About the Speaker:
After he graduated from Catawba, he played baseball for a year in the minor leagues for the Pittsburg Pirates, while earning his master's of education degree from Boston University.
He served in the U.S. Army in Korea and Hawaii from 1953 to 1955, before taking a job as a teacher and athletic coach in the Lynchburg Public Schools in Virginia from 1955 to 1957. Between 1957 and 1959, he was a Teaching Fellow at Boston University while earning his doctorate of education from there.
For 30 years, between 1959 and 1989, Oxendine served as dean and professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. There, he conducted research, published scholarly papers, won teaching awards and research grants, and even wrote two books. He and wife Adrienne made their home in Philadelphia and raised their two children.
When a career opportunity became available to him back in his native North Carolina, as chancellor at UNC Pembroke, he took it, and served 10 years, from 1989 until 1999, as chancellor there.
In March 2011, after he had been retired for almost 12 years as chancellor emeritus from UNC Pembroke, Catawba trustees asked Joe to return to Catawba as interim president. He said, "Yes," and has spent the last year at the helm of the college, reaching out to students, faculty and alumni, while being "the face" of Catawba.
Catawba has honored Oxendine several times through the years. He has been awarded the college's O. B. Michael Award, the Distinguished Alumnus Award and been given an honorary degree. He has been inducted into Catawba's Sports Hall of Fame and was tapped to serve on the Board of Trustees.
In April 2012, Oxendine was awarded Catawba's prestigious Adrian L. Shuford, Jr. Award for Distinguished Service.
QUOTE OF NOTE:
dr. joseph b. oxendine '52
COMMENTS TO GRADUATING CLASS - May 12, 2012
What a glorious day this is, and it is a real joy for me to join you today in your graduation ceremonies. This is indeed a happy occasion for graduates, and perhaps more so for parents. I, too, am graduating with you today, and I am happy about that.
However, there is a difference. Whereas it took you four years or more to complete your work, it only took me a year and three months. Well you might say it took a little longer, like about 60 years since I last studied here. But just over a year ago some trustees felt that I should return here and do some more work — as president.
You are a special graduating class, both as individuals and as a group. There are 193 of you and as a group, you range in age from 20 to 36 years, with an average age of 23.
This class is 52% women and 48% men. You are a geographically diverse class, representing 18 states and 3 foreign countries.
As I have visited with you over the past year in the cafeteria, at athletic events, and generally around the campus, I have been impressed, and inspired, by your personal stories. It is tempting to stand here and tell you some of those stories, but time does not permit that today.
However, I have a suggestion. If you stand with me outside after ceremonies are completed and mingle among the graduates and their families, you will be able to hear those stories. The parents, the spouses, and friends will brag unashamedly about the graduates, and that's great. It's great that they feel that way and tell us about it, and some of those stories they will tell you are actually true!
However, more important than reflecting on past accomplishments are the plans you have for the future. Many of you have told me about your professional and personal plans for the immediate and long-term future. These too are exciting.
Three brief suggestions as you look to the future:
in your career plans, I encourage you to pursue the highest goals that you can envision. Strive for positions that stretch your imagination and your aspirations. I have always believed that "if you can conceive it, you can achieve it." Establish ambitious plans, and do this without fear of failure. As you pursue these higher goals you may receive some setbacks or rejections, but you will attain a lot more success than those who don't try. Most successful people in important positions have received rejections along the way. I have probably had more setbacks than anyone in this room. That's because I am older than most and I always liked to try new things. So, although I failed at some things, I also succeeded a lot, and I've had a lot of very good jobs.
To Jasika Nicole Pruitt: Have you ever failed to get any roles that you tried for?
The real failures are those who do not try for challenging goals. Therefore, do not be reluctant, aim high and "go for it."
get into a field or occupation that you enjoy. This may be different from what you assumed you should do a couple of years ago. It may take a while to get there but it is very important that you get into a position that provides you personal satisfaction and stimulation. I talk with people on occasion who say "I have never really enjoyed my work and I can't wait to retire." That's very sad. Don't let it happen to you.
You may have to take a job to get a paycheck coming in, but continue to pursue that job or field that is of your highest personal interest. The typical person in this country will hold more than a dozen jobs during his or her lifetime. This will include two or three major career changes. Seek out those with greatest personal interest. I became a school teacher at the age of 25, and I have never regretted that decision. I tried several jobs earlier (list some). The field of education at various levels has been ideal for me. Again, pursue a job that you enjoy.
To Jasika: Do you enjoy the field you're in?
- Thirdly, set your mind to make a difference in your profession, your community, and in your world. As a college graduate, and a Catawba College graduate, you are joining an elite group. Only about one out of five adults in our state and in our nation have reached this level. Consequently, you have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to become a leader in your community. You are going to encounter unanticipated opportunities to contribute and to make a difference. I encourage you to take on these responsibilities and improve the climate for all of us.
We are all proud of you today. It is my fervent hope that ten years from now, and fifty years from now, all persons in your community and all who know you will say, "now there is an individual who is really making a difference in this community."
One final request. Each of you has family or friends in the audience who have provided you love and support during your time here. Perhaps parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, spouses and children — persons important to you. Please stand and face those special persons in the audience, and if you can't find them, pretend that you see them, and express your thanks — and the faculty and the rest of us will join you.
Keep in touch with Catawba and keep in touch with your friends. Some of your school mates will be close friends for 25 and 50 years. Come back and visit this campus often.
President Lewis, it is good to join you in this commencement today. Here's hoping you have many more equally joyous ceremonies in years to come.
Now, for one last time I’m going to ask you to sing your Alma Mater. Surely, you have all learned it by now, but just in case you haven’t, it is printed in your program.
After the Alma Mater, Dr. Clapp will present the benediction. Then I ask the audience to remain until the recessional has been completed.