“Be mindful, be flexible and be positive.”

The challenge of living a value-driven life was laid out before students earning master’s and doctoral degrees at Wingate University Friday night during the school’s first Commencement ceremony dedicated solely to those completing graduate-level programs.

Wingate University School of Pharmacy graduate“The key to living a purpose-driven life is to live a value-driven life,” Maria Pharr, president of South Piedmont Community College, told 139 graduates, nearly three quarters of whom earned doctorate degrees. “It not only brings clarity of purpose, but also it brings compassion for yourselves and others and a commitment to understanding the ephemeral nature of life’s journeys.”

Those receiving master of accounting, master of business administration, master of arts in sports management and master of arts in education degrees were followed by candidates for doctor of education, doctor of pharmacy and doctor of physical therapy.

Before receiving a degree from Wingate University President Rhett Brown, each graduate paused on stage to have a faculty member from the corresponding program bestow his or her academic hood. It was the first time in Wingate history that guests could see the hooding and the graduation at one event, described by Pharr as “a beautiful experience for us all as we welcome our newest members to the academy of scholars.”

Pharr told graduates that life will provide challenges and difficult situations.

“However, as Roy E. Disney, stated, ‘It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are,’” she said.

Starting her career as a field chemist, Pharr holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Andrews University and earned her master of arts in science education and doctor of education in higher education administration from East Carolina University. She filled numerous roles in the North Carolina Community College System before being named president of SPCC on Jan. 1, 2017.

She told the crowd that values are not about “what you want to get or achieve,” but rather about “how you want to behave or act on an ongoing basis.”

“Values, like a compass, guide us in our journeys, wherever they may lead us,” Pharr said.

While they hold fast to their own values, the speaker urged graduates to embrace change with a flexibility that can help them be compassionate toward others, engage one another with civility and understand that not everyone’s values are the same.

Pharr used words from Mahatma Gandhi to drive home her final point about the need to be positive: “Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

Wingate President Rhett Brown and Eric Schneider

Eric Schneider, right, was named the Graduate and Professional Faculty of the Year Award.

Before Pharr’s speech, Brown presented the Graduate and Professional Program Faculty of the Year Award to Eric Schneider, professor and assistant dean of academics at the Wingate School of Pharmacy. The award was his ninth time to be recognized for his teaching since completing his pharmacy residence in family medicine in 1991. Before coming to Wingate, Schneider served on the faculty of four U.S. family medicine residency programs, and he has taught in the colleges of pharmacy, medicine and nursing at five universities. He has presented at more than 100 seminars and published a number of papers and book chapters. President Brown said that at Wingate Schneider has elevated the institutional effectiveness of the School of Pharmacy, developed several clinical exams as part of the program’s problem-based curricula, and mentored many faculty members.

Kirklin Bowles, a newly degreed doctor of pharmacy, wrapped up Friday evening’s ceremony with the benediction.

Wingate University’s Academic Quad will fill again Saturday morning. Undergraduate Commencement begins at 9 a.m.

May 11, 2018