Saturday, May 13th was a really big deal for Gwen Alexander Stidham of China Grove. She walked across the same stage in Keppel Auditorium and for the same reason that her eldest daughter, Renee, had walked across it 15 years prior.
This 56-year-old mother of three adult daughters received her bachelor's degree in business administration during Catawba College's Commencement Exercises. To mark her achievement, Food Lion Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Ralph W. Ketner stepped forward on stage to hand her her diploma and congratulate her on her accomplishment.
Stidham, who is employed as an executive assistant to the vice president of loss prevention and risk management at Food Lion Corporation in Salisbury, was also recognized during Catawba's 2 p.m. ceremony as the 2006 recipient of the prestigious Barbara Andrews Award, given annually to the graduating senior in the Lifelong Learning Program (which beginning June 1 becomes Catawba's School of Evening and Graduate Studies) who most successfully embodies the attributes of character, leadership and scholarship. The faculty makes the selection from the six graduating seniors in that program with the highest grade point averages. The award was established and named in honor of Barbara Andrews, the creator of the Lifelong Learning Program at Catawba.
Ralph Ketner and his wife, Anne, made Stidham's acquaintance when she was employed as an office manager at Nazareth's Children Home in Rockwell and the Ketners were serving on the board of directors there. That acquaintance turned into a true friendship between them. "I admire Gwen for having the discipline and courage to earn her college degree while working a fulltime job and managing her family responsibilities," Ketner said. "It was important to both Anne and me that we showed our support for her efforts by being there for her graduation."
Stidham's eldest daughter, Renee Davidson of Bend, Oregon, is also a Catawba College graduate of the Class of 1991. "We are all so very proud of her," Davidson said of her mom. "When she told me she was going to be starting school at Catawba, I told her I wouldn't miss her graduation for anything. She instilled in us at a very young age how important it was to get a good education and we always knew that a good education was our ticket. She supported me and my sisters as we achieved the dream that she always wanted to achieve. When she got her chance to go to college, she took it and now, she's achieving her dream."
Stidham's other daughters are Lori Queener of Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Tara Sigmon of Faith.
Stidham was one of more than 273 graduates who received diplomas during two separate ceremonies held in Keppel Auditorium of the Robertson College Community Center. One hundred and sixty seven students graduated from the traditional program in a 10 a.m. ceremony, while 106 graduated from the Lifelong Learning program in a 2 p.m. ceremony.
Twenty-six-year-old Zay Zay Gilewala of Monrovia, Liberia, who earned his business administration degree and played soccer while a student, was among the graduates participating in the 10 a.m. ceremony. His parents and his 10 siblings were unable to obtain visas to attend due to the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Liberia. Gilewala said he was excited nonetheless and ready to go out and find a job so he could eventually afford to attend graduate school. "Catawba has been a wonderful experience for me as an international student," he explained. "I felt very welcomed here."
Honorary Degrees Awarded
Two honorary degrees were presented during the 10 a.m. ceremony to alumni Ned A. Cline '64 of Greensboro and Bruce E. Stuck '67 of San Antonio, Texas. Cline received a Doctor of Humane Letters and Stuck, a Doctor of Science degree.
Cline, a native of Cabarrus County, came to Catawba in 1960 after several years of working as a reporter for the Concord Tribune. He earned a degree in political science and following his Catawba graduation, he worked for six years with the Salisbury Post.
During the 1970s, he worked in various capacities for the Greensboro Daily News, rising to be a managing editor. Later, he was Raleigh bureau chief for The Charlotte Observer. He returned to Greensboro in 1982 as managing editor for the Greensboro News & Record, and remained there until his retirement in 1997 as associate editor.
Cline received numerous awards from the N.C. Press Association and his work resulted in a year at the Washington Journalism Center. He also spent a year at Harvard University as a Nieman Fellow, one of the most prestigious honors given an American journalist.
He retired from newspapers in 1997, but since that time, he has researched and published three biographies of worthy N.C. philanthropists and is in the process of completing a fourth. He just published a history of the first Lutheran Church in North Carolina, St. John's Lutheran Church of Mt. Pleasant, and has also written for two North Carolina monthly magazines. Cline teaches a newspaper editing course in the English Department at UNCG each spring and works as a part-time consultant in public relations and fund-raising. He is married to Linda Kelly Cline, a 1964 Catawba alumna, and the couple has two adult children and two grandchildren.
