It was a capacity crowd packing the bleachers on Saturday, May 12, 2018, when 164 Elizabeth City State University students crossed the stage inside the R.L. Vaughan Center, receiving their diplomas and taking steps toward the next chapters in their lives. It was ECSU’s 166th commencement ceremony.
The bleachers were full of family, friends and well-wishers. Cheers and applause echoed through the center as students made their way to the stage.
The ceremony was presided over by outgoing Chancellor Thomas Conway. University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings was the keynote speaker.
Spellings implored graduating students to “become a spark for others.”
“The kind of country we’ll become depends less on today’s headlines and more on what kind of citizens you choose to be,” she said in her keynote speech. “How you go about your work as teachers, as managers, social workers, pilots and police officers – that will define the quality of life for your neighbors, for this region, for North Carolina and our nation.”
The ceremony was the last for Conway, who will officially retire on May 31. Spellings, in the opening moments of her address, acknowledged the long-time UNC academic administrator for his years of service, and for the legacy he leaves behind at ECSU.
“Your legacy here is and will continue to be profound, having set this institution up for the bright future ahead,” said Spellings.
The morning ceremony also marked several special moments, the official bestowment of professor emeritus to Dr. Linda Hayden and Dr. Claudie Mackey, and recognition of Dr. Margery Coulson-Clark for being named one of the UNC System’s Board of Governors 2018 Excellence in Teaching recipients.
Outside the ceremony, Coulson-Clark commented on three decades as an educator.
“It’s been worth every bit of it,” she said.