On Sunday, May 6, 2012, Meredith College held commencement exercises in historic McIver Amphitheater. This was the first commencement for President Jo Allen, ’80, since her return to Meredith to serve as the College’s first alumna president.
The sea of maroon caps and gowns clustered in the center of the Amphitheater was striking, and was new this year. The undergraduate Class of 2012 voted to wear maroon regalia as a way of expressing their pride in Meredith’s heritage and distinguish themselves from other colleges in the area. Maroon is Meredith’s school color.
Alumna Silda Wall Spitzer, ’80, delivered the 2012 commencement address. Spitzer, former First Lady of the State of New York, has had a highly successful career spanning the private, non-profit and public sectors. She has worked to advance the economy, sustainability, youth service and education, and women’s leadership and human rights.
Spitzer, who noted that the oldest of her three daughters will also graduate from college this year, told graduates it is up to them to define their own “core.”
"There is no one right way to live a successful life—as a professional or as a woman,” said Spitzer. “It is about following your own path, seizing opportunities while staying true to yourself, your dreams, your beliefs—and along the way doing something that makes a difference.”
Spitzer said that as women, it is critical for the graduates to understand that they are ultimately responsible for themselves. This is particularly important with regard to one’s finances, given that almost 85% of impoverished elderly Americans are women, who live on average almost a decade longer than men.
Spitzer earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and history from Meredith and holds a law degree from Harvard Law School. During the commencement ceremony, Spitzer was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters. She is also newly elected to the Meredith Board of Trustees.
President Allen Challenges Graduates to Be a “Force of Nature”
In her remarks, President Allen encouraged graduates to build on the “deep learning” they have developed while at Meredith by engaging deeply in their careers, their future areas of study, and their communities.
“As an educator, I urge you to continue deepening your knowledge and your love for learning,” said Allen. She continued, “As a fellow human being, though, I urge you to continue deepening your commitment to others.”
Allen noted that members of the graduating class are joining an exclusive club, with only 1% of the world holding an undergraduate degree, and even fewer holding graduate degrees.
“As part of the educated force, you will be expected—and we truly need you—to do great things.”
About the Graduates
New graduates of Meredith look forward to a bright future, with jobs, volunteer work and graduate study on the horizon. They have good reason to be optimistic. A survey of Meredith graduates of the Class of 2011 found that 90.3 were either employed or attending graduate school within nine months of graduation.
Many graduate today with plans already in place. Hannah Massey, ’12, will move to Washington, D.C., to take a position with Kaboom!, a nonprofit that builds playgrounds around the country.
“I discovered my passion for playgrounds while studying abroad in South Africa last spring, so it’s really exciting to watch my goals being lived out,” said Massey.
Jessie Breazeale, ’12, will enter the molecular and cellular biosciences Ph.D. program at Wake Forest University in the fall. For Breazeale, the combination of being both challenged and supported academically has prepared her to advance in her studies.
“My Meredith experience gave me the confidence to go forward and know that I’m prepared to be a good scientist and contribute to my field,” said Breazeale.
Jeffrey Schum, ’12, MBA, came to Meredith looking to take his career to the next level.
“The small classes were great, and most others were also working full-time, so that helped,” said Schum. “The professors brought real-world experience in the program.”
Suzanne Macaulay, ’12, M.Ed., said the program was tough, but she thought that was one of its strengths.
“I have friends in similar programs at other universities who haven’t even had to do a final research project. If I decide to go on to a Ph.D. program, I know I’ll be prepared,” said Macaulay.
Anita Rupert, ’12, M.Ed., is starting a new job with the Wake County School District as a result of pursuing her graduate degree.
“I’m merging what I’ve learned here and what I’ve learned through 15 years in the classroom.
This gave me the opportunity to go up a step and impact a lot of teachers throughout our district,” said Rupert.
Four hundred seventy seven degrees were awarded in today’s ceremony. Of those, 370 were undergraduate degrees, and 107 were graduate degrees. Meredith conferred the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Social Work, as well as master’s degrees in business, education and nutrition during the commencement exercises. Undergraduate programs at Meredith are for women only, while graduate programs are coeducational.
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