By Lisa Sollie
(MERIDIAN) – Mississippi State University-Meridian held its spring commencement exercises on Friday, May 11 at MSU Riley Center with 117 degrees conferred. The graduates were from two states and 28 counties and thirty-one were Riley Scholars - individuals who received the Riley Next Step Scholarship which was established in the fall of 2010 by The Riley Foundation and other generous donors.
Five students were also chosen as 2011-2012 Outstanding Graduates including an oncology nurse, a new father, a woman with a passion for social work, a pastor, and a soon-to-be teacher.
Oncology Nurse earns MBA in Accounting
Ray Gibbons, MSU-Meridian's Outstanding graduate student in business, grew up on a little country farm in Illinois.
He went on to earn an undergraduate degree in accounting from Southern Illinois and then traveled around the world a couple of times – compliments of the U.S. Navy. After 22 years in the service, Gibbons retired in 1995 from NAS Meridian as a Lt. Commander.
But he wasn’t through serving his fellowman. In his mid-40’s, Gibbons enrolled in the nursing program at MCC and for the past 15 years has been a RN on the Oncology floor at Andersons Regional Medical Center.
Although he loves nursing, about 5 years ago Gibbons decided to earn one more degree, this time a MBA in Accounting from MSU-Meridian.
“I had great professors at MSU-Meridian,” he noted. “I never had a bad experience at the university. I really enjoyed my years here.”
At sixty, Gibbons thinks he might want to semi-retire in the next year or so and maybe teach some classes in accounting.
Recognized as a hard worker by many who know him, Gibbons credits his wife of 14 years, Cindy, with his success.
“She has been my greatest supporter and sacrificed a lot in order for me to both work fulltime and attend school. She is my best friend and I couldn’t have done it without her!”
New father graduates in School Administration
Travis Creel, lead teacher at Eiland Middle School in Louisville, was chosen Outstanding graduate student in education at MSU-Meridian.
Married to his wife, Christy, a math teacher at Neshoba Central High School, for 13 years, Creel is a father of three, his youngest child born April 16.
“I’ve coached football for 10 years and have taught everything from senior economics and physical science to 5th grade,” said Creel. And although I love teaching and coaching, I knew there was something more for me out there.”
Creel received a Master of Science in School administration in the fall. He chose school administration because he thought he wanted to be a principal.
“After going through the program,” he noted, “I feel administration is what I’m called to do.”
Creel chose MSU-Meridian because it was closer to his house than Starkville. Once he started classes he knew he was where he needed to be.
“The smaller class size and the professors were just what I needed to motivate and push me in the right direction,” said Creel. “Through their guidance and leadership I was able to become an inspired leader myself. It truly was a case of leading by example. I hope to be a leader who inspires others in a school of my own someday.”
Life experiences lead to degree in social work
Melanie Chambers spent 17 years working in the Accounting Department for a local business. She spent part of those year taking night classes at MCC, working toward earning an associate degree.
After the company she worked for changed hands, one of her instructors at MCC encouraged her and other students to do community service as part of their coursework. Chambers ended up doing volunteer work at a local nursing home and loving it.
That’s when MSU-Meridian’s Outstanding undergraduate student in arts and sciences and Riley Scholar decided to pursue a degree in social work.
“I liked the fact that a social work degree would allow me to practice in a variety of settings,” said Chambers. “I chose to attend MSU-Meridian because of its academic reputation, small campus, and because I could remain at home in Meridian while caring for my elderly mother.”
Being a recipient of the Riley Next Step Scholarship was an added bonus and one Chambers was very grateful for.
“Quite simply - it made a long-term dream of mine come true.”
Just a few weeks after graduation from MSU-Meridian Chambers will start an online Master’s in Social Work program at the University of Alabama.
She hopes a job in social work is on the horizon soon as well.
Pastor goes back to school
Kevin Vaughn is the pastor of New Harmony Baptist Church in Philadelphiaand a father of four. He is a Riley Scholar and was chosen MSU-Meridian’s Outstanding undergraduate student in business.
“After graduating from Philadelphia High School in 1988, I took classes at several area community colleges but I really didn’t apply myself and ended up dropping out,” said Vaughn. “Once I decided to enroll at East Central Community College in 2009, I really worked at it. I was much more focused this time around and I did well,” he added.
Vaughn transferred to MSU-Meridian in the fall of 2010 to pursue a B.B.A. degree with a concentration in marketing, and was one of the first recipients of the Riley Next Step Scholarship.
“Thanks to The Riley Foundation and Mississippi Power, the scholarship paid for my undergraduate degree so I can use the money I had saved for my education to pay for graduate school.”
Vaughn plans to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) in June and if accepted, will be enrolled in the MBA program at MSU-Meridian this fall.
“My long term goal, quite honestly, is to be a teacher on the college level.”
Regardless of his future plans, Vaughn says he will stay in ministry.
“I’ll be a bi-vocational pastor. I can continue to help people – both as a pastor and hopefully as a teacher someday.”
Yearning to teach
Paige Satcher can’t wait to have her own classroom. And thanks to a recent job offer – she won’t have to wait too long.
Chosen MSU-Meridian’s Outstanding undergraduate student in education, the Quitman native is also a Riley Scholar and will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA.
After graduating from Quitman High School, Satcher attended MCC where she was president of the Future Educators Association (FEA). It was at a FEA meeting that she first heard about the new Riley Next Step Scholarship being offered at MSU-Meridian.
“It was fabulous getting this scholarship – it was definitely a weight off my shoulders knowing I didn’t have to worry about tuition or fees or anything,” said Satcher. “It also enabled Kevin and I to move up our plans to get married and purchase a home.” Otherwise we probably would have waited until I finished school, since I was only 20-years-old and a junior in college at the time.”
Satcher knows the value a good solid educational foundation can make in a person’s life, and it was this knowledge plus her own experiences in school, that prompted her to go into teaching.
“I wanted to be the teacher who could give that foundation to my students,” she stressed.
Excited to finish up her student internship at Clarkdale Middle School, Satcher is ready to graduate.
“It (the internship) was probably the best experience I’ve ever had as far as preparing me to be a teacher. I mean, you can learn educational theory and other concepts like that all day long,” she noted, “but it isn’t until you can actually apply what you’ve learned that it all falls into place.”
And for this MSU-Meridian graduate – it will all fall into place this August in a classroom at Quitman Upper Elementary when she begins her education career as a new teacher.
Congratulations to all MSU-Meridian’s Outstanding Graduates. We salute you on a job well done!
Last Updated: 5/17/12