Sleepy but smiling – some in flip-flops while others donned three-inch heels – and shortly after the sun rose, graduates began arriving on Coastal Carolina University’s campus in preparation for summer commencement 2014.
Commencement speaker Arne Flaten, professor of art and chair of CCU’s Department of Visual Art, spoke on the topic “Carpe Diem: Of Dead Poets and Epistemology.”
“It’s exciting,” said Anthony Vincent Gerbino of Marlboro, N.Y.
Lyndsey Marie Borges of Rhode Island shook her head in agreement but then added “the party’s over. It’s time for the real world.”
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Gerbino said he waited three years to attend college and went to work for his father while Borges, 22, began her college career immediately following high school graduation.
Both studied health promotion while attending CCU and both plan to work in the field of pharmaceutical sales.
For the second year since it was built, summer ceremonies have been held at the climate-controlled HTC Center, said Martha Hunn, director of news and public affairs at CCU. The center seats 3,300.
By 8 a.m., seats were filling up fast as friends and family came to claim them bearing flowers, cellphones and cameras. One tiny attendee even came clutching a tiara.
Prior to making the few and final sweeps to check on graduates as they lined the halls in anticipation, Doug Lawless, CCU’s registrat and the keeper of student records, introduced Eileen Soisson, an MBA candidate.
Soisson is mom to an 8-year-old, has her own business and works full-time at the university as the director of service excellence, a two-year old program “unique to academia,” she explained which promotes Feel the Teal. That program is about treating students, and one another, in a manner that demonstrates their value and importance.
Soisson’s plans for the future include “sleeping in tomorrow!” she said.
Jose Pope, originally from Argentina, concurred. “I’m going to graduate, then sleep,” he said.
Pope is a candidate for a master’s of education in music. With plans to teach “anywhere in the U.S. is fine,” he said, Pope explained he is the second in his family to come to Coastal Carolina after his brother.
Also continuing a family tradition wass Benjamin Downs IV of Ninety-Six, S.C., who studied recreation and sports management and whose sister also attended Coastal Carolina University.
After graduating, Downs, 23, will work with the Charlotte Hornets.
And then there are those who come to Coastal for the simple fact of “the great weather and great southern atmosphere,” and Robert Sean Dumien.
Dumien, of Tom’s River, N.J., was also a recreation and sports management major and plans to head back to the north to work for Ocean City Parks and Recreation.
“We’re broke,” said James Grice, chuckling as he leaned back in his bleacher chair.
Son Michael J. Grice sat briefly between his parents before taking his place in the line-up of graduates. Grice leaves Coastal Carolina with a major in psychology and a minor in biology.
Grice, of Latta, plans to train service animals and is entertaining the possibility of serving in the military first, which “would sort of be like an internship,” he said.
“We’re 100 percent supportive,” said Faye Grice.
Soon after, the music started as the audience was asked to rise as the first of 202 out of the 305 who were eligible for graduation began filing into the auditorium.
Flaten addressed them with words to live by.
“Don’t wait for your future passively,” said Flaten. “Go get it. Seize the day! Seize your lives. Take responsibility for your actions. ... Enjoy your successes, but relish your mistakes, too. We frequently learn more from our failures than our triumphs. ... And be ready, because life doesn’t unfold the way you think it will. That would be boring.”