UMO Holds December Graduation

UMO Holds December Graduation

December 12, 2022

Contact:  Rhonda Jessup, Director of Public Relations


MOUNT OLIVE – The University of Mount Olive’s 69th fall commencement was a family affair for

Esteban Carlos Leon and his fiancée Brianna Slaughter. They were among the 303 graduates to

Be granted degrees during the December 10 graduation.  Following the ceremony graduates

celebrated with family and friends outside Kornegay Arena.

Leon and Slaughter celebrated with their one-year-old daughter, Magdalena.  Slaughter, who is from

Benson, received a bachelor’s degree in health care management and Leon, who is from Mount

Olive, received a bachelor’s degree in music education.  Leon hopes to become an educator and

plans to obtain his master’s degree from UMO as well. Slaughter plans to work from home taking

care of their children.“I started traditional and then I switched to online when I had Magdalena,” she


Leon was a traditional student, but took a job to prepare for their daughter.

“She said she was graduating, and I was only a couple of classes away, so we completed it together,”

he said.

Looking after a daughter and preparing for a son while being a student took a lot of work and time

management, Slaughter said.  “The professors were very understanding,” she said. “A lot of them

had children of their own.

“So whenever we had a zoom meeting, and I had a little one in the background, they were

completely understanding.”

Their university journey was one that was shared by other graduates including Dahyanna Hamilton

who was celebrating by placing her mortarboard on her son, Edward Davis.  Hamilton, a native of

the Dominion Republic, earned her associate’s in science degree in general studies.  Her husband,

Edward Hamilton, is in the Air Force and stationed on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

“It was difficult, first because of the language barrier,” she said. “But having my husband and my

Family as my support system have made it easier.”

Hamilton, who is preparing to become a pastor, said she would recommend the University to others,

particularly to those in the military.

In his comments, UMO President Dr. H. Edward Croom touched on such challenges telling the

graduates that some of their paths will be more challenging than others.  “All will experience

difficult times as well as successful times,” he said. “Your journey is not about the highs and the

lows, it’s about the entirety of the journey,” Dr. Croom said.  “Too often we highlight the peaks that

occur in our lives, but the rest of the journey will have the most significant impacts on both your

lives and the lives of the others around you.”

“Traditional students started their time at the University with a lighting ceremony that signals a new

beginning,” Croom said.  “During their time at UMO they have gained knowledge that will fuel their

lives for years to come, he said.  “Now, it is time for you to share that light with others,” Dr. Croom

said. “Use it to light the path along life’s journey.  Enjoy the journey. What an exciting day we have

gathered here this morning with family and friends to celebrate your wonderful accomplishment of

graduation. The entire University community joins in with that celebration,” he said.

Croom told the graduates that the University proudly looks forward to what they will accomplish in

the coming years.  “The future is bright and offers many opportunities,” he said. “Now it is up to you

to lean on the relationships which you have accumulated over the years combined with the

knowledge you have gained to navigate the many paths of success.”

Croom thanked the students for choosing the University and said the University is better because of

that.  Earl Worley Jr., Chair of the UMO Board of Trustees, brought greetings on behalf of the board.

 “I am sure that during your time at UMO that you have received an education that has prepared you

intellectually, morally, and spiritually to face the world and for a career in your chosen field of

study.  I trust you will take with you the wonderful memories and experiences you have from your

time here.”

Worley encouraged students to be grateful and to take the time to personally thank the people in their

lives who helped make their journey possible.

“What a wonderful celebration and it is great to be a part of it,” said Gregg Paul Sr., President of the

UMO Alumni Association. “Let me congratulate you on your accomplishment.”

Paul encouraged the new graduates to take a moment to reflect on the dedication and determination

that led them to this moment.  He told the graduates their accomplishments would be celebrated by

many including the Alumni Association.  Paul told them they now join that long green line of

graduates and alumni that is increasing in strength and knowledge.

Paul encouraged the graduates to become engaged in the Alumni Association that works to create

opportunities that assist in both long-term networking and in the transition from college to career.

Dr. Todd Telemeco, UMO Vice President for Academic Affairs, recognized two students for their

academic achievements. Alan Michael Farrior was presented the Dr. Thomas R. Morris Award for

Academic Excellence for a traditional program student, and Hayden Makelzie Cottle was presented

the Dr. Thomas R. Morris Award for Academic Excellence for a student in the adult online program.

The awards are presented to the UMO seniors graduating with the highest Grade Point Average

(GPA) in both the traditional and the non-traditional academic programs.  The awards are made

possible through the generosity of the late Dr. Thomas R. Morris, a retired Goldsboro optometrist,

and includes a $1,500 check for each of the two students.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining

Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists.

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