On Saturday, May 8, Ashley Quinones was not just the Catawba College student who had had a double lung transplant, she was simply one of the crowd -- one of the College’s 321 graduates who received their diplomas during two separate commencement exercises.
For 23-year-old Quinones who suffers from cystic fibrosis, graduation activities marked a milestone in her life and the end of her long, challenging, and often difficult undergraduate years. The Sanford, N.C. resident enrolled at Catawba in the fall of 1998, but several severe bouts with respiratory ailments, including hospitalizations for the flu, caused her to withdraw in 1999 for medical reasons.
She received a double lung transplant February 15, 2001, and in the fall of that year “came back against everybody’s advice,” she explained. “My mom was very, very scared because people who have transplants have setbacks and the idea of me living by myself off-campus because of my lowered immune system was frightening.”
But came back she did, and continued to work toward her bachelor of fine arts degree in theatre arts. May 8, she met her goal, and graduated with honors from Catawba as a member of Alpha Psi Omega, the largest dramatic fraternity in the world.
“My life -- I don’t even consider it hard. It’s not like everyone else’s but it’s mine and I like my life. I don’t feel like I have anything to complain about,” the now 93-pound Quinones said, flashing a smile, the corners of her wise, brown eyes crinkling.
“I was told I was never going to live to see my high school prom,” she continued. “The doctors told my mom when I was two that I’d be dead by age eight, and at age eight, that I’d be dead by 13, and at age 13, that I’d be dead by 18, and at age 18, that I’d never see my 21st birthday. Now, I’m 23 and I’ll be 24 this summer, and I’m still here and I’m going to grad school!”
Quinones will be in London next fall, spending a year earning her master of arts degree in acting at East 15 Acting School there, and also training to be a drama therapist who will work with developmentally disabled children. She hopes that her work and her life will be an inspiration to other young people who suffer from cystic fibrosis and who do not feel that they can have hopes or dreams.
Summer will find the resilient Quinones working as education director at Highlands Playhouse in Highlands, N.C. teaching summer classes, then traveling to San Francisco to visit family, visiting Normandy, and also backpacking in Italy before the advent of graduate school. She does not want to waste a single moment, despite now being diagnosed as suffering from “bronchialitis obliteraus” or chronic lung rejection.
“Why did God let me live when my friends are dying? What is my path and why am I here?” she recalled pondering after her transplant. “I grew up in a hospital and I’ve seen so much worse than what I’ve had. With my experience, if it can make one child feel like they have a purpose, that’s what I’m left here for.”
Graduation Awards and Honors
O.B. Michael Distinguished Alumnus Award
Retired medical doctor and 1950 alumnus of the College, Dr. Norman Sloop of Salisbury, received Catawba’s O.B. Michael Distinguished Alumnus Award during the 10 a.m. graduation exercises for traditional day students.
This native of Salisbury returned to his hometown after a stint in the military and after earning his medical degree at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine. He opened a successful family practice which continued until his retirement in 1994. Today, he continues his long tenure of service on Rowan County’s Health Board.
And although, Dr. Sloop made his career practicing medicine, music, Civil War history, and a little farming were his true passions. In addition to raising herefords and baling hay, and lecturing on the War between the States, Dr. Sloop sang and still sings whenever the opportunity presents itself. He sings with Catawba’s Chorale, the St. John’s Mens Chorus, and helps numerous churches with their music, including his own church, Marantha Bible Church. “Music,” the tenor was once quoted as saying, “speaks to the soul.”
Dr. Sloop and his wife of almost 50 years, Mary Newton Sloop.have long been a supporter of his alma mater, establishing the Norman R. and Mary N. Sloop Endowed Scholarship Fund to assist deserving students interested in pursuing degrees in science or music, and making regular contributions to Catawba’s Friends of Music society and the Catawba Fund. Additionally, the Sloops are charter members of the College’s Tower Society, an organization of individuals who have made provisions for the College through their estate.
Two students graduating from the College’s traditional day program were the recipients of the Whitener Medals, the most prestigious awards given by Catawba. The awards have been presented each year since 1927 at the Graduation Ceremony in memory of Dr. Edgar Whitener of High Point, North Carolina, who served as a trustee of Catawba from 1921 to 1966 and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, 1925 to 1944. The medals honor the man and woman in the graduating class who embody, to the highest degree, the qualities of good character, leadership, and scholarship.
