Tina Rush (right) of Charleston, hugs classmate Jessica Staley of Chapmanville, left, after receiving their diplomas Sunday.
WVSU President Hazo Carter is introduced as the commencement speaker.
Nathan Baxter (left) and Dana Beaver (center) turn their mortarboard tassels after the announcement by President Hazo Carter that they have graduated, earning their bachelors degrees.
President Hazo Carter (left) presents a presidential award for education to Charles Byers, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Emily Rowley donned a cap and gown and joined her former classmates outside the main arena at Charleston Civic Center Sunday afternoon.It had been a long road but the 29-year-old Parkersburg native was finally graduating from West Virginia State University with her English degree."It's definitely exciting," Rowley said as she and her former classmates prepared for the ceremony. "I've been in college for a really long time. It's a feeling of accomplishment. [I'll] finally check that box and move on."Rowley was one of 250 WVSU graduates who received degrees in the ceremony.Bradley Burke, 32 of Kanawha City, was another."It's finally starting to set in and I'm excited right now," said Burke, who graduated with a bachelor of science in communications. "I'm pretty excited."Friends and family of the graduating class members filled the Civic Center. Some held signs, balloons or flowers for their loved one. With each name read, cheering went up from various sections of the arena.Larry Rowe, chairman of the school's board of governors, said in his greetings the 2012 class represented an increase in the school's graduation rate, retention rate and in overall student numbers.
"West Virginia State is on the move -- the future is bright," Rowe said.He went on to congratulate the graduates on receiving their degrees."I look forward to telling everyone what great graduates West Virginia State University has," he said.Donald McClain of Sissonville gave the student address. McClain is the school's first student to earn a degree in international studies.
McClain quoted from Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken."Going to WVSU was his road less traveled, McClain told graduates."My road less traveled is coming to an end and I'm happy," he said. He advised graduates to do what is personally fulfilling to them and not to fear obstacles.
"Obstacles are a good thing," he said. "If you didn't have them you would never grow."Give back to the community, he said."That's what it's all about," McClain said.Hazo Carter gave his last commencement address as the school's president.Carter, who became president in 1987, will retire in July and become president emeritus, focusing on fundraising for the school. Carter announced his retirement last year, shortly after the school's board of governors gave him a no-confidence vote.In an address that was at times difficult to understand because of a muffled sound system, Carter told graduates they would succeed by setting high goals for themselves, having perseverance and honesty, and serving others. He urged the graduates to use their knowledge to help make the world a better place.
"West Virginia State University will always be a special place for you," he said, adding that they had made sacrifices to earn their degrees. "Enjoy this day; you deserve it."Reach Lori Kersey at firstname.lastname@example.org