Pfeiffer convocation speaker urges winning first year; Royston wins  Webb award

By Ken Keuffel for Pfeiffer University

On Aug. 18, Dr. Kenston J. Griffin promised Pfeiffer University freshmen that they would have fun as he shared ways they could accomplish a winning first year in college.

Griffin, the keynote speaker for the university’s 2023-24 convocation ceremony, is the founder and CEO of Dream Builders Communication, and he delivered on his pledge in memorable fashion.

Dressed in a graduation gown and his trademark bow tie, he darted down from the podium and energetically paced up and down the aisles, shaking hands, slapping palms and taking selfies.

He humorously acted out the “no-pressure” ways that Dr. Scott Bullard, Pfeiffer’s president, might motivate the freshmen in attendance as he greeted them. And, he invited student attendees to pull out their cellphones and use them to take copious notes as he shared words of encouragement and wisdom.

Griffin’s advice was plentiful and, though often flavored with humor and interspersed with banter directed at the audience, was serious. He extolled the virtues of prayer: “It works for you. It’s the thing you’ve got to do today to help you be the person you need be for tomorrow.” He reminded everyone that they are important, to not let anyone persuade them otherwise.
He urged the male students to treat their female classmates as if they “were your little sister.”

“A gentleman still opens the door,” he added. “A gentleman says, ‘Yes, sir. No, ma’am.’ A gentleman will always pause before they speak. Understand this — this is very powerful, what I’m about to say — just because it needs to be said doesn’t mean you always have to say it.”

Griffin reminded the attendees that even if high school was a forgettable experience in which they were bullied, college is “a chance to have a fresh start.” It’s also a place where you can major in one thing and find your passion in another.

“Change is inevitable,” he said. “You’ve just got to make sure you’re ready for it.”

Griffin rounded out his address with some key takeaway points, one being to have a clear vision: “What do you want to do? Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there?”
He stressed that there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with being an introvert or an extrovert.

“What you’ve got to do is make sure you become the person you need to be and not the person that other people want you to be,” he said.

Another key takeaway: Evaluate the company you keep. Some of you “had a chance to be a 4.0 student in high school, but you hung out with 2.0 friends,” he said.

Employers “pay for results,” he said. “They pay people to show up. They pay for people to go above and beyond. You should get the foundation at this great university to go above and beyond the norm.”

Griffin suggested that a good attitude will make all the difference, as will making the right choices. Often, to not make the right choices is to let down those who sacrificed for you or opened doors for you.

“If you can live with the consequences of an erroneous decision, go for it,” he said. “If not, make the correct decision.”

The convocation program also included the announcement of Dr. Ted Royston, an assistant professor of English at Pfeiffer University, as the recipient of the 2022-23 Mary E. Foster Webb and Henry Thomas “Toby” Webb Jr. Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Royston was nominated for the award by members of Pfeiffer’s student body. He’ll receive a $1,000 acknowledgment and an additional $1,000 professional development stipend.

Royston began working at Pfeiffer in 2018, having earned several advanced degrees, including a doctorate from Texas Woman’s University.

He has distinguished himself in a variety of ways, not only as a teacher but also as the chairman of the Faculty Senate and the faculty advisor for The Phoenix, Pfeiffer’s student-led literary journal. He has also served as a curriculum coordinator for the English department. His research has been presented at numerous conferences, and he has published a rhetorical analysis of science fiction narratives.

“Ted is a just a great overall guy,” said Rev. Douglas A. Hume, Ph.D., a professor of religion at Pfeiffer who also chairs its Department of Humanities. “His relaxed manner, sense of humor, friendliness and willingness to always lend a hand make him a wonderful servant leader. I am thankful for him and can think of no currently serving faculty member more deserving of this year’s Webb award.”

First awarded in 2019, The Mary E. Foster Webb and Henry Thomas “Toby” Webb Jr. Award for Excellence in Teaching was created by the Webb children, Tom Webb and Mary Webb Lathan, in honor of their parents.

Mary Webb, who died in 2007, was a teacher for 30 years. The majority of her career was spent as an educator in the Albemarle City School System. A scholarship fund that supports education students at Pfeiffer is also awarded in her name each year.

Toby Webb began teaching and coaching at Albemarle High School in 1947 and went on to become superintendent of Albemarle City Schools in 1966, a post he maintained until his retirement. His success as a football coach at Albemarle High School led to his induction into the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Coaching Hall of Fame. He received an honorary doctor of public administration from Pfeiffer College in 1976.

The Webb Award is meant to recognize, publicly acknowledge and reward Pfeiffer faculty who are committed to outstanding teaching.