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Sweltering heat could not dampen the excitement for the Barton College graduating class of 2018 or graduates’ friends and family.
Temperatures hovered around 93 degrees as the 253 undergrad and graduate students and spectators fanned themselves with the large, white commencement programs. Bottled water could be found under tents on the Barton grounds so attendees would not become dehydrated.
“Here at Barton College, we celebrate the search for wisdom and meaning and truth,” Barton President Douglas Searcy said in his welcoming remarks. “We encourage our faculty and students to engage in the highest level of intellectual discourse, to push the limits of our learning community, to individually and collectively grow and develop to the fullest.”
“This celebration is for you,” Searcy told graduates. “Today we affirm that you are ready to leave the college, to live a life of meaning and significance, to make a difference, to leave your mark on the world.
“You are different than you were four years ago when you started on this journey — more knowledgeable, more mature, more prepared to address the world beyond this campus. You’ve established lifelong mentors in your faculty, lifelong friends in your classmates, and we celebrate all of your accomplishments and look forward to your future successes.”
The commencement address was given by Jane Smith Patterson, the 2017 recipient of the distinguished North Carolina Award for Public Service. Patterson is a trailblazer in the fields of technology and information infrastructure and has led regional, national and international initiatives in those fields. She works diligently to expand broadband internet access to all North Carolina residents.
“I have sailed through life, changing directions many times, and you need to be prepared to do that,” Patterson told the graduates. “Don’t worry if your career meanders back and forth. Barton has prepared you well to take on that challenge.”
“Continue to educate yourself … in person, at institutions, but also online,” added Patterson. “Be a supporter of helping all persons fulfill their God-given potential. We are all sisters and brothers. There will be disappointments along the way but they are temporary.”
Patterson praised the Wilson community for being the first gigabit city in North Carolina and said the city-owned Greenlight Community Broadband service has put Wilson on the map worldwide, adding that installing and maintaining the high-speed fiber-optic network was not an easy accomplishment.
“You are also an innovative city with a major driver of innovation … Barton College,” Patterson said. “Help expand broadband to all in North Carolina. Being a part of that movement is as important as electricity and paved roads to build our own destiny.”
“Wherever you decide to work, live and play, always give back to your home area as well as your college, Barton College,” Patterson said.