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Elon holds 117th Commencement exercises

More than 1,000 students received bachelor's degrees Saturday, May 19 at Elon University's 117th Commencement exercises, held Under the Oaks on the historic West campus. Details...

Clear skies and temperatures in the low 60s provided the perfect setting for 1,035 graduates and their families. Trustee Noel Allen '69, himself the father of a graduating senior, welcomed the crowd of nearly 11,000 people.

"Today I share with you the joy of watching another loved one graduate—my son," Allen said. "Isn't it amazing how near the long ago can appear when magnified by a tear, a tear of joy." Allen reminded the Class of 2007 of the friendships they have made and the common thread that binds them. "You, all of you, now share destinies with Elon....It is a connection that defies not only time and distance, but death itself."

Carson Foushee, president of the Class of 2007, quoted other members of the class to thank family, friends, parents, teachers and administrators who have offered a guiding hand or reassurance along the way. Foushee also announced that the class has raised $15,660 for its senior class gift, which will fund local, national and global service trips for deserving students.

Kerrii Anderson '79, CEO and president of Wendy's International, delivered the commencement address. Anderson, who grew up on a farm not far from campus, told graduates that their journey of learning has just started.

"Even though today's commencement represents the end of your undergraduate program, it represents a beginning," Anderson said. "Now is the opportunity to build on what you have learned, and what you may not even know you have learned. Elon has given us a great foundation, but it is up to us to continue learning."

A lot has transpired, Anderson said, since the days she drove a school bus in Alamance County. She has worked as a chief financial officer, worked for a top-5 accounting firm and served as senior vice president and chief financial officer of M/I Schottenstein Homes, Inc., for 14 years.

"I can tell you that the road from driving a school bus to becoming a CEO gave me plenty of opportunities for learning. Embracing continuous learning has been the single most important factor in my professional career and in my personal life."

Lifelong learning requires leaving your comfort zone, taking risks, identifying opportunities and making sacrifices, Anderson said. She reminded graduates that while they will enjoy plenty of successful moments in their lives, there is no guarantee of avoiding failure. "You will learn as much from your failures as you will from success."

Click here to watch Anderson's address.

In his charge to the graduating class, President Leo M. Lambert asked seniors "to carry forth the mission of Elon University into the wider world." Lambert reminded Elon's newest alumni that it is their responsibility "to demonstrate, by your daily living, a passion for a life of learning, personal integrity, and an ethic of work and service."

In keeping with Elon tradition, each senior is presented with a young oak tree. "The oak is a symbol of strength," said Lambert. "Plant your young oak tree, and let it serve as a reminder that you have been prepared by your education to be a strong force for good in the world. Remember too that we are the Phoenix. We believe in the promise of new beginnings. So let us begin anew, and say together, 'Long Live Elon!'"

David Hibbard,
5/21/2007 5:18 PM