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Mountain State grads receive degrees

June 04, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - After he received his diploma and walked off the stage after posing for photographs, Mountain State University graduate Mooch Mutchler took off his blue cap and handed it to his 7-year-old son, Cory.

At many graduations, graduates hug their parents after the ceremony. At Mountain State's ceremony, it was children hugging their gown-wearing parents that seemed to be common.

More than 90 students qualified for degrees, and about half came to Tuesday evening's ceremony, which was held at Martinsburg High School. Master's degrees were handed out in nursing and strategic leadership and bachelor's degrees were awarded in organizational leadership. Others received associate's degrees in either general studies or applied technology.

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The ceremony was the first graduation service for the Eastern Panhandle campus, said Robert Lowry, assistant vice president for extended learning at Mountain State. The campus is in the former Tanger Outlet Centre in Martinsburg.

During his opening remarks, Mountain State President Charles H. Polk asked that parents, grandparents, spouses and friends of the graduates be recognized.

"Few of you, if any, have made it on your own," he told the graduates.

Mutchler, who received an associate's degree in general studies, said family was very important. His wife, Gail, watched their three children while he attended school one night a week, for four hours a night.

A member of the U.S. Coast Guard in Martinsburg, Mutchler said he will earn his bachelor's degree in December. If he is not stationed elsewhere, he said he hopes to earn his master's degree from Mountain State, which he praised.

"They make it so convenient for the busy, mature student," Mutchler said.

Eventually, Mutchler said he hopes to become an elementary school teacher.

Elsewhere in the auditorium, Dennis and Diane Fitzgerald stood together, both in black caps and gowns. Married for nearly 14 years, the couple each earned a master's degree.

Taking the courses together enabled the Charles Town, W.Va., couple to bounce ideas off one another, work together and get through the four-hour nights, they said.

"I was happy that they had homework," the couple's daughter, 11-year-old Kiya, said with a smile. "I'm very proud of them."

Mountain State gears its programs toward working adults, and soon plans to offer bachelor's degree programs in accounting, legal studies and culinary arts/hospitality. Also, plans to offer graduate degrees are under way.

Two weeks ago, Mountain State finalized the purchase of the Tanger Centre in Martinsburg. Mountain State had been operating from the former outlet shopping center for more than two years.

Originally known as Beckley College, which was founded in 1933 in southern West Virginia, Mountain State took its current name in August 2001.

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