In their own words

For every graduating student, there is special meaning in commencement day. Below, some of the graduating students reveal, in their own words, what the day meant to them.

Rachel Larson (right), who received her Ph.D. in American history, said that her commencement was special because 11 of her former students from the high school where she taught (Greeneville, S.C.) paid for her first year of school at Emory. Noting that the money her students gave was supplemented by other funding and grants, she said, "I hope I will be a worthy role model for them. I never dreamed this opportunity would happen. I thought I would be in night school forever."

Pictured with Larson is Karen Kimball, who also received her Ph.D. in history.

Standing in the procession line before the ceremony, physics graduate Steven Reese (left) was reunited with his freshman roommate, Dave Pactor, who received a joint degree in political science and near eastern studies. Pactor said the day means that, "I'm in debt for a lot of money for a long time." Reese joked that receiving his degree means, "I'm ready to flip those burgers at McDonalds." He added, with a slap to his friend's shoulder, "I'm proud of David."

Iyana Titus (right), who earned a bachelor's degree in sociology, said that she learned many hard lessons about life, but she noted that overall, "It feels good and it's the end of one chapter of my life and the beginning of another." Psychology graduate Stacey Pernell agreed, calling the day "both an ending and a beginning. It represents a positive transition in my life, a moving forward."

"We're finished," exclaimed Jane Burke (left) and Karen Smith, both graduating with master's degrees in Sacred Music and Choral Conducting. "I did this and turned 40 all in the same year," said Burke, who has a bookkeeping and accounting business in Atlanta. "Grownups with jobs and children actually did this and kept arms and legs attached," said Smith.

Leigh Davis and Matheau Julien met when they were both sophomore advisers. Julien, who received a bachelor of science in biology, said he is heading off to either Harvard or Emory for medical school in the fall. "I'm taking a year off, then going to get my MFA," said Davis.

"It hasn't really hit me yet that we're finished," said Julien. "I think it will hit when I don't have any classes to go to."

"Nothing can replace the times we all had at Oxford," said Luke Mayes, who received his bachelor of arts degree in political science. "At Oxford, you're there with 500 of your best friends. You come to Emory, with 10,000 people, and it's challenging to once again find yourself."

Freddie Asinor received his Master of Public Health degree and will go from here to a fellowship with the Harvard Community Health Plan. "This is my fourth degree," said Asinor. "Everybody in public health is a do-gooder, trying to save the world. I'm happy to be a part of that group."

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