Doc Watson treated graduates to an
Dr. Thomas L. Purce gave an inspiring
More than 4,000 family and friends gathered on
UNC Asheville's Quadrangle Saturday morning to celebrate UNC
Asheville's 2009 graduating class. Some 612 students were honored
during the 81st annual Commencement Ceremony, including 365 spring
graduates, 221 winter graduates and 26 summer graduates. They were
all treated to an impromptu performance by honorary degree recipient
Doc Watson as well as an inspiring commencement address by Thomas L.
Among the students were the first three graduates of the joint UNC
Asheville – N.C. State University bachelor of science degree in
engineering with a concentration in mechatronics. The students took
engineering classes on campus taught by NCSU faculty, along with the
regular UNC Asheville coursework. The program was created in
response to the express needs of the manufacturing community in
Western North Carolina and is one of a very few programs in the
country that has a concentration on mechatronics, which incorporates
mechanical and electrical engineering. Twins Alan and Daniel Griffee
of Weaverville have landed jobs locally, while Esraa Halim will
return to Egypt this summer to visit family and consider graduate
Early in the commencement ceremony, UNC Asheville Chancellor Anne
Ponder awarded honorary degrees to Evergreen College President
Thomas L. Purce and legendary musician Arthel "Doc" Watson.
Purce has served as president of Evergreen State College in Olympia,
Wash., a nationally recognized public liberal arts institution, for
nine years. Purce has also held top-ranking administrative roles at
Washington State University and Idaho State University and was the
first black elected official in Idaho, serving as city councilman
and then mayor of Pocatello.
Watson, a Western North Carolina native, is a legendary guitar
player, songwriter, and singer of bluegrass, folk and country music.
Blind since the age of one, Watson became an avid musician. He got
his big career break at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, and
recorded his first solo album the following year. Watson has since
won seven Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the
National Medal of the Arts and was inducted into the International
Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
After receiving his honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, Purce
addressed the graduates, urging the students to make a lifelong
commitment to education and community service.
"It is not the intention of this university to graduate citizens
into the world who think that their only reason for getting an
education is to increase their personal income… Personal income is
important but so is creating a world community that recognizes the
intrinsic importance of every human being on the globe" Purce said.
"As you chart the course of your life, keep your eye on a fixed
point," he continued. "Like the navigators of old, find your north
star. The knowledge and the values that follow from your strong
liberal arts education will be your star."
As is tradition, graduates pat Rocky the
mascot for good
luck prior to the start of Commencement
Three graduates were presented with UNC Asheville's highest student
Asheville native Nicholas Ladd received the
William and Ida Friday Award for Community Service. Ladd, who served
as student body president this year, was a tireless advocate for
students and their access to affordable education. He was also a
leading voice on campus for sustainability, especially in reducing
the carbon footprint of the residence halls. Over the years, Ladd
participated in "alternative" spring breaks, giving his week off to
do service projects in Asheville, New Orleans and Huntsville, Ala. A
double major in environmental studies and philosophy, Ladd will head
to medical school this fall so that he can continue his service to
The A.C. Reynolds Award and the Thomas D. Reynolds Prize for
Leadership and Campus Service was presented to senior health and
wellness promotion major Jewell Gist. Most notably, the Asheville
native was instrumental in the opening of the University's new
Intercultural Center this spring, which is home to student
organizations as well as the offices of Multicultural Student
Programs and the Center for Diversity Education. She also worked on
pre-orientation programming for new students and coordinating
heritage month activities to honor multicultural students.
Rain was predicted, but sunny skies and
Megan Miller, a classics major from Tryon, N.C., was named the
recipient of the Manly E. Wright Award, which is presented to the
student first in scholarship. During her time as a student, Miller
conducted research on paleography, earning $6,000 in grants and
invitations to present her findings at national conference.