Bruce Stuck was a magna cum laude graduate of Catawba with a double major in physics and mathematics. He was a recipient of a National Science Foundation Fellowship to Virginia Tech where he received a master's degree in science.
A leading world expert in laser hazards research, Stuck is the director of the U.S. Army Medical Research Detachment of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He travels throughout the world serving as one of three U.S. Commissioners on the International Commission of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection where his expertise is brought to bear on addressing the importance of possible adverse effects of human health of exposure to non-ionizing radiation.
Stuck has 32 years experience in laser hazards and is the author/co-author of numerous papers on ocular and cutaneous effects of laser and radio frequency radiation. His primary interests are in the biological effects of visible and infrared laser radiation on the retina and cornea and the assessment of laser-induced eye injuries and their treatment.
He is the chair of the biological Effects and Medical Surveillance Technical subcommittee of the American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) Z136 Standard for the Safe Use of Lasers. He is a member of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the Laser Institute of America, the Biomedical Optical Society of the SPIE and the editorial board of the Journal of Laser Applications. He represented the U.S. at the Vienna Protocol on "Blinding Laser Weapons" in 1995 and has served on the International Commission of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP SC IV) since 1999 and has been elected to the Main Commission 2004-2008.
He and wife Beverly are parents of two adult daughters.
O.B. Michael Award Presented
Catawba College Alumnus Leo Wallace '34 of Salisbury received the College's annual O.B. Michael Award. A model of both commercial leadership and civic responsibility, Wallace is a longtime area real estate broker and commercial property developer and manager.
A U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, he started his real estate brokerage business, Wallace Realty, in Salisbury in 1950. He is one of the oldest active realtors in the state and has been involved in the development and construction of more than 35 residential subdivisions. He has also developed other notable properties in Salisbury including property adjacent to the Salisbury Mall and the Holiday Inn.
He was active in the Chamber of Commerce; and on two occasions was elected to the presidency. He served many years on the downtown property owners association and served for 35 years on the local library board.
He and his wife of 64 years, Virginia Shaver Wallace, are members of First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury and parents of three adult children – sons Lee and Victor and daughter Suzanne Casey.
Whitener Award Recipients
Summer Zuck of Kingston, Tenn., and Andrew Sufficool of Brooksville, Fla., two students graduating from the traditional day program, were recipients of the Whitener Awards. These awards are given annually to the top academic male and female, selected by the faculty as embodying the qualities of good character, leadership, and scholarship. They have been presented since 1927 in memory of Dr. Edgar Whitener of High Point, North Carolina, who served as a trustee of Catawba College from 1921 to 1966 and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1925 to 1944.
Baccalaureate, Friday, May 12, 2006
Catawba College Alumnus Charles Vaughan '72 of Virginia Beach, Va., was the baccalaureate speaker for a service held Friday, May 12 in Omwake-Dearborn Chapel. His remarks were entitled, "Good to Great."
Vaughan earned his undergraduate degree in German and history from Catawba and his master's of education degree from the UNCC. He has taught school, studied overseas as a Fulbright scholar, worked as a business consultant and a retail general manager, and has served as a naval military officer. Currently, he is the director of the Ships Store Program for the Navy Exchange Service Command, a Supply Corps Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserves, and a trustee for the Navy Exchange Pension Fund.
Following the Baccalaureate Service, members of the graduating class processed by candlelight in the traditional Marshal's Walk from the chapel, along Oliver's Way, to the exterior of the Robertson College-Community. There, they heard remarks from College Marshal, Theatre Arts Professor David Pulliam, and the outgoing Student Government President, Danielle Petrin of Indian Trail, and incoming Student Government President Alex Will of Milton, Mass. A reception for families in the Peeler Crystal Lounge concluded the evening.
Class of 2006 Graduates »
Photo Gallery »
Graduation Info »
"Good to Great" - Baccalaureate Remarks by Charles Vaughan
"New Day" Song Lyrics - by 2006 Graduate Dennis Reed