CCCC spring graduates celebrate commencement

May. 11, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Excitement bubbled over into cheers, enthusiastic applause and lots of big smiles as Central Carolina Community College celebrated its Spring Commencement May 10 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.

A total of 541 students had completed their studies during the fall and spring semesters, with more than 300 taking part in the commencement exercises. The college awarded 391 degrees, 136 diplomas, and 485 certificates, with some students receiving multiple credentials. Due to the large number of graduates, exercises were held in both the morning and the afternoon.

At both graduation programs, the cheerful chatter of family and friends fell silent as the audience rose to its feet in honor of the graduates as they walked quickly but with dignity into the large Civic Center hall.

They were led, for the first time at any CCCC graduation, by a bagpiper, Peter Graham McArthur, whose rendition of the Scottish patriotic march, “Scotland the Brave” filled the hall. The graduates walked to their seats, two-by two, sometimes smiling or giving a thumbs up as they passed family and friends.

Kim Browning, chair of the college’s Veterinary Medical Technology Department and the college’s 2012 Instructor of the Year, addressed the graduating class.

“Every one of you changed your life when you chose to come to Central Carolina Community College,” she said. “You have taken an estimated almost five million steps if you enrolled at CCCC in 2011. Confucius said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The most important step is the one you will take tomorrow and the day after.”

Student speakers at the morning commencement were Jeanette Cox, of Lee County, who received her associate in applied science degree in paralegal technology; and Joseph Price, of Harnett County, who received his degree in laser and photonics technology. The afternoon student speakers were Gail Cranford of Chatham County, who received her degree in early childhood associate; and Kim Wilkinson of Durham County, who received her degree in veterinary medical technology.

All of the speakers congratulated their fellow graduates on their achievement, urging them to continue to build on the foundation they had established at CCCC.

At the afternoon exercises, the college honored three of the college family who recently passed away: retired faculty Clemellyn Welch and Larry “Lars” Hamilton, and student Nancy Ocampo.

Ocampo died in an April 26 automobile accident. At the time of her death, she was a student at the Chatham County Campus. She had worked on campus as a computer lab assistant and tutor, as well as tutoring children in the community.

“Countless students have remarked about her patience and efforts to help other students who were struggling, and her legacy will truly be with all the lives that she warmly and positively touched,” said Ken Hoyle, CCCC vice president of Student Services.

Ocampo’s family was invited to the stage, where they were presented with Ocampo’s diploma in associate in arts.

Welch had taught English at the college for many years. In retirement, she served her community of Broadway. She was in her second term as a town commissioner when she died May 3. Hamilton served as a college research director and an English instructor until retiring. He died April 30.

“Both of them were devoted to their students as advisors and instructors,” Hoyle said. “[They] contributed to their community through their artistic, civic and governmental activities, and both will be greatly missed.”

A number of graduating students were recognized for achieving highest academic honors: associate in arts/associate in science — Kandis Harris, Paul Graf, Tonya Jordan and Joseph Cox; A.A.S. – Sharon Barnett, Joni Buzzard, Mary Clark, Rebecca Danzer, Dwayne Parrish, Joseph Price, Judy Borge, Colleen Cunningham, Katherine Frazer, Kathryn Tolbert, Nicole VanDerWerff, Cheryl Voerman and Kimala Wilkinson; and diploma – Kristen Calcaterra, Jason Terrell, Natasha Bean and Angela Cashwell. Members of Phi Beta Kappa, the international honor society, also stood to receive recognition for their achievements.

Then Lisa Chapman, executive vice president of instruction, called out the graduates’ names one by one. They walked across the Civic Center stage to the applause and cheers of family and friends, receiving their credential from CCCC President Bud Marchant.

When all had received their credentials, they were instructed to move the tassels on their motarboards from right to left, signaling that they were, at last, graduates.

After the recessional, the excited graduates met their happy family and friends in the civic center’s lobby. There, graduate Dwayne Parrish of Harnett County got a hug from his wife, Jennifer.

“I’m glad to be done,” said Parrish, who earned his degree in industrial systems technology/bio-maintenance in one year and one semester, carrying a straight-A grade point average. “I’m an ex-chicken farmer who had to make a career change. I’ve always been a hands-on person, so I went into IST.”

He’s already been hired as a process technician by a company that designs and produces products for the automotive industry. He’s not done with his education yet and is enrolling in online classes through East Carolina University to earn his bachelor’s.

John Banks of Lee County received his degree in business administration but said he’s already enrolled in accounting classes, and he is going to study Criminal Justice Technology. He plans, eventually, to go into hotel and restaurant management.

“I am so proud of my husband,” said Banks’s wife, Melinda. “His example is going to push our children and grandchildren to work even harder at their education.”

Victor Apple of Chatham County earned a degree in computer engineering technology while also employed full time. He summed up all the graduate’s feelings when he described his own: “It feels great, wonderful, awesome, and anything else I could say!”

Photographs from the commencement exercises can be downloaded from The commencement can be viewed online at