By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer
Eric Coca didn’t intend to go to college, but now he has a degree and is aiming to follow in the footsteps of teachers who helped him.
Coca, 25, was one of about 210 Eastern New Mexico University students who finished degrees this semester. Commencement was Saturday morning at the Greyhound Area.
Coca said it felt “awesome” to finish his Bachelor of Science in physical education.
“It took a lot of semesters, but I finally got there,” he said.
The graduate said he wasn’t planning to attend college until he received a cross country scholarship from Eastern. Once there, he began thinking about a career path.
Remembering the good teachers he had, Coca said, he decided he wanted to do what they had done and help students who needed it. He wants to let struggling youth “know that they can do something.”
ENMU President Steven Gamble said university personnel are always proud of graduates.
“They go out into the real world and do wonderful things,” he said. “We’re just happy that Eastern has played a role in their lives.”
During commencement, Department of Anthropology Chairwoman Kathy Durand gave the keynote speech.
“My message for you today can be summed up in two words: don’t settle,” she said.
Keep reaching for that dream job rather than settling for a comfortable yet boring career, Durand advised.
“Now in pursuing your dream, it is also important to be flexible,” she also said.
After advising graduates to learn throughout life, Durand counseled them to set priorities in order to obtain at least the things most important to them.
Near the end of her speech, Durand challenged students to pursue a career that makes a difference in people’s lives or to volunteer outside of work.
“And regardless of what career you end up with, always do your best at work,” she said.
The world needs people who make a difference and do quality work, Durand said.
New graduate Shirley Rollinson seems to have kept learning, as Durand advised. At “70-plus” years old, the chairwoman of the ENMU Department of Religion has just finished her Bachelor of Science in music after about 10 years, she said.
“It’s taken me a while to work toward it,” Rollinson said.
Rollinson, primarily a viola and violin player, began to pursue the degree after the conductor of an orchestra she joined suggested she go back to school. She took a class or two a semester and added other instruments to her repertoire.
With her degree, Rollinson plans to continue playing.