NCCU grads savor the day

Nearly 1,000 get diplomas

May 17, 2009 

— Rites of passage for Triangle college students continued Saturday with commencement at North Carolina Central University, where the school recognized nearly 1,000 graduates, one by one.

For one Central grad, the day marked a notable achievement in family-style education.

Lavette Steele-McGill, 42, a magna cum laude nursing graduate, was accompanied by her daughter, Tameka Steele, who just received a doctorate in physical therapy from New York University. Steele-McGill's son, Brandon Hedgepeth, also graduated this spring, earning a degree in journalism and mass communication from North Carolina A&T University.

"It feels excellent to be here today -- absolutely wonderful," Steele-McGill said.

BY THE NUMBERS: About 950 graduates. Graduate and professional degrees: 384. Undergraduate degrees: 562. Graduating summa cum laude: 98

THE CEREMONY: Every graduate walked across the stage at O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium for North Carolina Central University's 113th commencement.

PRESIDING OVER THE CEREMONY: NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms

WHAT HE SAID: "It was not easy for those of you who had to work while you were earning your degree. And because you earned your degree when it wasn't easy, you learned the value of the most valuable commodity on earth -- time"

COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER: Marc H. Morial, former New Orleans mayor and president of the National Urban League

WHAT HE SAID: "Remember the three Bs: ballot: participate in democracy; buck: remember to respect money, but don't worship money; book: know the power of education."

"Today you are earning something that no one can take away from you."

STUDENT SPEAKER: Sha'Niece Simmons, senior class president.

WHAT SHE SAID: "We are eagles that have just been taught to fly. As you walk across the stage, remember this is your solid ground."

AMONG THOSE HONORED:

Kingsley Ikharo: bachelor of business administration in accounting, summa cum laude.

Ikharo immigrated to Durham from Nigeria and started working in a gas station. He is married and the father of seven children.

Enrolling at NCCU, Ikharo earned his degree in 18 months, while working and caring for his family. His son is planning to attend Central in the fall.

TIME OUT: One graduate took a little break from the festivities in the middle of the ceremony.

Coming back to the field with a foil-wrapped sandwich and a soft drink, he returned to his seat to enjoy his snack.

-- Teri Saylor

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