Graduating Pfeiffer students encouraged to make a difference as ‘new superheroes’

The roughly 200 undergraduate and graduate Pfeiffer University students gathered Saturday morning on the front lawn, eagerly awaiting their diplomas, represented a diversity that extended well beyond the borders of Stanly County, or even North Carolina.

Students hailed from states across the country, including Florida, New York, Nevada and California. One student came to Misenheimer from thousands of miles away in Portugal.

As the students united to form a melting pot of unique experiences and perspectives over the past four years, President Scott Bullard, speaking at the first outdoor ceremony in decades, challenged them to cherish the relationships they’ve created during their time at the university.

“Remember one another and stay in touch with one another,” he said. “I challenge you to ponder this moment and ponder the relationships that you’ve built.”

He could have easily been talking about Jack Rummage, Joshua Hartsell and Lucie Featherstone, Stanly County natives who attended Gray Stone Day School together before becoming Falcons.

Joshua Hartsell of Albemarle, Jack Rummage of Richfield and Lucie Featherstone of Albemarle attended Gray Stone Day School before going to Pfeiffer.

“It’s been a blessing for me, for sure, because I’ve grown up around here and am a third generation Pfeiffer graduate,” said Rummage, who is from Richfield and majored in biology. “It’s been where I’ve always envisioned myself coming and it’s surreal that graduation is finally here.”

Featherstone, an Albemarle native who majored in environmental science, applied to other schools, but the pull of attending the same university as her siblings was hard to ignore. “Pfeiffer’s home,” she said.

“I’m going to really miss my friends,” Featherstone said. “My friends are my family.”

As much as the students have been busy preparing for their future endeavors and what life will look like post-Pfeiffer, Bullard encouraged them to savor the moment.

“Enjoy the present, drink it in,” he said. “Ponder this accomplishment in your life and share it with the ones that you love.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Allen Dobson, Jr., founding partner of Cabarrus Family Medicine and founder and past president of Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC), which provides population management and primary care medical home services to 1.6 million North Carolinians, spoke about the need for real-life superheroes during a time of such division and strife in the country.

“It’s timely that I get to speak to you today because among you graduates are the new superheroes of our country,” he said. “You, our graduates, will help deliver to our citizens a better quality of life, a better healthcare, a more just society and economic prosperity and opportunity for all the citizens of this country which they deserve.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Allen Dobson challenged the students not just to be leaders but superheroes as work to make a difference.

In times of great uncertainty and change, people willing to think outside the box, collaborate with others and find solutions are needed more than ever, said Dobson, who once donned a Batman costume while giving a similar speech during a graduation ceremony at the UNC School of Medicine.

“America needs superheroes willing to try new things, see through walls, break down silos and barriers that lock us into endless debates that do little good to find solutions to our problems,” he said.

Besides being superheroes, the students are also future leaders, Dobson said. He imparted six key lessons that have helped him through his life: Value integrity, communicate and connect with people, continue learning, assume no ill-intent in others, give back and, perhaps most important, make a difference.

“You must first serve to be able to lead,” Dobson said, quoting Robert Greenleaf, founder of the modern Servant leadership movement.

The Pfeiffer professors and students during graduation. (Photo by Chris Miller/staff)