Caps off to the Grads!

by Sean Fitzpatrick '04

As I walked across West Campus to buy a scantron for my last final, I sensed a feeling of freedom in the air. The campus looked barren, and the cries of end-of-the-year stress no longer filled my ears. I could feel the excitement of the close of the spring semester. All this led up to an event that exists as the climax for many students: commencement, more commonly known as graduation.

Due to rain, the May 3 commencement ceremonies moved indoors to the Felix Event Center on West Campus. "I thought they did a good job putting it together on such short notice," said Brian Pappagalo '03.

Graduates' friends and family packed the Event Center at the graduate and accelerated degree program ceremony in the morning and the undergraduate ceremony in the evening. Event staff opened Upper Turner Campus Center (UTCC) and the Duke Academic Complex for overflow.

At the evening ceremony, seniors celebrated by tossing tortillas in the air. "The opportunity to throw tortillas was the most fun I’ve had in a long time," said Dan Hudson '03. President Jon R. Wallace, DBA, spoke to the graduates, encouraging their uniqueness and sharing appreciation for the class gift, a cross that was placed on Cougar Walk.

"Graduation was more exciting than I thought it would be," said Jay Sherer '03. "The noise in the Event Center made it more exhilarating, although it was unfortunate that not everyone could fit in there."

Michael Whyte, Ph.D., APU’s interim provost, served as keynote speaker at the morning ceremony; and Bill McCartney, founder and president of Promise Keepers, spoke at the evening ceremony.

More than 1,100 students received their bachelor’s and master’s degrees along with 13 graduates honored with a doctorate. Faculty honored included Joseph Bentz, Ph.D. with the Undergraduate Scholarly Achievement Award; Felicitas A. dela Cruz, Ph.D. with the Graduate Scholarly Achievement Award; Gary Lemaster with the Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award; and Michael Laymon, DPTSC, with the Chase A. Sawtell Inspirational Faculty Award.