Dr. Susan Letvak, professor of nursing, advised UNCG’s Class of 2013 to make the most of their “dash” — their time here on earth. Letvak drove home her point by quoting a popular Linda Ellis poem.

“If we could just slow down enough to consider what is true and real/and always try to understand the way other people feel,” Letvak told the crowd gathered Dec. 13 in the Greensboro Coliseum. “And be less quick to anger/and show appreciation more/and love the people in our lives like we have never loved before./ If we could treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile/always remembering that this special dash/might only last a little while.”

About 1,838 degrees were conferred during the ceremony, awarded to students who completed their requirements in August and December. That total includes 1,365 baccalaureate degrees, 391 master’s degrees, 15 Specialist in Education degrees, and 67 doctoral degrees. About 62 of these degrees went to international students.

Letvak, who also rolled a little nursing humor into her address, had these tips for graduates: Don’t worry about the state of your underwear, adopt a healthy lifestyle, obey your intuition, solicit second opinions, tell the people you love that you love them, and listen to your elders.

“I can tell you that no nurse ever said, ‘Oh my — let’s ignore the bleeding, and come here everybody. Just look at those underwear!’ ” she said before turning more serious.

Letvak, the first in her family to go to college, has 30 years of experience as an RN and received the 2013 Alumni Teaching Excellence Award. She spoke about her grandparents, who came to the U.S. from Poland. Her mother started kindergarten speaking almost no English.

Letvak’s dad was a policeman who couldn’t understand why she would want a job that involved shift work like his own.

“Look at my life,” he would say to her. “Rotating shifts, working weekends and most holidays, and dealing with people in the worst of times. Why would you want that?”

She would just smile and tell him, “Oh but that is what I want.”

In the end, she said, finding your purpose in life and fulfilling that purpose is what matters most. “What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash. Now that you are a college graduate, or just earned that higher degree, think long and hard: Are there things you would like to change?”

Jerry Loflin, who completed his doctoral degree in pedagogical kinesiology in August, spoke for the Class of 2013. Loflin talked about the importance of tenacity and a drive to succeed.

“Fight everyday for your dreams and only settle for second place when second place satisfies your definition of greatness. If you do, you are destined to be great and you will have an impact on society.”

Dr. Daniel Winkler was faculty marshal and mace bearer.

Lindsay Ives was chief marshal, assisted by Melvin Clark Jr. and Caleb Hoover.

Krystal Benson was tassel turner.

Patricia Clontz West, Class of 1963, and Anna Batista, Class of 2013, rang the university bell, carrying on a long UNCG tradition.

Read Susan Letvak’s speech

Story by Michelle Hines, University Relations
Photography by Chris English, University Relations