Service and Passion ECU graduates encouraged to pursue a life of service

Dec. 16, 2016 | ECU News Services

The below-freezing temperatures did not keep family and friends away from East Carolina University’s commencement ceremony Friday, Dec. 16. Graduates filed into Minges Coliseum in their purple robes to escape the cold and take part in the ceremony recognizing their years of dedication and hard work. ECU’s class of 2016 is ready to take on the world.

108th Fall Commencement

2,200 graduates

  • 1,620 bachelor degree candidates
  • 558 graduate degree candidates
  • 39 certificates and doctoral degrees

The ceremony was the first for ECU’s new chancellor, Dr. Cecil Staton, who came to ECU in July.

“All of us at ECU want you to know that we believe in you. We have witnessed your potential – now go out and make your mark on the world. While you’re at it, don’t forget about your alma mater because we’ll be pulling for you every step of the journey.” –Chancellor Staton

Keynote speaker, Rear Admiral Christina “Tina” Alvarado, registered nurse and Deputy Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Reserve Policy and Integration, shared her advice for success – work hard at something you love, accept the inevitability of failing, serve others and live a passion-filled life.

“Passion makes you persevere despite self-doubt and fear.” –Alvarado

Aubrey Pennington and Shannan Smith

Wedding bells are in the air for Aubrey Pennington and Shannan Smith, who are engaged to be married. Both graduated with bachelor degrees in nursing and will move on to jobs at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

“I came to ECU to be with my high school sweetheart, and we’re graduating together. I just proposed two weeks ago.” –Pennington
“We’re excited to be graduating and starting the next chapter of our life together.” -Smith

Yanira Campos

“Once I was here I fell in love with ECU. It’s a big school but it has a small-town feel.” -Campos

Yanira Campos is from Seven Springs and said the affordability of ECU helped make her college decision. The sociology major hopes to become a paralegal and is taking a year to work before attending graduate school.

After graduation, Rick Mencer will begin his job as a safety coordinator for a roofing construction company. He is from Rocky Mount and received his master’s degree in environmental health.
“I’m glad we’re indoors because I never got to walk at my high school graduation. There were just two people in front of me when they had to end the ceremony because of lightning.” -Mencer

For master’s student Ashley Coons, graduation was her first time on Greenville’s campus. The 41-year-old Coons earned her master’s degree in education in instructional technology. She lives about three and a half hours away in Lexington and took her graduate courses one at a time over the past three years. She is in her 13th year as a middle school teacher in Davidson County.

“I want to instill in my students the value of lifelong learning that I have, and I am grateful to ECU for allowing me the opportunity to achieve this goal,” –Coons, who has finished with a 4.0 GPA
Psychology major Faith Alexander was born in the Virgin Islands and came to Greenville in middle school. She first attended Fayetteville State University and transferred to ECU because she wants to attend medical school at Brody School of Medicine.

New Pirate alums Haywood Johnson Jr. and Dale Owens were excited to reach the end of this chapter in their lives. Haywood is interested in journalism and storytelling, and Owens plans to move on to graduate school and eventually teach.

“I’ve learned so much at ECU, and I want to take it out into the world and help people.” –Johnson, BS in communication
“I’m a volunteer fireman, a soccer referee, do catering, work full time, and go to school. So you put all that together, and you’re up until 2 a.m. a lot of nights. You have to know your priorities and work hard.” –Owens, BS in business technology

Ashley Bonner is a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and served in Turkey, Guam and Paraguay. She received her undergraduate degree in university studies and will work for Rocking Horse Ranch in Pitt County doing veteran outreach. She wants to help reduce the veteran suicide rate.

“Being a Pirate means everything to me. It’s such a monumental, life-changing event; something you’ve worked so hard for for so many years, and all of a sudden it’s here.”


“It’s been a long journey, and I’m thrilled to be here. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication.” –Alexia Williams, Charlotte, BS in business management
SeBastian Munson is from Virginia Beach and graduated with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and reports to Fort Bennett for basic training after graduation.
“It’s been fun, but I’m glad to be done. It has been a lot of hard work.” –Munson
Calum Harvey started college at Central Piedmont Community College before transferring to ECU.

“I’ve been working for six years to get this degree while working full time, so I’m looking forward to having my evenings and weekends back, but it has been well worth it. I got a promotion at work and will be able to work from home.” –Harvey

“Go set the world on fire,” –Alvarado

Congratulations, Pirates!

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