Two serve as Bearers of the Mace for 154th Commencement
Kesha Williams May 08, 2012
Elizabeth City State University's 154th Commencement Ceremony brought hundreds of
family, friends and supporters to Roebuck Stadium to congratulate 245 undergraduate
and 15 graduate students who graduated with degrees on Saturday, May 5.
Students Jessica L. Coates and Michael R. Ross served as Bearers of the Mace, a privilege
reserved for the non-transfer graduating senior who has the highest cumulative grade
point average. Both graduated from ECSU with a 4.0 grade point average. Additionally,
both are local students who graduated from local high schools. Coates, a resident
of Elizabeth City, graduated from Pasquotank County High School. Ross, a resident
of Hertford, N.C., graduated from Perquimans County High School. While both were honored
to lead the long line of graduating students into the ceremony, they admitted becoming
Bearer of the Mace was not their goal. They simply wanted to perform as best they
could as undergraduates.
Coates earned a bachelor of science degree in education, with a concentration in elementary
education and looks forward to completing her dream of becoming a teacher.
"This is an honor I never expected to receive," she said. "However, it is a great
honor to be Bearer of the Mace. I have worked extremely hard to maintain my 4.0 grade
point average. There were many long nights of studying, reading and practicing," Coates
said. "My goal was to achieve and maintain the highest standards possible.
"This honor was accomplished not only with the help of the faculty of ECSU, but also
with the help of God, family and friends. I have always wanted to be a teacher ever
since I was a little girl. I absolutely love children and could not imagine doing
anything else with my life," Coates said.
Ross earned a bachelor of science degree in physics. He also earned enough credits
to minor in biology and chemistry. He plans to have a career as a medical professional.
When reflecting on his four years at ECSU, Ross said he appreciated the small class
sizes and attentive professors in the ECSU School of Mathematics, Science and Technology.
He said several professors served not only as teachers and mentors, but almost as
extended family members offering good advice for future pursuits. He credited his
advisor, Dr. A. Victor Adedeji, and Dr. Althea Bluiett, both assistant professors
in the Department of Chemistry, Geology and Physics, with personalizing the rigorous
academic classes, which helped him to focus and pursue his career goals.
"I really liked the challenge of physics. I was the only senior majoring in physics
so I grew close to my advisors who knew what I wanted to do after graduation-earn
a certificate in medical dosimetry at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. I completed
an interview in March for the one-year certificate program and expect to begin my
program in Buffalo, N.Y., soon."
Ross, like Coates, commuted to campus for his classes. In most cases, he took 18 credit
hours of classes each semester while earning all As. He is proud to leave ECSU debt
free with the UNC Campus Scholarship and a scholarship from the State Employees Credit
Union Foundation covering the costs of his college expenses. Now that he has completed
his degree program, he is confident other determined students can benefit from choosing
"The math and physics departments are strong. One good thing is you are almost guaranteed
an internship. The professors inform students about internships and some of those
internships pay really well," Ross said. "When you are in high school, you can get
caught up in the idea of going to a university with a big name. I came here to save
money and it feels really good to graduate with no debt."
He, like most graduates, shared Commencement with family and friends who hold special
places in their hearts and lives.
"I drove to Maryland to pick up my grandmother who will be 90 in August," Ross said.
"I don't dwell on being Bearer of the Mace. I knew what I had to do, and I did it."