On their way

AT&T executive calls on NCCU graduates to excel
Dec. 08, 2012 @ 08:33 PM

An AT&T executive communicated loud and clear to 600 new graduates Saturday at N.C. Central University, asking them to live purpose-filled lives.

Citing the book of Isaiah, Cynthia Marshall said: “I ask you to mount up as eagles, to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint.”

Marshall, president of AT&T North Carolina, delivered an impassioned keynote address at the fall commencement at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium.

Citing her “amazing journey” from living in public housing to helping run one of the world’s largest companies, Marshall called on graduates to find their purpose in life and fulfill it.

She said she’s learned valuable lessons in more than 30 years in the telecommunications industry, including the need to accept adversity, but to never give up.

Marshall said there was a time when her life looked bleak – she lost a job and daughter, and her husband lost his ability to walk and talk from brain damage.

“They said he would never walk or talk again,” she said. “But we prayed him back.”

She said her own passion centers around three children – one who was abandoned at a young age, another who was born to a drug-addicted mother who “walked out of the hospital and never looked back,” and a third who spent the first 11 years of her life moving from foster care and her birth family, but always hoping for a permanent home.

“Well, guess what happened?” Marshall said. “My husband and I adopted all three of them. They’re now 14, 17 and 20, and are remarkable young people.”

Marshall challenged the graduates to “take up a cause that’s bigger than you, but not about you.”

“I love your generation,” she said. “You are bright, you are talented, you are resilient. And like my children, you are already making a difference in this world – for the better.”

Among the new graduates was Ivonne Hernandez, a 26-year-old sociology major from southern California.

Hernandez, who works at RTI International, wants to help women suffering from domestic violence and “spread the word that there is help.”

Rudolph Bailey, 47, plans to go beyond his degree in recreation administration and get his doctorate in the field, then start a nonprofit “to continue helping individuals with social, physical, and cognitive disabilities – in other words, to give back to the community.”

Another graduate, 58-year-old Patricia R. Quinichett from Whitakers, N.C., has three children and has worked for the city of Durham since 1994.

In an interview, she said there were days at NCCU “when I felt I could not continue.” But her adviser, Yolanda Anderson, “would encourage me to study, study, and study some more.”

“When I felt I would not make it, fellow students would tell me how proud and how important it was for me to be there, because I was encouragement for them.”

Her degree is in environmental science, and her ultimate goal is to “have a Ph.D. beside my name.”