamble Library Terrace.
With temperatures in the mid-80s during the ceremony, a strong wind kept the participants comfortable as Dr. Richard C. Prust, distinguished professor of philosophy, identified the challenges this generation will face as a community whose sense of well-being comes from being connected to others, very much like themselves, electronically.
"Being connected to your tribe determines who you are," Prust said. "It's not just that you need to be constantly connected to feel good; you need to be constantly connected to have an identity."
He referenced the work of 20th century philosopher Hannah Arendt regarding the disappearance of "public" spaces.
"By 'public' spaces, she meant spaces where people of different economic classes, political persuasions and personal preferences come together and interact face to face," he said. "Her point was that these public spaces are rapidly disappearing."
He challenged the graduates to heed his simple advice regarding these changes in society.
"Watch out what tribes you hang with," he said. "Do not accept membership in any tribe that thinks it has a corner on the truth. Put another way: Find a way to create a new kind of public space, virtual if necessary, real if possible, a space where people of differing perceptions molded by different tribal experiences can trade ideas and art and stories and wisdom."
Also sharing insights with the students were senior class speakers David Blackmon and Zachary Garst. Blackmon, who completed his degree through the St. Andrews @ Sandhills program, is currently teaching at J. Glenn Edwards Elementary School in Sanford.
"Each of us have the ability and passion to make a difference in whatever career we are blessed with," he said. "As we've come to this day of celebration, we reflect on what it took to get here. Each of us set a goal, and today we've accomplished what we set out to do. Never lose sight of your goals. Go forth and reap the sweet rewards of your hard work because we've what? We've graduated!"
Garst also praised the accomplishments of the class.
"This school has produced a 2010 graduating class that is prepared more than ever to tackle the obstacles ahead of us. This school has challenged us and made us persevere to reach the moment that we are all sharing today.
"Fellow graduates, we will not stop here," he continued. "We will get up and continue learning and leading others every day of our lives. We are obtaining a degree today that is an enormous achievement, but this is only an end to many beginnings. Beginnings that have been opened up by the education and experiences that we have gained here at St. Andrews. Let's never forget where we all have come from and how this institution has prepared us to get where we want to go."
A native of Huntersville, Garst has already secured employment with the U.S. Department of Defense Contracting Office within the Army Geospatial Center. This job came as a result of a series of internships. He will begin a master's degree program in business administration in spring 2011.
The ceremony also included the presentation of special awards for service to the college community and beyond.
Graduate Elise Moore received the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award for service above self while Holly Mitten and Steven Lambert received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards. A -community Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award was presented to Carol and Stewart Thomas for their work with the Scotland County Area Relay for Life, which has held the top position in fundraising for a community of its size for the past two years.
The class of 1991 Distinguished Faculty Award was presented to two members of the faculty, a first in the history of the award established to honor the dedication and hard work of faculty members nominated by students, colleagues and alumni. Pebbles Turbeville, associate professor of sport studies, shared the honor with Prust.
Adding levity to the end of the event, the Rev. Dr. Neal Carter, prior to giving the benediction, recorded the graduates on his phone, evoking special laughter as it emphasized the theme of Prust's technologically connected generation.
Following the ceremony, graduates joined faculty, staff, friends and family in the grove for a reception in their honor.
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