Recently, she received the Nina Simone Senior Scholarship Award and
was awarded a Fulbright Award to continue her studies in Great
Britain, where she has been accepted at Oxford University. While at
Oxford, she will be supported by the 2009 Lionel Pearson Fellowship
from the American Philological Society. A first generation college
student, Miller bested four finalists from Ivy League schools for
the $27,000 Pearson scholarship.
During the ceremony, Chancellor Ponder also honored the University's
faculty and staff with annual top awards.
John Meyers was named Distinguished Staff Member. Meyers, who serves
as the instructional technology consultant in the Center for
Teaching and Learning, was instrumental in moving the University to
a more flexible and cost-effective online course support tool. He is
known campuswide for his enthusiasm and patience in teaching
difficult technical concepts to both faculty and staff.
The Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award was presented to Tim
Forrest, professor of biology. Forrest, who joined the faculty in
1996, holds a doctorate in entomology from Florida State University.
In the classroom, Forrest is noted as being demanding but fair,
passionate about his subject, and ready to make the extra effort to
help students succeed. One student noted that Forrest is "always
available to help, always responsive to my interests, always
unflinchingly honest about the quality of my work, he has shown me
an example of the working diligence and passionate spirit of a
gifted scientist, which is what I aspire to be." During the summers,
Forrest coordinates an educational "Bug Camp" for middle school
students who are underrepresented in the sciences.
The new Alumni Bell was run at the
beginning and end
of the ceremony
Prior to the close of the ceremony, Chancellor Ponder announced two
new UNC Asheville traditions. At the beginning of Commencement,
graduates were greeted by an Alumni Bell, a gift of alumni and
friends of the University. The large, cast bell will be rung at
Convocations and Commencements as well as other official occasions
of celebration and remembrance. The University flag was also raised
for the first time. The student-designed flag will fly with the
American and North Carolina flags on the Quad.
Chancellor Ponder closed the ceremony with a reminder to the
"Graduates, as you leave here today and go into the world, I know
that you will remember fondly your Alma Mater," she said. "May you
be assured in the knowledge that the University of North Carolina at
Asheville is behind you all the way."
UNC Asheville Class of 2009 Facts
UNC Asheville faculty applaud graduates as
enter the Quad for Commencement
Total number of graduates: 612
365 spring graduates
221 winter graduates
26 summer graduates
Youngest graduate: 20
Oldest graduate: 64
Percent from Buncombe County: 36.8%
Percent from Western North Carolina: 51.0%
Percent from the Piedmont: 28.4%
Percent from Eastern North Carolina: 5.9%
Percent from out-of-state: 14.7%
Number of states represented, excluding North Carolina: 27
Number of countries represented, excluding the U.S.: 3
Most Popular Majors (based on primary major)
Environmental Studies and Sociology: 6.8%
Literature & Language: 6.5%
Art, Health & Wellness Promotion, Mass Communication: 5.6 %
Additional Information for Graduates and Their
Photographs: Graduates' photographs will be taken as they
receive their diplomas by the Georgia-based company Action
International Marketing. After Commencement, the photographer will
send purchase information to graduates' permanent addresses on file
with the University or click on
to view and order photographs.
Video: DVD copies of the Spring 2009 Commencement will be
available after May 26. Please email your name and address to
to reserve a copy. Please indicate whether you would prefer to have
your DVD mailed to you, or if you will be picking it up at the CITS
desk, Ramsey Library Room 002 (you will receive your copy sooner by
picking up than by mail). DVDs are $5.00 per copy.
Diplomas: Graduates receive their actual diplomas at the
ceremony. UNC Asheville's diplomas are 14 inches wide and 11 inches
tall. Frames are available in the UNC Asheville Bookstore.
Honorary Degrees: Les Purce and Doc Watson are among a distinguished
list of artists, business and civic leaders, educators and
philanthropists who have received an honorary degree from UNC
Click here for a complete history.
here for additional images of UNC Asheville's 81st Commencement
Click here for a podcast of Dr. Purce's Commencement Address.