To say that there are some outstanding achievers in the Class of 2013 is an understatement. Among those getting their degrees will be a United Nations retiree; an Estonian student-athlete; a minister who spent time working with the poor in Jamaica; a German-speaking accountant who tutors young schoolchildren and a businesswoman who decided to make a mid-career change and become a public school teacher. They range in age from 21 to 68.
My wife was a non-traditional student pursuing a nursing degree at Kennesaw State with two children in college and one husband who didn’t know how to operate the dishwasher, so I have a special affinity for people like Flora Lowe-Rockett. After working at the United Nations for three decades, the 68-year-old Lowe-Rockett enrolled at KSU and was named Student of the Year for 2011-2012. She also received one of the first Presidential Diversity Awards for her work on a potential KSU child care facility. A grandmother of three, Ms. Lowe-Rockett is a member of Golden Key International Honor Society, National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Delta Epsilon Iota Academic Honor Society. She works as a student assistant in the Life Long Learning Center.
Hendrik Themas, a student-athlete from Estonia, is a conference champion decathlete. He has been studying mixed martial arts and wants to advance in the amateur ranks of the sport. First, he will serve in Estonia’s military for the better part of a year when he returns to his home country. Themas is graduating with a degree in finance and is hoping to land a job in that field. Given his martial arts expertise, I would suggest someone accommodate his request sooner rather than later.
Caleb Russo, 21, is graduating with honors (3.97 GPA) and receiving two degrees — a B.S. in accounting and B.A. in modern language and culture with a concentration in German. He interned in Germany with Ernest & Young, one of the most-prestigious CPA firms in the world, and has accepted a job with Atlanta’s CPA firm Sklar & Associates. He also volunteers at the German School of Atlanta, where he helps 6- and 7-year-olds with their German fluency.
Gary Walker, 23, is a minister at Union Spring Baptist Church in Morgan County. He will receive a B.A. in integrative studies, with concentrations in leadership and communication. He was president of the Residence Hall Association and active in student government and represented KSU at the annual Governor’s Valedictorian Day. Despite these duties, Walker managed to find time to travel to Jamaica last winter with a group of classmates to build a house for a young family there. The Rutledge native plans to return to Morgan County to open a much-needed youth community center there.
My son, Ken, a Furman University biology graduate, got his teaching certification at KSU after a 15-year career in retailing and has been teaching at Woodland High School in Bartow County for the past 12 years. Now comes Tracie Perkins, who spent more than 15 years working in property management, during which time she launched an after-school homework club at her apartment complex. This drove her desire to become a teacher. Five years ago, relocation to Atlanta led her to enter KSU’s urban education program, get her degree and now she is teaching third-graders at Green Acres Elementary School in Smyrna.
These are four members of KSU’s Class of 2013 that I know about. I have no doubts that there are many others receiving their diplomas on Monday who have equally inspiring stories to tell and who will make this a better world by their efforts in and out of the classroom. Kudos to them all and to those that have instructed and guided them along the way.
When you can attract and graduate individuals of the caliber of the Class of 2013, you are a serious player in higher education. No question that Kennesaw State, Georgia’s third largest university, clearly belongs in that category.
Dr. Michael L. Sanseviro, Dean of Student Success at KSU says, “In my 23 years in higher education, the last 17 of which have been served with three different institutions in the University System of Georgia, I can unequivocally say that our students are among the best.”
He will get no argument from me and certainly none from The Woman Who Shares My Name (Class of 1984). She’s feeling pretty proud of her alma mater these days. So should we all.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.