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Shepherd awards diplomas to 493

May 22, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Nearly 500 Shepherd College students picked up diplomas for bachelors and associates degrees at the college's 126th commencement exercises Saturday.

The commencement speaker was Franklin D. Cleckley, a former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice who was the first African American to serve on the court. He teaches law at West Virginia University.

Cleckley was introduced by David L. Dunlop, Shepherd president, who said the speaker was widely known in legal circles for his writings on the law.

In his remarks, Cleckley told the graduates assembled in the college gymnasium that he started out life in Huntington, W.Va. His mother was a preacher in the Eighth Avenue Church of God in that city on the Ohio River. Cleckley said he tried to follow in her footsteps by attending Anderson University in Indiana to pursue a divinity degree.

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It was during the civil rights movement which he said inspired him to pursue a law degree instead.

He ran for attorney general of West Virginia in 1976, and "lost miserably," he said. Then Gov. Gaston Caperton appointed Cleckley to the Supreme Court in 1994.

"The future is filled with opportunities and pitfalls," he told the graduates. "Seize the opportunities and avoid the pitfalls as you start your journey through life."

He urged the graduates to keep their convictions throughout their lives. "Without convictions there can be no direction and without direction there can be no journey," he said. He also said that they need to have compassion to go along with their convictions. "Compassion humanizes convictions," he said.

An honorary degree was conferred upon Attorney Lacy I. Rice, Jr., of Martinsburg, W.Va. Eleanor Ann Shirley of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., was honored with the Alumni Emeritus Service Award. Randolph G. Flood of Alexandria, Va., was presented with the Outstanding Alumnus Professional Award.

Among the 493 students who receive diplomas Saturday were 303 West Virginia residents, including 120 from Berkeley County, 100 from Jefferson County and nine from Berkeley County. There were 45 residents from Washington County in the graduating class.

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