PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – (Sept. 11, 2014) – Celebration and reflection were the day's watchwords as the University of Maryland Eastern Shore held its summer commencement and 128th Founders’ Day Convocation Thursday.
The university awarded 28 Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees and recognized four leaders for their contributions and loyal support of the institution.
This year’s ceremonies coincided with the 13th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and rural Pennsylvania, and UMES incorporated tributes into the day’s events.
A lone trumpeter outside the Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts played "Taps" at the exact times each of the first three planes crashed. The fourth was acknowledged during graduation inside the building a few minutes past 10 a.m.
Broadcaster Ed Gordon, the commencement speaker, and Commissioner Garland Hayward of the Town of Princess Anne, both commended the university for incorporating a remembrance of 9-11 in the day’s programming.
The focal point, as it should be, was awarding the graduate degrees.
“This program has been one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Nancy Lolila-Ramin of Salisbury. “I like this environment because there were not a lot of distractions, and the classes were small. I’d recommend it highly.”
Classmate Erin Dean, also of Salisbury, pursued her degree with an eye on becoming a women’s health specialist.
“This is my second career,” Dean said. “It is the fulfillment of something I’ve been working on for five years, so it’s pretty emotional for me. The biggest challenge was keeping the balance between my marriage and the full-time commitment of going to school.”
Grant Sullivan of Laurel, Md. did the mandatory four-internship rotation UMES’ PT program requires and described his final stop, the U.S. Air Force Academy, as “a great learning experience and a unique opportunity.”
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Sullivan said. “It was the most challenging one, but I was the most prepared, since it was the last one.”
Gordon, who delivered an animated, entertaining address, advised Sullivan and his classmates to “be unabated. You can’t be worried what others say about you.”
Before handing out the degrees, university President Juliette B. Bell awarded presidential medallions to retiring Maryland legislator Rudolph C. Cane, a Somerset County native, and long-time Board of Visitor chairman Jesse T. Williams Sr.
Bell also bestowed faculty emeritus honors on Dr. Della Dameron-Johnson, a retired assistant professor and Director of Drama who was a beloved faculty member for 35 years.
Following the indoor ceremony, a processional made its way to the campus cemetery to lay a wreath in recognition of two former administrators and their spouses interred there, including the school’s founding principal, Benjamin O. Bird.
The group then gathered in front of John T. Williams Hall for (birthday) cake and punch – and one more special moment.
Retired art professor and Maryland State alum Ernie Satchell (class of 1963) unveiled a life-size bronze statue that he designed of the late J.T. Williams, widely considered during his 23 years as president to be the driving force behind shaping the university into the institution it is today.
Not counting the pedestal, Williams’ statute stands an impressive 6 feet 4 inches, which Satchell noted in remarks about how the five-piece bronze artwork was seamlessly welded together.
Just beyond the statue, which currently is at the head of the university’s flag plaza, were dozens of small American flags arranged in the shape of a “9” and a pair of “1s.”
And on each hour, the campus bell tower played patriotic music, including God Bless America and the Marine Corps Hymn.
Reflecting on earning her new doctoral degree, Dean said, “It all just came together —the stars aligned. It was my dream come-true.”
Bill Robinson, director, Office of Public Relations, (410) 621-2355
Office of Public Relations