When 172 students filed into the Robert L. Vaughan Center on December 13 for the
159th Commencement Ceremony, the crowd of supporters erupted. Five of them obtained
a master's degree, while the others obtained bachelors' degrees.
As the band played, family and friends waved, some graduates wiped away tears while
attempting to smile. One of them, Alexa Speller, was holding a secret that would soon
be revealed to her family and the audience. Speller, from Aulander, N.C., was the
Bearer of the Mace. "Bearing the Mace" is reserved for the senior who, having earned
all credit hours at ECSU, graduates with the highest grade point average. She graduated
with a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) and led the undergraduate students into the ceremony.
Speller first learned about this great honor as a sophomore at the university and
decided to work toward that goal. On Friday, December 12, she was informed that she
was indeed Bearer of the Mace for the fall commencement, but kept the news to herself.
"I was saving the news that I was Bearer of the Mace as a surprise for my entire family.
It was extremely difficult to do so because they were constantly trying to figure
out my GPA since Friday so I had to be as discreet as possible in my answers," Speller
"Throughout the ceremony, I would look in the direction they were sitting just to
see their reaction. I wondered how they would react when they found out I was Bearer
of the Mace."
Finally the announcement was made. Speller rose, walked the stage and waited for the
chairman of the ECSU Board of Trustees, Harvey Walker, to place her hood around her
neck, another honor reserved for only the Bearer of the Mace.
Speller later said, "Seeing my family and friends erupt when I walked off the stage
meant the world to me. I felt like they were genuinely proud of me and my accomplishments.
Knowing that these individuals could have been anywhere else in the world. . . but
cared enough to be with me,"
Speller, who earned a bachelor's degree in
History, acknowledges there is a national campaign to encourage college students to
earn college degrees in the sciences, math, engineering and technology. There is a
tendency, Speller said, to presume the History college majors spend much of their
time remembering dates or events. She declares today's History curriculum focuses
on the importance of critical thinking, research, and writing skills. She is confident
of her field of study and its likelihood to lead graduates to rewarding careers.
"History is a very interdisciplinary college major. Students are exposed to such disciplines
as geography, sociology, psychology, and philosophy, which makes a History graduate
a well-rounded individual," Speller said.
"History is one of those unique college majors that exposes one to several avenues
and allows them to choose the career they want instead of having it chosen for them."
Speller also completed the requirements for the Honors Program, making her accomplishment
even more impressive, as she had to write and defend her Senior Honors Thesis. Her
thesis, which is entitled 'Historic Leadership: Guiding an HBCU through Turbulent
Times' focuses on the leadership of ECSU by three of its former presidents. She hopes
it will prove to be beneficial to present and future of ECSU, as well as other institutions.
"Completing my History degree at Elizabeth City State University has been a joyous
occasion. [Prospective] students should enroll at ECSU because it is truly a rewarding
experience," Speller said. "The faculty members work closely with each student to
ensure success and they instill confidence in each student."
After working for a few months, Speller plans to enter one of the law schools in North
Carolina, and then work toward her goals of becoming district attorney, and later
attorney general of North Carolina.