NEWBERRY — Dr. Gregory Cole addressed the 47 soon-to-be graduates of Newberry College on Wednesday with the Spanish phrase “es su turno,” meaning “it’s your turn.”
Cole has taught at Newberry College since 2002 and is a tenured professor of Spanish. He earned his Ph.D. in Spanish with a specialization in Hispanic poetry from the University of Kentucky in 1993. Cole received his master of arts from Miami University of Ohio in 1987 and his bachelor of arts from the University of Toledo in 1985.
Cole was named Professor of the Year this year at Newberry College, which gave him the honor of addressing the graduating class at the college’s winter commencement ceremony.
“It’s your turn to do something with your life,” Cole told the class of 2013.
Cole told the class that it was now their turn to graduate, find their place in the world, contribute to the world, and to give back to the world, beginning with the turn of their tassels.
“It’s all about the faculty and staff, who have instilled inspiration and what they have shared with you,” Cole said. “The coaches, the office staff, they’ve all had an impact on your lives. Now it’s all about what you do with it.”
To reach the students on a more personal level, Cole emailed students when he found out he was to give the speech at graduation. In his email, Cole asked students to respond with their major, future plans, and a turning point or key moment they experienced in their time at Newberry.
Several students answers were read aloud during Cole’s speech revealing plans for future teachers and professors, careers in microbiology, as well as plans for higher education. One common element in student responses remained the thankfulness of their degree from Newberry College and what the college had given them as students.
“Your answers were so beautiful and meaningful, it opened up the door to attach something poetic to the term ‘turn,’” Cole told the graduates.
Cole ended his speech by referring to a volume of poems entitled Breathturn, written by Paul Celan, and published in 1967. “You take a breath, and it’s a new turn,” Cole said. “This is your breath turn.”
Also honored at graduation Wednesday was Dr. Irwin “Ike” Belk, who received an honorary doctor of humane letters from Newberry College. Belk is a successful business man and philanthropist who began his career as a clerk in his family’s department store.
Belk advanced to president of Belk Finance and also as an officer and director of the Belk Department stores. After serving in the Army Air Force during World War II, he received a bachelor of science degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.
In 2002, Belk received the American Cancer Society’s highest award, the Merit Award, after serving as the president of the organization for 40 years. He is a former North Carolina state senator and was appointed as a delegate to the 54th United Nations General Assembly in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.
Newberry College presented Belk with his 29th honorary degree, which President Maurice Scherrens of the college said was a proud moment for the school.
“If you believe in it, you will succeed,” Belk told the graduating class.
Elyssa Parnell can be reached at 803-276-0625, ext. 108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.