FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — J. Walter McDowell, the retired chief executive officer at Wachovia Corp., mentioned Dani Winter of Winston-Salem as an example of high-achieving students at Forsyth Technical Community College during the school’s 2014 commencement program Thursday night.
“Dani is the recipient of the prestigious Park Scholar at N.C. State University,” McDowell told more than 6,000 people gathered at the Joel Coliseum for Forsyth Tech’s graduating ceremony. “Congratulations to Dani, she’s flying.”
Before the ceremony, Winter said she is proud of her academic success.
Winter, 18, received a high-school diploma, and two associate degrees at Forsyth Tech. She will attend N.C. State University as a freshman during the fall semester.
“It means a lot to me at this time,” Winter said of her three degrees. “I’m just so happy to be able to walk across the stage and have a bright future.”
Inside Joel Coliseum, hundreds of people in the audience yelled and applauded when their loved ones walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.
McDowell was the keynote speaker at the ceremony in which 1,003 FTCC students received their degrees. In his 15-minute speech, McDowell said that the education the graduating students received at Forsyth Tech will ensure their futures.
“I understand that many of you already have a job and are doing well,” McDowell said. “Others of you are still looking. Stay in the game and persevere.”
McDowell, the chairman of the Business for Educational Success and Transformation in North Carolina, urged the students to be willing to learn from their mistakes.
“Be smart and be accountable,” McDowell said. “Your jobs will be challenging and frustrating. But this all is part of your journey to success. Be an active hero in your own life.”
Todd Grace, 48, received a degree in nursing. Grace spent 25 years in the warehouse industry in Winston-Salem before he decided to change careers. His wife, Angela Grace, is a working toward her associate degree at FTCC.
“It’s an end of a long journey,” Todd Grace said, “and the start of another career of becoming a nurse. That is what I was supposed to do.”
Derrick Claggett of Martinsville, Va. traveled to Joel Coliseum to see his sister, Sharon Claggett Williams receive her degree during the ceremony.
“I am very proud of her,” Claggett said of her sister. “She was displaced from her job and she went to school.”