The female recipient of the Whitener Award for 2004 was Antonia Bowden of Burlington. An English major with an overall grade point average of 3.855, her grades have consistently earned her a place on the Dean’s List and the Presidential Honor Roll. In recognition of her academic achievements, she was invited and agreed to serve last year as a junior marshal of the College.
Bowden is a member of the Omicron Chapter of the Alpha Chi Honor Society, serving as its president. She has presented multiple papers at Alpha Chi regional and national conventions, and she is one of ten Alfred H. Nolle Scholarship recipients in that national organization this year. She served as editor of the Arrowhead, and is a member of Phi Epsilon Honor Society. She was also recently among the students listed in the 2004 Who’s Who Directory Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.
Christopher Slaughter of Whitsett was the male recipient of the 2004 Whitener Award. He double majored in business administration and Spanish, and maintained a grade point average of 3.80. Like his female counterpart, his academic performance has consistently earned him a place on the Dean’s List and the Presidential Honor Roll.
He was active in the College’s Omnicron chapter of Alpha Chi, serving as its treasurer, and he served as president of both the Phi Epsilon Honor Society and the Philomathean Society. He is a member of Phi Sigma Iota International Foreign Language Honor Society, Catawba Business Honor Society and a member of the College cross-country team.
Slaughter was also active in Catawba’s Student Government Association, serving as vice president of his freshman class, and senator of the sophomore class. He served as treasurer of the College’s Student Activities Budget Committee, as a member of the Student Programming Board, as a Catawba Tour Guide since 2001, and was a freshman orientation group leader for three years. Additionally, he participated in several mission trips, one to Mexico in the summer of 2002, and the other to Costa Rica in the winter of 2003. He also volunteered his efforts with the local Habitat for Humanity organization.
Barbara Andrews Award
Each year, the College recognizes the graduating senior in the Lifelong Learning Program who embodies most successfully the attributes of character, leadership and scholarship with the Barbara Andrews Award. This award was established and named in honor of Barbara Andrews of Salisbury, the creator of the Lifelong Learning Program at Catawba College. The selection is made by the Catawba College faculty and candidates must have earned at least a 3.5 cumulative grade point average.
This year for the first time, faculty votes for the recipient of this award were split evenly between two of students who shared it, Amy Beth Archer of Landis and Bradley Dean Treece of Salisbury.
Both recipients majored in business management and enrolled in the Lifelong Learning program in the fall of 2001. She is a summa cum laude graduate and he is a magna cum laude graduate. Both were consistently on the Dean’s List and Presidential Honor Roll, and are members of Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society.
Archer is presently store manager for Cabarrus Pool Supply in Salisbury and Treece is employed as a systems administrator for Home Concrete Supply in Salisbury.
Retiring Faculty Member
Professor Evelina Tseng, Professor of Library Science, who will be retiring from Catawba, effective July 1, after 32 years of service, was recognized at the College’s 10 a.m. graduation exercise. She joined the College in 1972.
Honorary Degree Recipient
The Reverend Gordon Holt Sperry of Hickory, a 1943 alumnus of Catawba, received an honorary doctorate degree of divinity during the College’s Baccalaureate Service Friday, May 7. Born in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, he graduated from Catawba where he served as president of the student body, and then received his master’s of divinity degree from Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
His first call was as assistant pastor of Christ Church in Hagerstown, Maryland where he served from 1945 through 1947. He then was called to pastor St. John’s Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a position he held for 13 years, until 1960. From Allentown, he moved to Faith Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he served as senior pastor for 9 years, until 1969. In 1969, the Reverend Sperry accepted the position of senior pastor at Corinth Reformed United Church of Christ in Hickory, a post he held for 13 years, until 1982.
Active in the United Church of Christ, he has served as a delegate to General Synods, as a member of the Board of Directors of Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Missouri and the Abernethy Center in Newton. He has served as interim pastor of Grace United Church of Christ in Newton and as assistant pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Hickory.
One of his most important contributions has been to help expand the role of mission work and outreach within the United Church of Christ. He preached for two months in Japan as part of Centenary Mission to Japan. He shared leadership for the Reformation study tour in Europe. He visited mission stations in Alaska and eight foreign countries and was appointed to the 1970 British-American Preachers Exchange. He also served a three-year missionary appointment to the Uniting Church in Australia.
He is married to Marion A. Pillman, his wife of almost 53 years, and the couple has three adult children, all of whom live in North Carolina – David G. of Collettsville, Ann E. of Conover, and Douglas B. of Hickory, who is a 1978 alumnus of the College.