USC launches a new set of grads
Former New York Gov. George Pataki urged graduates at the University of South Carolina’s summer commencement Saturday (Aug. 6) to find the spirit, unity and optimism he saw in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“Even on our darkest day, I have seen that optimism on display,” Pataki told graduates of the university’s eight campuses. “On that day, the worst of days, I saw the American spirit, our courage, our optimism. I saw hopefulness about the future amidst the tragedy of the moment.”
At Saturday morning’s commencement ceremonies at the Colonial Life Arena, the university awarded 1,484 bachelor’s, master’s and professional degrees, including 1,110 degrees from the Columbia campus. Pataki was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Northwestern University chemist and materials scientist Tobin J. Marks received an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Pataki criticized government spending in Washington, decried the recent debt crisis and expressed concern about the high rates of unemployment.
“Unfortunately the world beyond this beloved home of the Gamecocks is not quite as idyllic and beautiful as this great campus. You graduate at a time of enormous economic uncertainty. Too many Americans and more particularly, too many bright young talented Americans cannot find a job.”
Despite those “storm clouds and concerns,” Pataki told graduates of the need to remember what binds them as Americans.
“In those days after the attack, Americans came together in a way I have never experienced before or since…Today we need to find that same spirit,” he said. “When we stood together then, and when we stand together today, united in our willingness to confront our problems head on and to solve them, there is nothing we cannot do.”
For the graduates, commencement marked the chance to start anew.
Kayla McCoy, 29, earned her associate’s degree from USC Lancaster. McCoy will start on her bachelor’s degree in August and hopes to attend law school and help abused women. Her family, including her 2-year-old daughter Kinzey, who was recently crowned Miss Tiny Tot South Carolina, filled an entire row.
“I was determined for her to be here. She won a $2,000 savings bond for college. I’m the first to graduate from college in my family. I wanted her to be here and know what a graduation is. She’s at mine and I’ll be at her college graduation some day, too.”
Sitting next to her was Danyell Lynn, 36, a 17-year Navy veteran who served three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. He was wounded twice and returned to the United States in 2009. On Saturday, he received his associate’s degree from USC Lancaster and plans to study public relations at USC Columbia. His goal is to help veterans.
“I want to improve the world for veterans. We are the ones who defend the country. Veterans have to deal with issues a regular American never hears about. I want to help,” said Lynn, of Fort Lawn.
Jason Abernethy of Columbia, who received his master’s in linguistics, will be heading to Korea next month to teach English.
“It’s a chance to see the world. My mother’s Korean, and I’m interested in teaching English. Korea’s a good place to start,” said Abernethy, 26, who also received his bachelor’s degree in English from USC.
Josh Crowley, who earned his degree in public relations, will begin an internship at Erwin-Penland in Greenville. “I feel really lucky to have this opportunity,” Crowley said. “I’ had a great experience at Carolina, and I feel prepared to take this next step.”
Felicia Crawford, who received her associate’s degree Saturday from USC Lancaster, hopes to start the nursing program at USCL in the fall. Crawford, who wants to be a pediatric nurse, went back to school a few years ago after the Winnsboro plant where she was a supervisor closed.
“It’s exciting. Especially because I’m 40,” she said. Her two daughters are also students at USC Lancaster. The three have taken classes together.
So who made the better grades? “Mom did,” she said. #####