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ECSU confers 95 diplomas during winter graduation

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SayQuan Holder celebrates after accepting his diploma at Elizabeth City State University's winter commencement, Saturday morning.

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By Chris Day
Multimedia Editor

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Dana Richardson began working toward her college degree several years ago, but before she could graduate tragedy struck on two fronts. 

“I got sick and I lost my son,” said Richardson. “He actually committed suicide.”

Colby Clements was 21 years old when he died. It had been Colby who encouraged Richardson to go to college, she said. Facing the loss of her son, as well as serious health issues herself, Richardson left school.

“I lost my drive,” said Richardson, who lives in Moyock. 

That drive returned and on Saturday Richardson was among the roughly 95 graduates to receive their diplomas at Elizabeth City State University’s winter commencement.  

Richardson, 40, returned to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in history after encouragement from ECSU faculty and from her family.

“My adviser and my professor Dr. (Charles) Reed and my daughter actually are the ones that brought my drive and my dream back and pushed me to start back and finish my degree,” she said. 

Richardson emphasized how special it was that, while it had been Colby who encouarged her to go to college, it had been her daughter, Kyleigh Clements, 17, who helped encourage her to return.

Richardson was joined at Saturday’s graduation by her parents and Kyleigh. While Colby is gone in body, Richardson said it felt like he was with her, too.

“I just feel like my son is here with me,” she said. “I just want to enjoy the moment and spend some time with him.”

Saturday’s commencement began at 10 a.m. on campus in the R.L. Vaughan Center. Also graduating was Matthew Gregory Jr., of Elizabeth City.

Gregory, a 22-year-old computer science major, said he plans to move to Raleigh and get a job with a big computer company. Gregory graduated Northeastern High School in 2014.

David Drury, 23, a newly commissioned U.S. Army 2nd lieutenant, said his post-graduation plans include a transfer to Fort Lee, in Virginia, where he’ll attend the Army’s logistics school. Drury and four other ECSU Army ROTC students pledged their commissioning oaths on stage before a packed audience. 

The Bearer of the Mace, an honor presented to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average, was awarded to William Nelson, an aviation science major from Ahoskie.   

The commencement address was given by Venessa Harrison, the former president of AT&T in North Carolina. She recently moved to Georgia after being named president of AT&T’s Georgia operation. 

Harrison congratulated the graduates and thanked their parents and ECSU faculty and staff for preparing the students for life after college.

“We recognize that it takes a village,” she said.

Harrison told the students to take the word “impossible” and add an apostrophe, so it spells “I’m possible.”

“Everyone of you were created with a seed of greatness planted in you,” Harrison told them, adding that their parents and professors have nurtured that seed. 

“So, you can say loud and proud, ‘I’m possible,’” Harrison said, receiving applause. 

Greeting the graduates and families were David Powers of the N.C. Board of Governors; Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie J. Parker; and Chorn Poyner, president of ECSU’s Student Government Association. 

Giving the opening welcome was Jan King Robinson, vice chairman of the ECSU Board of Trustees. 

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