Catawba College Awards Degrees to 305 at Annual Commencement Exercises
May 14, 2018
Catawba College awarded baccalaureate degrees to 297 graduates and Master of Education degrees to eight individuals in two separate ceremonies held Saturday, May 12 in Keppel Auditorium on campus.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees were awarded by Catawba for the first time in its history to three individuals who completed the Registered Nurse (RN) to BSN program of study in the Department of Nursing.
Four special awards were also presented during these ceremonies and two retiring faculty members were recognized for their service to the institution.
In his charge to the graduates in the Class of 2018, Catawba President Brien Lewis recalled the words of Star Wars’ Jedi Master Yoda to Luke Skywalker when Rey departed from Yoda’s teachings saying, “ ‘We are what they grow beyond.’ Graduates, we will all take great pride as you grow beyond the circle of Catawba. In the words of our Alma Mater:
Rich and glorious be thy future,
World of influence wide.
And with us, who bear thy culture,
May thy precepts and spirit abide.
“…as you go forth, know that Catawba will watch and support you as you follow your dreams, your hearts and your intuition – and we will celebrate proudly with you as you reach your highest potential. And remember that wherever your life’s journey takes you, Catawba will always be here to welcome you ‘home’ – our circle will ever be unbroken.”
The Whitener Awards
Kristen M. Rocko of Johns Creek, Ga., and Alex T. Turner of Taylorsville were the female and male recipients of the prestigious Whitener Awards. These awards have been presented each year since 1927 during the graduation exercises to honor the woman and man in the graduating class who embody, to a high degree, the qualities of good character, leadership, and scholarship. Recipients are nominated, with final selections made by the faculty.
These awards are made 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.
Rocko distinguished herself both in and out of the classroom. She was an outstanding athlete on the tennis team and an academically committed student with a 3.9 GPA. Her involvement while an undergraduate touched almost every sector of our campus as she successfully pursued a double major in Elementary Education and Special Education along with a minor in Communication.
She served as a Junior Marshal at the college during the 2016-2017 academic year, and was a member of Alpha Chi Honor Society, serving as its president. She also served as president of the Delphinian Women’s Society. She was inducted into Phi Epsilon Honor Society. She was head leader of the Retreat Leadership Corps, and a member and treasurer of both the Student North Carolina Association of Educators and Kappa Delta Pi, the Teacher Education honor society. Her fellow students voted her as Ms. Catawba for the 2017-2018 academic year.
On campus, she served as a supplemental instructor for Spanish, and in the community, she tutored under-privileged elementary students through the organization, “PowerCross.” Rocko also spent time volunteering at Trinity Oaks, a retirement community in Salisbury, and helped host a Shaker’s Dance there each year at Halloween. She was a regular volunteer in the daycare at Life Church.
During his undergraduate career, Turner pursued an individualized major in History and Philosophy. A member of the College Honors Program, he was one of only nine students in the Class of 2018 who researched, wrote and presented an honors thesis. His was titled, “The Path to Virtue: An Analysis of Ancient Chinese Views of Virtue, and War in the Dao de Jing and the Analects.”
He used his academic skills to serve as a PAL, a Peer Academic Leader on campus, a role which allowed him to coach students to develop skills such as time management and to serve as a supplemental instructor in several courses which required him to know the material and have the skills to teach it to others.
Turner was involved in the Dead Athenian Society (DAS) and as part of his membership, he volunteered both on and off campus. He helped cook and serve breakfast on many occasions at Rowan Helping Ministries, assisted in building homes through Habitat for Humanity, and participated in campus cleanups after major on-campus events. He served as a Resident Assistant and was also a member of the Order of the Blue and the White and Phi Epsilon Honor Society.
The Barbara Andrews Award
Lezley Humphrey of Lexington was the recipient of the Barbara Andrews Award. That award is presented to the graduating senior in the School of Evening and Graduate Studies who most successfully embodies the attributes of character, leadership and scholarship. This award was established and named in honor of Barbara Andrews of Salisbury, the first director of this Program at Catawba College.
Selection for this award is made by the Catawba College faculty from the six graduating seniors in the program with the highest grade point averages. Students eligible are those who have attended Catawba for at least two years and have earned a cumulative grade point average of at least a 3.5.
Described by Dr. Jeff Bowe, the director of Catawba’s School of Evening and Graduate Studies as “a prototype of our typical working adult student, in the middle of a successful career and realizing she needs realized a bachelor’s degree was needed to advance.” Humphrey’s college path started at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College before she transferred to Catawba in 2016. She was climbing in her healthcare industry career involving payment processing and posting, and was overseeing multiple teams of around 15 people. She shared that the important courses she took during her college career that relate directly to her job were those in information systems.
Married to a 2015 graduate of the Catawba SEGS program, the two are parents of two sons, a rising kindergartner and a fourth grader.
Now that she has completed her bachelor’s degree, Humphrey is contemplating a master’s degree either in general business or healthcare. Looking back on her time at Catawba, she said, “I have enjoyed the program and being able to be with other people in the classroom who have experience, and have a family to take care of, but who also need a degree, so we are all pushing each other. We all appreciate it more when you are a working adult.”
The O.B. Michael Award
A 1966 Catawba College alumnus, J. William “Bill” Hall, Jr. of Salisbury, was the recipient of the O. B. Michael Award. Presented annually since 1938 by the Catawba College Board of Directors of the Alumni Association, it is awarded to a graduate of the college who has made an outstanding contribution to the college and/or the larger society. Originally called the Citizenship Cup, it was established by the Reverend O.B. Michael, Class of 1919, in memory of his father, an alumnus of Catawba College and pioneer teacher and preacher.
