Passion to help others inspired graduates
Airport High School teacher William Lenard of Columbia discovered that he had an opportunity to inspire other African-American males to become educators.
Kelly Moran of Conway knew that middle school students were intimidated by math, so she found ways to match math to the individual sixth grader.
After finding studies in pharmacy biology were unfulfilling, Erica Boykin of Hartsville discovered exercise science and plans to devote her career to helping prevent childhood obesity.
Their achievements are just a few of the success stories from the University of South Carolina’s summer commencement exercises Saturday (Aug. 7) for baccalaureate, master’s and professional degree recipients from all eight campuses.
Lenard and Moran said a passion for educating young people led them into teaching and on to master’s degrees in education administration – degrees that will help them inspire and mentor the next generation of educators.
“I have been able to see the impact directly that my being in the classroom has had on male students, particularly African-American males,” said Lenard. “They can see that someone like them has gone to college and cares about education. They know that someone like them has succeeded, and they can, too.”
A 24-year veteran of the classroom, Moran said distance learning was invaluable in her quest for her master’s degree, but that coming to Carolina’s campus for some course work was a great experience.
“The university has a reputation for having a great, rigorous program in education,” said Moran, whose daughter Madeline, 13, and son James, 12, were taking pictures of their mother from their seats. “It is a quality program. I plan to become an assistant principal and then a principal so that I can help inspire young teachers.”
Boykin, whose ankle was adorned with the yellow “Live Strong” band popularized by cyclist Lance Armstrong, said she adopts the message in her own life. Boykin went from never exercising to a routine that includes daily physical activity, including cardiorespiratory exercises, running five days a week and strength training twice a week.
“I still need to work on my diet,” said Boykin, who works at the YMCA in Columbia and will pursue a master’s degree in public health in January. “But I am very concerned about preventing heart disease and obesity in young people.”
Commencement speaker Deborah Joy Voigt, an internationally known opera singer, discovered her love for opera because of a sixth-grade teacher who recognized her potential as a singer and encouraged her to study music.
Today, her passion for music education takes Voigt into elementary schools to introduce music concepts to children and taking part in master classes and other programs for music students. She also has given numerous benefit performances, including concerts for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the New York Theater Workshop.
“The arts help us to live as complete human beings,” said Voigt, who was awarded an honorary doctor of music degree by the university.
In encouraging the graduates to “shout your big dreams,” Voigt said that success “all starts with education.”
For some, the road to a college degree was winding.
John Irvin of Charleston began his pursuit of a college degree in 1994 at the University of South Carolina, but took time off to travel throughout the United States and Europe before discovering a desire to help troubled youth.
Irvin earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, with an emphasis on criminal justice and psychology, and also minored in business administration. He’s had an internship with the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and also received an achievement award for his work with juvenile offenders.
“If I can help just one juvenile, then my studies will be worth it,” said Irvin.
The university awarded 1,000 degrees from the Columbia campus, including three associate’s degrees, 502 baccalaureate degrees, five law degrees, 10 graduate certificates, 400 master’s degrees, 19 specialist’s degrees and 61 doctoral degrees.
The university also awarded degrees from its regional and four-year campuses: Aiken – 66 baccalaureate and 11 master’s degrees; Beaufort – four associate’s degrees and 35 baccalaureate degrees; Lancaster – 10 associate’s degrees; Salkehatchie – 10 associate’s degrees; Sumter – seven associate’s degrees; and Upstate – 230 baccalaureate degree and two master’s degrees.
Earlier in the day, the university awarded 61 doctoral degrees in the Koger Center. Dr. Katherine E. Chaddock, an associate professor in the department of educational leadership and policies in the College of Education, was guest speaker.