The 2018 Commencement Ceremony of the University of Mount Olive began May 5th with the elegant introduction of President Philip Paul and First Lady Mary Johnson Kerstetter from Dr. David Hines, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “While I do not have any special authority to make a formal declaration, if I could, I would declare Phil and Mary honorary citizens of North Carolina for life.” Dr. Hines went on to describe President and First Lady Kerstetter as genuine, authentic, and the real deal.
Mrs. Kerstetter began by thanking the platform party, the trustees, the administration, faculty, staff, and honored guests. She went on to say that she hoped, among many other things, the lesson of paying attention to the details of life would go with the students everywhere and in everything they do. She said, “Details make life beautiful, interesting, and productive.”
She urged students to question authority with respect and decency and to cultivate mentors and to be a mentor to someone else, and “to look people in the eye when we meet them and when we talk to them.”
She ended with expressing her love of the students and of the University, and expressed her hopes that the students always dream big.
President Kerstetter followed by describing how new students were routinely invited to his and Mary’s house for dinner to build trusting relationships. He said students are urged to make the most of their time at UMO because time flies so quickly.
He quoted the Bible in referring to his upcoming retirement in June; “Ecclesiastes 3 states, To everything there is a season, and now that season is upon us as Mary and I enter the next phase of our lives. It is a phase in our life together that we truly look forward to. We know that we are leaving a remarkable place with remarkable people who we cherish and will continue to cherish forever.”
He advised students to be aware of the present because life can quickly get away from you. He advised students to be patient listeners. He cautioned students to be dreamers, but be rational dreamers. “Today, you are sitting here because you had a dream of obtaining a degree and have worked hard to achieve it. Translate this experience into all other aspects of your lives. All the dreaming in the world will not buy you that new house if you do not make a plan to accomplish that dream.”
He went on to say, be willing and able to rely on others, and be true to yourself, and to others.
He ended with, “And so as Mary and I look to our sunset, my hope, and my prayer, is that each and every one of you will be brave and strong and true, and that each and every one of you will fill your world with love your whole life through.”
At the commencement ceremony, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters was bestowed on longtime Mount Olive resident Jimmy E. Williams, who served as vice president at UMO on two separate occasions. Dr. Kerstetter said, “The doctoral degree is the highest degree the University of Mount Olive can award, and it is designed to reflect our University’s recognition of the significant accomplishments and service of an individual to his or her chosen field of endeavor, to the institution, and/or to society as a whole. Jimmy Williams is an individual certainly worthy of such recognition, as he has given a lifetime of service to education, to the church, and to the community as a servant-leader.”
Ai Theeng Wee from Damansara Perdana, Malaysia received the distinguished Dr. Thomas R. Morris Award for Academic Excellence at the ceremony. The $3,000 cash award is given to the baccalaureate graduate who best exemplifies serious academic pursuit and love and breadth of learning. Ai Theeng majored in Management of Information Systems and minored in Graphic Design. She has a 3.993 GPA. Dr. Karl Reimers said, “Ai Theeng is an exemplary hard-working student who is a humble perfectionist.”