May is generally a month of transition, from showers to sunshine and flowers and from college campuses to “the real world.” Winston-Salem and Forsyth County are blessed with several institutions of higher learning that are holding graduation ceremonies this month. Each of these schools, while different in various characteristics, provides a high-quality education. Each graduation ceremony has its unique flavor, but they’re all celebratory.
We’d like to join the well-wishers. A diploma, whether associate’s, undergraduate or graduate, is quite an achievement. If nothing else, it shows a degree of commitment and discipline — precursors to success. With the achievement, for each student, comes freedom and high expectations.
National attention — as exhibited by a crew from NBC’s “Today” show — was drawn to 99-year-old Elizabeth Barker Johnson, who was among the 1,100 graduates of Winston-Salem State University who marched across the stage on May 10 at Joel Coliseum to accept their diplomas. She graduated from WSSU with a teaching degree in 1949, but missed the ceremony then to start a new teaching job.
“This was long overdue and well-deserved, a big day,” her daughter, Cynthia Scott, said. “I’m just so, so proud.”
We feel that pride — for Johnson and all the WSSU graduates, from whom we expect great things.
About 1,459 students graduated in a ceremony the previous day, also in Joel Coliseum, from Forsyth Technical Community College, with associate’s degrees, certificates and diplomas in practical fields like nursing and IT-technical support and services, many with jobs waiting. During the ceremony, College President Janet Spriggs shared some wisdom: “We all have a finite amount of time to write our life story. I believe that the best use of our time is when we live our life so that our legacies are not tied to physical objects or material structures, but rather our legacies are seen in the lives of people …. I encourage all of you to live a life that leaves the world a better place because of the difference that you make.”
We think they will.
The graduating class at the UNC School of the Arts was smaller — 246 students received undergraduate and graduate degrees on May 4 at a ceremony in the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem — but the celebration was just as spirited. And the message presented by speaker Mary-Mitchell Campbell, a conductor and composer who graduated from UNCSA’s high school in 1992, was timely.
“When situations like what happened at UNC Charlotte happen, it’s our job to make great art,” Campbell said. “We are living in incredibly crazy times. No matter where you fall in your opinions about the world ... we need brilliant artists to step it up and lead the way. Now is not the time to be silent.”
To which we can only add, “Amen.”
The graduation season continues today with exercises at Wake Forest University, where Washington Post Publisher Fred Ryan will deliver a commencement address to nearly 2,000 graduates and their friends and families; and Saturday, for around 222 graduates of Salem College, at Joel Coliseum, where NASA astronaut Stephanie D. Wilson will be the commencement speaker. “As a woman at the top of her field, one of our country’s best and brightest, she is a role model who exemplifies Salem’s focus on intelligence, courage, leadership and resilience,” Salem College President Sandra J. Doran said. We agree.
To all, our heart-felt congratulations and best wishes for the future. Your achievement carries with it the responsibility of representing the good name of your city and your county. As many of you leave the nest and move to other localities, hold your heads high. And tell them where you’re from.