Conway mayor urges CCU graduates to turn adversity into action
More than 700 students were eligible to participate in fall commencement held Dec. 14. Ceremonies were held at 2 and 6 p.m. in the HTC Student Recreation and Convocation Center.
Blain-Bellamy’s message was one meant to inspire action among the graduates. “What will you do with the new you?” she asked. “Leaders like you rise. They come to know the way. They go the way. They don’t hesitate to show the way to others.”
CCU awarded Conway native Blain-Bellamy an honorary Doctor of Public Service during the 2 p.m. ceremony. She was sworn in as mayor of Conway on Jan. 4, 2016, having previously served on city council from 1993-1998 and 2012-2016, and as mayor pro tem in 1996 and 2015. She served four years as Conway’s assistant city administrator. In January 2011, she founded Community Legal Services, a private law office providing legal services to low- and moderate-income families.
Blain-Bellamy is the 2011 recipient of Leadership Grand Strand’s Ann DeBock Leadership Award, among several other awards. She is a graduate of the inaugural Waccamaw Class of the American Leadership Forum, Leadership South Carolina, Leadership Grand Strand and the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government. She serves on the board of PALM Motor Sports School.
Also during the ceremonies, CCU bestowed upon retired English professor Veronica Davis Gerald the title of emeritus professor. Gerald started at CCU in 1982 and is the founding director of the Charles Joyner Institute for Gullah and African Diaspora Studies.
The parents of late professor Karen Maguire attended the 2 p.m. ceremony to accept the title of distinguished professor emeritus bestowed posthumously to their daughter, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. Maguire’s mother Cheryl took a moment to address the students. “One of the last things Karen said to me was that she just loved her students,” she said. “She wanted you all to know that.”
Maguire joined the CCU faculty in 2004 and achieved the highest certification sin her specialty of accounting, fraud and auditing. She loved teaching and always encouraged her students to achieve at the highest levels.
In his remarks, chairman of the board of trustees William Biggs noted that 14 of the students eligible for graduation were United States veterans. One of those students, Ashley Garrett, served the U.S. Coast Guard prior to a stint with law enforcement before coming to Coastal.
“To her, failure was never an option,” said Biggs. “She was a good student, but here at CCU, she became a great student.”
Blain-Bellamy’s comments reinforced the overall message from the commencement program of fortitude, service and action.
“Today, I plant a seed,” she said. “Grow this seed into civic responsibility. Your good acts extend outward and live forever. Champion a cause, and give of your time and effort. You can make a living with what you get, but you can make a life with what you give.”