DOBSON — After 12 years spent at other locations, the Surry Community College commencement ceremony made its way “home” Saturday.
“I’m humbled by the support we’ve received from local churches and other organizations,” said college president Dr. David Shockley. “But there’s nothing like coming home. I’m grateful to all the staff who worked hard to make this possible…The ceremony is back where it should be.”
In a subsequent interview, college board of trustees member Eddie Harris stated the decision to move the ceremony to a location in Yadkin County was made 12 years ago because the gym at the college could not hold all the graduates, family members and other guests. Later it was moved to Temple Baptist Church, where graduation had to be split into two ceremonies to accomodate all guests.
Recently, the gym at the college was air-conditioned, according to Harris. Given graduation day had already been split into two ceremonies, and with the addition of air-conditioning, college leaders opted to move the location back onto campus.
The college graduated 442 students in two ceremonies at the gymnasium at the campus on Saturday. One hundred forty-four earned their associate’s degree in applied sciences, and 126 earned associate’s degrees in arts. Another 33 students earned associate’s degrees in general education. Twenty-six students earned associate’s degrees in science and Lila Spencer Reep was the lone student to graduate with an associate’s degree in fine arts. Another 101 students earned certifications in various technical fields.
Sixty-0ne students graduated with honors, and 63 were members of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. Forty-eight were members of the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success or Sigma Alpha Pi.
While many students walked across the stage with silver cords symbolizing their 3.5 or higher grade point average, one student stood out above all others.
Shockley presented Mackenzie Ammann with the North Carolina Community College System Academic Excellence Award. One student from each of the state’s 58 community colleges is recognized with the award. Mackenzie is a Surry Early College senior.
She has earned her high school diploma and her associate’s degree after four years at the unconventional high school, and she maintained a 4.0 grade point average while doing it.
Shockley was also the keynote speaker at the event, telling students, faculty, staff and guests his goal when delivering an address every year.
“I hope to say something to stir your mind.”
Shockley said in a world filled with “bad things” it’s “easy to get distracted.” In that world, Shockley looks to college students and faculty in order to see the brighter side of the future.
“I’ve seen them succeed,” Shockley remarked. “I’ve seen them persevere.”
He said throughout the course of the prior seven days he had played witness to multiple positive events at the school, noting a new class of paramedics had graduated and he attended a pinning ceremony for nursing school graduates. The impacts those students will make on the world — saving lives in many instances — are positive impacts which will affect many generations.
Shockley told those attending the morning ceremony the abundance of diversity at a community college graduation ceremony sets it apart from ceremonies at other institutions of higher learning. Community colleges graduate folks of many different ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Shockley has been following some of those who graduated his institution. He told the story of a student who, at first, didn’t think college was for him. That former Surry Community College student just graduated number one in his class at North Carolina State University’s construction engineering school.
Another Surry graduate recently earned a degree in neurology, and one former Knight is now an astrophysicist, according to Shockley. He also told the story of a recent paramedic graduate who had to deliver a baby — and not in the hospital.
“She said after the initial shock, it was the faculty member’s voice in her head which guided her,” recounted Shockley.
After telling graduates they were in the company of the sheriff, district attorney and many other local leaders who are Surry graduates, Shockley said, “You have that power in you to succeed.”
“You have every opportunity to step forward and be a leader,” noted Shockley.
The president left students with a number of lessons, including telling them to remain humble and serving others as a way to lift yourself from hard times. Most importantly, “Life is worth living. Be happy.”
“I wish you the best of luck, and we’re very proud of you,” Shockley told students in closing.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.