Elon holds 115th Commencement exercises

Elon University awarded 953 degrees during its 115th Commencement exercises, held under the oaks on campus May 21. Details...

What began as a cool, cloudy day turned bright and clear as the excited seniors walked onto the stage in front of West Hall before taking their seats. Assistant Chaplain Kate Colussy-Estes gave the invocation.

“This is a joyous day,” Colussy-Estes said. “Hard work and hard choices have brought us all here today.”

Senior class president Kimberly O’Neil congratulated the Class of 2005 and offered words of appreciation to professors and parents on behalf of all graduating seniors.

“Thank you for challenging us and being incredibly active in our Elon careers,” she said to the faculty.

Elon trustee Jeanne Swanner Robertson, a nationally known professional speaker and humorist, delivered the Commencement address.

Click below to hear an audio recording of Jeanne Robertson’s Commencement address.

“Each of you in your own way has inspired us for the past four years,” said Robertson, an avid supporter of the university and the parent of a 1989 Elon graduate. “Today, you deserve to be inspired.”

A former Miss North Carolina and Miss Congeniality in the Miss America pageant, Robertson is the author of three books on humor. She encouraged graduates to look for humor wherever they could find it — in the airport, at a football game or on the job.

As Robertson was sharing Elon stories with the crowd, a train blew its horn and briefly interrupted her as it came down the railroad tracks near campus. She paused and smiled.

“Is that the train coming through during my speech?” she said. She then walked over to the podium, grabbed her camera and began taking pictures of the cheering graduates until the train passed.

Robertson said that finding humor in everyday situations brings many benefits, such as friendship, improved health, career advancement and even an improved attitude during stressful situations. “In the big world, you’re gonna get so inundated with stuff that you may think there’s no humor happening. Oh, it’s happening,” she said.

Family members started arriving on campus early Saturday morning to get a good view of their graduates. Danny and Debbie Dowell of Winston-Salem brought a crowd of 14 extended family and friends with them to celebrate the graduation of their only child, Michelle, who majored in elementary education with a minor in Spanish. Michelle, who is trying to choose between three job offers, will be teaching for the Alamance County school system.

“She’ll be number 137 (in the line of graduates),” reported her father. “She called us early this morning to tell us.” Both parents sported “I’m the proud parent of an Elon graduate” buttons. “We’re so excited for her,” said her mother.

Tony and Margaret O’Sullivan and their son, Jerry, drove from Queens, N.Y., through Friday’s stormy weather to see their daughter, Jaclyn, graduate with a degree in communications.

“It’s very, very exciting,” said her mother. They planned to help Jaclyn pack up her last few belongings and start the 10-hour drive back to New York early Sunday morning. This summer, Jaclyn will be completing a public relations internship with actor/musician Sean “P. Diddy” Combs before looking for a permanent job.