Memorable Language Usages: UNCP Commencement

Last Saturday morning (May 2) I traveled to Pembroke for the Spring Commencement exercises.  This was the first such event to be held at the Irwin Belk Athletic Complex,  which is composed primarily of the Grace P. Johnson Stadium and the Bob Caton Fieldhouse with footnotes like the Dick Taylor Track and Field area and other amenities.

As Chair of the Retired Faculty (is “whipper-in” too strong?) I helped my predecessor, Dr. James B Ebert,  lead in the several hundred faculty members.

I was duly impressed by the entire scope of this important day’s event.  I want to share with you some of my impressions about the ways in which variations on the English language make themselves heard via a powerful temporary speaker system. . . .

Readers of this blog, already sentient and well-read human beings of a certain age, will of course already know about the word “Commencement.”  It probably seems in its application to an event celebrating the graduation of some 607 students to be a misnomer, as these persons seem to believe they are all ending, rather than beginning, a stage in their education.  Yet it is the right word, for it truly marks the beginning of the rest of the lives of all these successful scholars, who will build their professions and careers upon the foundation which they, for the time being, have completed.

Interesting too in this event were the uses of the Latin language to describe the highest achievements of some of these graduates  All labels in the levels of recognition here end in “laude,”  which is conventionally a two-syllable word and thus not to be pronounced the same as “loud.” (We did hear that several times.)  Graduating “Cum Laude” (that is, “With Honors”) at UNCP equates to a cumulative grade point average between 3.40 and 3.69 (a bevy of fifty students achieved that goal). Graduating “Magna Cum Laude” (“With High Honors”) equates to a cumulative GPA of 3.70 to 3.84 (only seven graduates reached this lofty goal.  Finally there is also the distinction of graduating “Summa Cum Laude” (With Highest Honors”) for those with a GPA of 3.85 to 4.0 (six remarkable students reached this goal).

The speakers were often clever in their uses of memorable phrasing: intended perhaps both to keep listeners attentive and to provide graduates some lifelong advice.

The Chair of the Faculty Senate,  Dr. Anthony Curtis, amused the crowd by his extensive use of cliches to point up what may now lie ahead for these graduates.  His point was that, in times of confusion or stress, one may need to fall back, take things with a grain of salt, rest upon his or her laurels for a time, don’t put the cart before the horse, and perhaps use a comfortable cliche in order to find some solace.

The recipient of an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Ms. Mary Ann Elliott,  suggested that the graduates find strength and support in the three Fs:  Faith, Family, and Friends.

The Commencement Address, given by United States Congressman, The Honorable Mike McIntyre (whose wife is a UNCP Alumna),  focussed (the Congressman admitted to pilfering here from his first UNCP Commencement Address ten years earlier) 0n the need to “Reject, Inject, and Project.”

It was indeed a memorable and inspiring occasion, especially of course for the graduates and their friends and family members.  I was pleased to at least be able to give and then get a hug from our next-door neighbor in Cypress Lakes, Carol Boyd, who, in spite of much adversity, including the passing of her son Graham, was able to complete her Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology in four-and-a-half years. She also gained distinction by being chosen as one of UNCP’s representatives in “Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.”

I wrote a column about Carol’s quest in education for “The Sandspur” quite a well back.  Now she may be able to reach her dream of finding work where she will be able to monitor and care for that most awesome of ocean citizenry,  THE SHARK!



One Response to “Memorable Language Usages: UNCP Commencement”

  1. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Well done!

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