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MU 2013 Winter Commencement

Dec. 15, 2013 @ 11:17 PM

HUNTINGTON -- More than 1,200 Marshall University graduates were honored Sunday afternoon as Marshall hosted its 2013 Winter Commencement Ceremony at the Cam Henderson Center.

Cap and gown-clad students waved to the stands, as cameras flashed and recorded the celebration of their years of hard work. Traditional students, single mothers, a woman overcoming special needs and veterans returning from war were all highlighted by President Stephen Kopp as some of the many accomplished graduates who deserved applause Sunday.

Words of advice to them ranged from, "Be great," from Student Body President Elisha "E.J." Hassan, to "The best way to thank your teachers is to change the lives of the people around you," from Faculty Senate Chairman Eldon Larsen.

Lined up in the hallway before the ceremony, mother-of-three Frances Endicott admitted that she was a little nervous. Her bachelor's degree was decades in the making and finally completed online from Port St. Lucie, Fla.

The Charleston native got her first degree, an associate's degree in medical laboratory technology, from Marshall in 1978, and finally on Sunday earned her bachelor's. Already working as a lab manager for a private clinical lab in Florida, Endicott said the bachelor's degree will help her advance in her career.

"I took time off to raise my three children," she said. They're grown now, "So now it's time for Mom," Endicott said. "I wanted to go back to school, and I wanted to go to Marshall, so I did it online."

She's among the growing ranks of students taking that path, another being David Plybon, who also received a regents degree Sunday.

After earning an associate's degree in 1992, he decided to take online courses from the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. Although a native of Huntington, he's lived in Texas for 15 years and works there as a manager of equal employment compliance for an eight-state region of the U.S. Postal Service.

"I wanted to go further," he said. "Now I'll sit down and take the LSAT and take it from there," he said.

With parents who still live in Huntington and a daughter who went to Marshall and then remained in Huntington, Plybon has remained faithful to Marshall and is glad he was able to earn his degree from the institution via online classes.

"It's been exciting and kind of surreal," he said before the ceremony Sunday. "I made my wife show me my name in (the program) to make sure it was real."

Among the traditional students to graduate on Sunday were journalism graduates Allyson Warner of Beckley and Caitie Smith of Cross Lanes, both with degrees in public relations, and Ashley Killingsworth of upstate New York, graduating with a focus in broadcast journalism.

They will be going their separate ways now, with Smith remaining at Marshall to earn a graduate degree and Warner and Killingsworth heading out to look for jobs "in this lovely economy," as described by Warner.

However, one thing that sets college graduates apart, said keynote speaker Kateryna Schray, is their ability to take on "seemingly insurmountable challenges, and yet still make it."

While they all have different dreams and skill sets, all the graduates in the room have one goal in common, said Schray, a Marshall English professor who was the 2012-13 Charles E. Hedrick Outstanding Faculty Award Recipient. In their own way, they all hope to make the world a better place, she said, and the money, fame and fortune that may come with it are just "windfalls."

She advised them to pursue those dreams while taking a true interest in the many people who cross their paths along the way, and volunteering for people in need, with whom they share their communities.

Nikita Washington stood in the audience Sunday, camera in hand, celebrating the graduation of her son, Gregory Washington. He earned a bachelor's in fine arts and is planning a career in film and photography. He would love to end up in London, his mother said. And she doesn't mind.

"He made it," she said. "The sky is the limit. I want to support whatever he wants to do in life. He has to start a new journey, and the journey starts here."

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