Members of the Erskine College Class of 2011 marked the completion of their studies Saturday in an outdoor commencement ceremony under the towers of the Erskine Building. It was the school’s 166th commencement and the first to be led by Dr. David A. Norman, who took office in July 2010 and was inaugurated as president April 29.
“A part of us will go with you and a part of you will remain here with us,” Norman told the assembled seniors.
Commencement speaker Dr. Thomas Henry Marshburn, a physician, engineer and NASA astronaut, spoke about his experience of space travel, linking his story to the importance of imagination.
In July 1969, Marshburn saw the television images of the moon broadcast from the Apollo command module, and since then, he said, “I’ve never been the same.” The future spacewalker “loved to imagine being part of a similar adventure someday.”
As the lure of space travel captured Marshburn’s imagination, he became interested in engineering and majored in physics, but kept his interest in the space program a secret, or so he thought, but friends later told him they knew.
“Apparently it was very obvious that I wanted to be an astronaut,” he said.
At a Halloween party in college, he dressed as an astronaut by wrapping himself in aluminum foil and wearing a motorcycle helmet. When the foil began to crinkle and rip later in the evening, one of the young women at the party asked him, ‘What are you, a baked potato?'”
Rejected several times in his quest to realize his dream, Marshburn entered an astronaut candidate class on the fourth try. Although he has never served on a NASA selection board, he said is sure “they want to know how you recover from failure.”
The launch of the Endeavor in July 2009, Marshburn’s first spaceflight, was a sixth attempt after five scrubbed launches, and the astronauts found out only about nine minutes in advance that this was to be the real thing. He described it as “two explosions followed by a car crash,” and spoke about the wonder of weightlessness, saying the “hard things are easy and the easy things are hard” in that state. An even greater wonder was “looking out and being amazed at the lack of evidence of human habitation” on the earth, with its “neon cobalt blue” atmosphere.
“Spaceflight dissolves borders,” he said.
What struck him about his space walk was “the amount of trust and faith” that had to be placed in “the people who keep us alive” during that dangerous exercise. He said another astronaut had to put the spacewalker’s suit together correctly to protect the one who was to venture outside the protection of the vehicle.
He sees human life as “incredibly precious.” His imagination was fired by the first moon landing 40 years before his own spaceflight, but in addition to imagination’s role in technical innovation and adventure, “Imagination fuels our empathy,” he said.
“Things are going to sideswipe you,” he told the students. “You can’t do it alone, and you’re not supposed to do it alone. Continue to reinvigorate your faith.”
Interim Vice President and Dean of the College Dr. Brad Christie read each graduate’s name and Norman, Board of Trustees Chairman Scott Mitchell and Professor of History Dr. Sandra Chaney stood by to hand out diplomas and congratulations.
Also during the commencement ceremony, Marshburn was awarded the honorary Doctor of Science degree, and J. Gresham Barrett, former member of the U.S House of Representatives, received the Doctor of Laws degree. President Emeritus Dr. Randall T. Ruble read the citation for Marshburn and Grady Patterson Professor of Politics Dr. Ashley Woodiwiss read the citation for Barrett.
Anna Marie Zwart of Gilbert, the graduating senior with the highest grade point average, responded to the speaker. “Our Lord is on time and will get his plan fulfilled even if it takes many rescheduled launches,” she said.
Several special awards were announced during this year’s commencement, including the Younts Excellence in Teaching Award, given to Chaney; the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given to Cory Robinson of Clinton; the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award, given to Emily Drummond of Columbia; and the H.M. Young Ring, given to Zwart.
Chaney officially opened the event. The Rev. Paul Patrick, campus chaplain, offered the invocation and the benediction.
Mitchell offered remarks on behalf of the board and Nan Campbell, president of the Alumni Association, inducted the graduates into the association.
Senior Class President Sam Abrams of Easley expressed gratitude for the advice and guidance given to his class and announced the class gift, poolside furniture for the Erskine pool.
Erskine College Sinfonia, directed by Dr. Brooks Kuykendall, and the Erskine College Choraleers, directed by Professor Bill Diekhoff, provided music for the event.
Erskine College graduates were:
Bachelor of Arts
Graduates, Jan. 29, 2011: Kimberly Lauryn Blanton, Atlanta, Ga.; Kaela Michele Brown, cum laude, Bradenton, Fla.; Scott Charles Cook, Greenville; Gabriel Bennett Dix, Waxhaw, N.C.; Christina Marie Land, summa cum laude, Greenville; Michael Warren Sewall, summa cum laude, Falls Church, Va.; Thomas Leonard Wilson Jr., Rock Hill
Graduates, May 14, 2011: Alison Marie Albers, Goodhue, Minn.; Theodore Darby Aslund, Lexington; Jared Hogarth Baker, Summerville; Holly Rebecca Campbell, Anderson; LaBorde Coble, Columbia; Meghan Michelle Cook, Bartow, Fla.; Kennedy Lynn Craig, cum laude, Gastonia, N.C.; Kassandra Kitney Cutler, Fort Mill; Elizabeth Susan DeVault, cum laude, Easley; Kimberly Ryan Doyle, Greer; Barry Waller Dreier, magna cum laude, Rock Hill; William Patrick Ferguson, Gastonia, N.C.; Lauren Brittney Files,magna cum laude, Bremen, Ga.; Ashley Evangeline Garrison, Anderson; Paul Taylor Gordon, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Rebekah Anne Harkins, White Oak; Jean Marie Harris, Indian Land; Lydia Rebecca Hill, summa cum laude, Greenville; Emma Catherine Howle, cum laude, Sandy Run; Zachary Scott Keuthan, summa cum laude, Belmont, N.C.; Justin Michael Lee, Rock Hill; Stephanie CarolAnn McCallister, Hampton; Katherine Sara McMullen, Waxhaw, N.C.; Shannon Leigh Millar, Gastonia; Mary Katherine Moore, Laurens; James Malcom Nance III, Sumter; Rebekah Elise Reid, Pickens; Mary Alexander Senn, Newberry; Jane Horton Taylor, Anderson; Ashton Lynn Thompson, Sumter; Octavia Dor-Sal Williams, Columbia; Patrick Newell Wilson, Greenwood; Teresa Lauren Wright, Greenville
Candidates, Aug. 15, 2011: Annette Emile Nicole DuPree, Fort Mill; Mandria LeeAnne Hill, Iva; Jennifer Marie Shafer, Simpsonville; Matthew Christopher Terry, Anderson; Howard Mackey Wellons, Gastonia, N.C.