Hall has been both an employee of the college and one of its strongest advocates and supporters since his graduation. He served the college as an Admissions Counselor, Director of Student Activities, Dean of Students, and Dean of Admissions after his graduation and before he joined the Jostens’ Yearbook Division in 1983. He enjoyed a successful 28-year career as a senior sales representative with Jostens until his retirement in 2011. He grew his Jostens’ sales territory to be the third largest in the U.S., trailing only Dallas and Atlanta, and successfully hired five Catawba graduates to work as Jostens Sales Reps in territories all over the U.S. Hall actually received all six of Jostens’ Honors Rings during his Jostens’ career.
Although Hall graduated with a major in physical education from Catawba, he earned his master’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill.
Always a fan of Catawba Athletics, especially Catawba Football, he has taken a very active role with the Catawba Chiefs Club as a member, on the Chiefs Club Board, and as its president on three different occasions. He is one of the Chiefs Club’s most prolific fundraisers, and his hand is at work behind Catawba Athletics’ annual Silent Auction, and in the coordination of the annual Catawba Golf Classic, a football team fundraiser. Hall is also very involved in the First Pitch Dinner, the annual event that supports Catawba Baseball, and the Athletics Hall of Fame. He is legendary on home football game Saturdays for his planned theme menus and hospitality as one of the co-founders of Tailgate America.
In the Rowan-Salisbury community, he has served on the Foundation of the National Sports Media Association or NSMA and as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels.
Catawba honored him in 2008 as the recipient of its Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Married to wife Rosemary, Hall is father to son Jay and daughter Paula, and grandfather to six.
Retiring Faculty Recognized
Dr. Cheryl Peevy, Professor of Spanish
Dr. Cheryl Peevy, a professor of Spanish, is retiring July 31st after 32 years of service in the Modern Foreign Language Department.
Dr. Peevy joined the college in 1986, as an assistant professor of Spanish. Her colleagues described her as dedicated, thorough, and caring as a teacher. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she served as a Master Learner in the Educare program for first-year students. She also served as chair of Catawba’s Faculty Senate two different times during the early 1990s and, over the course of her tenure, Dr. Peevy also served as chair of the Faculty Tenure and Promotion Committee as well as the Curriculum Committee.
She was awarded the Swink Prize for Outstanding Classroom Teaching in the 1995-1996 academic year. She was also awarded the Earl C. Poovey Professorship of Foreign Languages for the academic years of 2015-2017.
A native of Washington, D.C. area, Dr. Peevy had dreams of pursuing a career in politics when she was an undergraduate at East Carolina University. However, encouraged by her professors, she decided instead to pursue a degree in foreign language. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish, graduating magna cum laude from East Carolina University and earned her Master of Arts degree and doctorate in Spanish language and literature from the University of Kentucky. She taught at the College of William and Mary from 1982 to 1986 before joining the faculty at Catawba.
In recent years, Dr. Peevy has become known on campus as a fierce advocate for four-legged creatures. She has tirelessly volunteered for Shelter Guardians, a local non-profit that works with the Rowan County Animal Shelter to provide a safe haven for its homeless animals and raise funds to build a new Dog Adoption Center. In 2015, Dr. Peevy formed the Catawba Shelter Guardians club that recruits students to volunteer at the Shelter adoption events. As a member of the local Canine Caregivers Therapy Dog group, she and her beloved dog Reba, a certified therapy dog, visit area nursing homes, schools, and private homes to provide comfort to the residents. And during stressful exam periods, she and Reba, who has been dubbed by the students as the "Official Therapy Dog of Catawba College,” are a familiar sight as they make visits to the campus to bring smiles and help calm the anxious nerves of students.
She asked that her colleagues and students remember that she cares for others and is so grateful for what she has been afforded in life. She shared this advice with her graduating students: “Keep Catawba’s four core values – Scholarship, Character, Culture and Service in your hearts. They are guiding principles that define you as a good person as a member of our Catawba family. And, always keep learning and keep serving.”
Professor June McDowell-Davis, Lecturer in Marketing
Professor June McDowell-Davis, a lecturer in marketing in the School of Evening and Graduate Studies (SEGS), is retiring after 17 years of service. She joined Catawba in 2001 and has primarily been associated with SEGS, but has also served the college several times in the traditional day program.
McDowell-Davis earned her MBA from High Point University aftergraduating summa cum laude in with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Marketing.
To prepare for a career in teaching, McDowell-Davis spent 23 years in industry, starting as a staff writer for "The Times" in Thomasville. She became business editor, and also founded the Times’ “Newspapers-in-Education Program" for students, authoring a study guide for students and teachers at the local school.
She became public relations director for The Daly Group in Winston-Salem, where she developed what became a lifelong passion for her -- providing marketing and public relations strategies. She founded her own firm, McDowell & Associates, to serve some of the largest names in the Davidson County and Thomasville area.
Professor McDowell Davis was lured back to industry to be the marketing director of Ansell Protective Clothing for a few years, but she later returned to owning her own marketing strategy and consulting firm.
Throughout her career she has won numerous awards,includingrecognition from the State of North Carolina for her editorial series on drug abuse in high school students. She has served her community throughout her life, as mayor pro-tem of Thomasville, co-chair of the Davidson County Business Fair, board member of the Thomasville Strategic Planning Commission, Thomasville Tourism Commission, and Davidson County Economic Development Commission, THE PACE Group, Cities in Schools, Rotary Club, United Way, Salvation Army, and YMCA. She has received honors and awards from the Salvation Army, United Way, Thomasville Tourism Commission, Thomasville Junior Women's Club, North Carolina Federation of Women's Clubs, YMCA, and the Thomasville City Schools.
In retirement, she plans to work a bit less while furthering her education on "how people learn" and "how non-verbal communications impact hiring decisions."