'I ran the race and ... finished well'

  • Friday, May 20, 2016

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD. - (May 20, 2016) - The sun doesn't always shine on graduation day at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, but its appearance today was certainly welcome.

    Unseasonably cool temperatures and 13 days of rain made for dreary weather in early May, especially for the 472 students sprinting to finish class work, submit scholarly papers and take final exams.

    That meteorological slog became a distant memory over the course of a two-hour, 20-minute ceremony in the Hytche Athletic Center, punctuated with applause, shouts of joy and beaming smiles as UMES graduates received degrees - and officially became alumni.  

    Among members of the Class of 2016, many of whom enrolled as freshmen the summer Dr. Juliette B. Bell became president in 2012:

    Alexandra Uduk of Portland, Ore. made history; she is the university's first African-American woman to earn a bachelor's degree from the PGA-accredited golf management program.

    Salamahn XMills of Washington, D.C. achieved a rare feat, earning two degrees - one in mathematics and the other in computer science. He's pursuing job opportunities in software engineering and would like to go to graduate school to study geometry and topology.

    Rahsaan R. Johnson, class of 2016Rahsaan R. Johnson of Suitland, Md. crossed the Hytche stage with a degree in aviation science. He wants to be an air traffic controller, but his first post-UMES stop is a 10-week internship with the Federal Aviation Administration.

    A job with Harkins Builders Inc. awaits Jenny Porch of Snow Hill, an honors graduate with an engineering degree. As senior class project, she and Ryan Coyne of Ocean City created a cellphone app especially for UMES students.

    Aleaya Bowie of Frederick majored in biology and will spend this summer as an intern at an exclusive program at the University of California-Davis. The Richard A. Henson Honors program graduate will use that experience to prepare an application for veterinary school.

    Courtney Rhoades of Chincoteague, Va., another Henson Honors program student who also majored in biology, is headed to East Tennessee State University, where she will pursue a master's degree in Appalachian studies with a concentration in communities. Her long-term goal is attend medical school so she can become a rural physician.

    Rhodes and Bowie were among four seniors who represented UMES at the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge, a national quiz competition for students who attend historically black institutions.

    Deborah Williams and her daughter, Erica, both of whom completed work on master's degrees in rehabilitation counseling, crossed the Hytche stage back-to-back - mom first, of course.

    Step-sisters Michel'le White and Kanisha Stewart persevered to graduate on the same day while each also is raising a young child. White's degree is in sociology and Stewart earned a degree in hospitality-tourism management.

    Matthew and Keesha Kline were married in June 2014 and found pursuit of degrees at UMES a bonding experience. She received her doctorate in pharmacy and he graduated with honors with a degree in criminal justice.

    Seth Ward, the second undergraduate to serve two terms as UMES student government president in the modern era, has a job waiting with the federal government in Philadelphia that he hopes will burnish his resume when he eventually applies for law school. He majored in criminal justice.

    Jenny Porch, Mariah Dennis, Aleaya Bowie & Courtney RhoadesJonelle Allen, a biology major from Kingston, Jamaica, delivered the student commentary on behalf of her classmates.

    “Have the courage to follow your heart,” Allen said. “You don't want to be the one 20 years from now … thinking to yourself, I should have paid more attention to this, I should have stayed here a little longer, I shouldn't have complained about this or that so much.”

    “I ran the race and I finished well,” she said, “and best of all I enjoyed the process. Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”

    The university awarded honorary degrees in science to Dr. Daniel M. Ashby and Dr. Claudia Baquet, both respected health educators in Maryland. Bell presented Robert W. Cook, founding director of the Greater Salisbury Committee, a civic leadership organization, with a presidential medallion in recognition of his role in connecting UMES with Richard A. Henson Foundation.

    Gregory A. Thomas, Class of 1982, had the honor of delivering the commencement address at his alma mater.

    Thomas, a sociology major and star on the track team, peppered his speech with reflections of his time as an undergraduate and advice from 30 plus years working in security and law enforcement.

    He assured graduates a college degree from UMES can be a pathway to success.

    “If you want proof, look at me; look at my background,” Thomas said. “It matters you went to college - and you graduated.”

    He challenge graduates to get involved in volunteer work, “mentor others” … and “be a shining light.”

    Thomas credited two professors in the audience for guiding him to a successful post-graduate career.

    He was in Dr. Della Dameron-Johnson's speech classes, which three decades later prepared him well to be the commencement speaker. (In a poignant moment after his remarks, he went into the audience to have a picture taken with her.)

    Dr. Howard Rebach was his toughest critic as a professor, with whom he has remained in touch. Rebach contacted him to offer congratulations when it was announced he would be the commencement speaker.

    “He cared then,” Thomas said. “He cares now.”

    #HawkPride ~ #UMES16

    UMES Office of Public Relations, (410) 651-6669