Bachelor of Science
Graduates, Jan. 29, 2011: Daniela Arias, magna cum laude, Columbia; James Lesslie Blakely Jr., Ora; Keith Boulware Jr., Chester; Nemanja Brcan, Subotica, Serbia; Katelyn Denise Craig, Lancaster; Rachel Leanne Dagenhart, Rock Hill; Bryan Oswald Fogle, Lexington; Amber Lynn Hartley, Batesburg; Lauren Charrell Henderson, Calhoun Falls; Steven Derek Robertson, magna cum laude, Matthews, N.C.; Michael Ross Seay, Anderson
Graduates, May 14, 2011: Samuel Ian Abrams, Easley; Elizabeth Leigh Anderson, Anderson; Jared Ethan Barkley, New Albany, Miss.; Britton Anne Bignon, cum laude, Athens, Ga.; Kristina Marie Brault, Rock Hill; Megan Elizabeth Busch, summa cum laude, Summerville; Mary Spencer Cain, Gastonia, N.C.; McKenzie Louise Campbell, magna cum laude, Belton; Grace Elizabeth Cannon, magna cum laude, Birmingham, Ala.; Elizabeth Renwick Carlisle, Essex, Vt.; Andres Filipe Castano, Orlando, Fla.; Kelsey Elizabeth Collins, magna cum laude, Rock Hill; David Michael Cook, Belmont, N.C.; Tiffany Renee Crawford, Abbeville; Victoria Marie Custalow, Tampa, Fla.; Emily Stafford Drummond, summa cum laude, Columbia; Wesley Thomas Ferrell, Rock Hill; Kerry Noel Fincher, cum laude, Easley; Kristy Nicole Fincher, magna cum laude, Easley; Sarah Ellen Franco, magna cum laude, Williamston; Kristin Amanda Gainey, Hartsville; Esley Brandon Garrett, Woodruff; Shawn Benjamin Glover, Columbia; Grayson Hunter Glur, Greenville; Andrew Alan Guest, Easley; Erick Edward Guest, Easley; Christopher Ryan Hall, Batesburg-Leesville; Katherine English Henderson, Greenwood; Dezirea Marcella Jones, cum laude, Rock Hill; Sarah Rebekah Kidd, Fayetteville, Tenn.; Rebecca Louise King, Tillman; Lindsey Elizabeth LaPrad, Summerville; Ryan Patrick Leonard, Woodruff; Barry Lamonte Loucks, Simpsonville; Kayla Frances Lynch, Westminster; David Miguel Mejia, Gastonia, N.C.; William Nathan Miller, magna cum laude, Gilbert; Hannah Marie Oates, Bartow, Fla.; Nikolas Demetri Papapieris, Greenville; Lauren Michelle Parrish, Easley; Thomas Atlee Pearson, Lyman; Christine Linh Phan, Savannah, Ga.; Crystal Brianna Prater, summa cum laude, Westminster; Kimberly Brooke Pruitt, Belton; Nicholas Keith Riley, Stone Mountain, Ga.; William Gregory Roberts, Due West; Cory O’Neil Burnside Robinson, Clinton; DeAndra Teri Robinson, Springfield; Edwin Hugh Russell II, Greenville; Zachary Joseph SeJan, Loris; Kevan Lee Shepps, Inman; Daisy Whitney Smith, Carlisle; Dane Hudson Smith, summa cum laude, Piedmont; Jocelyn Mary Smith, summa cum laude, Greer; John Mark Taylor, Budapest, Hungary; Amanda Marie Tinker, Enoree; Wale Abiola Toyo, Charlotte, N.C.; Stephanie Leigh Turner, Anderson; Kyle Jarrett Tyner, Summerville; Carlton Eugene Watts, Clinton; Jessica Nowell Wickline, cum laude, Mauldin; Matthew Shaun Youngblood, Greenville; Anna Marie Zwart, summa cum laude, Gilbert
Candidates, Aug. 15, 2011: Alniecia Tamara Allen, North Augusta; Garrett Evan Bodie, Camden; William Lawrence Brunson, Darlington; Alex Kevin Gilstrap, Easley; Joshua Scott Miller, Lake View; Joseph Huitt Scarborough, Anderson