N.C. State University

Staff WriterMay 14, 2006 

  • Lynn Burke, 43, was arrested for forgery in 1988 and spent about two years in jail. The single mother of four has since traveled a long road, lifting herself out of poverty, raising three daughters and a son and getting them all into college. She graduated Saturday with a 3.0 grade-point average in social work.

    Burke, who lives in Apex, will work this summer at the Women's Healing Place of Wake County and hopes to attend law school in the fall. Burke wants to practice family law, ultimately to help people undergoing social challenges similar to those she faced as a young mother in jail.

    "Its easy to forgive other people, but it's so hard to forgive yourself, especially when your mistakes affected other people, like mine did with my kids," she said.

    The gregarious mother laughs at the thought that she is now a notary public. "I'm a convicted forger and now also a notary public who can certify that other people are who they say they are," she said, laughing.

    Burke's daughter, Courtney Adams, 22, waited with her sisters to greet Burke after the procession.

    "She's had biracial children, a felony conviction, she's been a single parent and she's gone through poverty," Adams said. "You see someone who has been through all that, and you see a strong character. We're proud of her."

The ceremony: 9 a.m. Saturday at the RBC Center in Raleigh

Number of graduates: 3,881, including 91 associate's, 2,730 bachelor's, 158 doctorates and 75 doctorates of veterinary medicine

Main speaker: Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences and renowned researcher in atmospheric chemistry and climate change. Cicerone's work has been recognized by the United Nations and other international organizations.

What he said: Only one in 100 people on Earth are fortunate enough to be college educated. So to be among this elite class is both an honor and a great responsibility.

World population growth will challenge future generations in their quest to apply limited resources to unlimited and ever expanding wants and needs. Future leaders must therefore embrace scientific and technological innovation as a social enterprise, as well as an economic one.

Future leaders must also hone their skills in science, math and other disciplines to make land more productive, increase crop yields and improve transportation and energy production for all, especially as more humans compete for Earth's limited resources.

"Stay in touch with each other and N.C. State, and you will be pleased to see how well you are doing for yourselves and how much you are capable of doing for the world," he said.

Attire: Summer dresses, pointy shoes, bow ties and the occasional seersucker

Atmosphere: Chilly (It's a hockey arena, after all.)

Weirdest cap decoration: Live mice inside a clear plastic cage, stuck to the cap of a veterinary medicine student.

Most telling moment: Concession areas filled with bored, thirsty and eager well-wishers by 11:10 a.m., well before the student commencement address by Jared P. Milrad.

Proudest parent: Garry Meyer, who twice asked camera crew members not to block his view of his daughter Elisabeth Meyer, seated up front in the valedictorian section.

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