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Graduates urged to write own stories

May 25, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

After discovering she was a "pathetic" legal secretary, Nora Roberts ditched the clerical suits and picked up writing, a job that finally "lit her up."

The best-selling romantic fiction author, who lives in Keedysville, challenged 438 graduating Shepherd College students Saturday to find the same excitement in the lives they make for themselves.

"When you close this chapter of your life today, do so with respect for what came before and anticipation of what comes next," Roberts said.

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About 4,000 people filed into Shepherd College's Butcher Center for the college's 130th graduation ceremony, which featured Roberts as the keynote speaker.

Roberts said graduating students are the only ones who can write the words that will fill the next chapter of their lives.

"When you write," she said, "write well."

Elisabeth Reddinger, 22, of Ellicott City, Md., hopes to follow Roberts' advice.

Reddinger, who received a bachelor of arts in secondary art education, will teach art over the summer and hopes to find a job teaching the subject full-time in Howard County beginning next fall.

"It seemed like she (Roberts) could identify well with how we felt and what our plans are for the future," she said.

Laura Sczerzenie, 32, of Frederick, Md., hopes to fulfill dreams of becoming a filmmaker.

Sczerzenie, who received a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications with a minor in journalism, said she plans to begin work on a documentary on dialect this summer. She hopes that will eventually propel her into a career in film.

Meghan Baird, 21, has her own dreams and a different way of approaching them.

Holding a pink plastic microphone and dawning a sash that read "Miss B.F.A. 2003," the new graduate said after all the painting critiques and general studies final exams she endured, a little comic relief was in order for her graduation.

Baird, 21, of Bowie, Md., graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and plans to go to Africa for a month before returning to Shepherdstown to teach art at a private school in the fall.

Richard Stevens, the college's assistant vice president for student affairs, said he enjoyed the individuality in the college's ceremony.

Stevens, who had worked a year before at Northeastern University in Boston, said Shepherd's graduation was very intimate compared to that of the large university.

He said he liked how the faculty lined up on either side of the aisle like members of a football team to cheer on and honor the members of the graduating class as they walked by.

Students volleyed bright yellow smiley face beach balls around at the ceremony's end.

Buck Lam, 37, of Hedgesville, who received an associate's degree in information technology, said this graduation meant a lot to him.

"Doors are open now that have always been closed," he said.

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