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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Nearly 200 proud graduates walked across the stage at MUW’s fall graduation ceremony Friday afternoon.

Students come from far and wide to attend MUWs reputable nursing school. Five graduates left MUW with the first doctoral degree the university has offered.
“This is a trend in nursing education where our nurse practitioners are moving out for the doctorate. It’s a leadership type degree,” said Graduate Nursing Chair Johnnie Sue Wijewardane.
To start the doctorate program, MUW had to completely revamp its curriculum and ensure that had enough qualified staff. Not all of todays doctoral graduates even expected to begin the degree.
“I had never planned to do this but it was the right time and right place to do it,” said doctoral graduate Ty Walton.
Sarah Weatherby watched her fifty three year old mother receive her masters this afternoon and says her achievements are inspirational.
“It’s definitely inspiration. I’m a senior now in college so just to know that my mom wanted to go back to school to obtain that bachelors and that masters degree is definitely inspirational to me.”
The MUW has plans to continue its doctoral degree to meet the national demand. The next round of nursing practice students will graduate in May of 2015.
“We’re thrilled to have these first graduates. They are certainly historical folks and we’ll be watching them the next few years,” said Wijewardane.

Ed Blakeslee delivered the commencement speech at todays graduation.

Blakeslee shares personal stories about individuals who have helped shape his life


COLUMBUS, Miss. – Ed Blakeslee, a member of the state Board of Trustees, Institutions of Higher Learning, shared a few personal stories about people who have affected his life in a positive way to about 190 graduates today at Mississippi University for Women’s December commencement ceremony.

The first story was about his father, who did not graduate from college and eventually went into politics.

“Being the oldest of four children, it was very important to him that I graduated from college,” Blakeslee said. “Like perhaps some of you, I enjoyed college a little too much and made the mistake of telling my father one Saturday, when he, mother and my brothers and sister were visiting me at State that if it weren’t for the social life, I wouldn’t attend.”

Needless to say that story did not go over well with his father. The next weekend, Blakeslee was pumping gas at the service station where he worked and was paid a visit by his father and his father’s friend.

“Where is your car?” Blakeslee’s father said also asking for his keys. “He gave them to Dusty and said to me `when you get your grades up, you get your car back.’

“That was the sum total of our conversation. He didn’t ask how I was going to get around. I was still pumping gas into the same car as I watched my car follow his back to Gulfport. Do you think my grades improved? Thanks dad.”

Another story Blakeslee told occurred while he was a young engineer in Taylorsville. There was trouble with an 115,000 volt substation.

“I fixed the problem but in the process made a switching mistake and put Taylorsville and the 11-mile feeder down Highway 28, down to and including Soso in the dark—not one time but five times,” he said.

Blakeslee immediately reported the matter to his boss Richard Stone. “I expected to at least get chewed out for making a dumb mistake,” he said. “But, that didn’t happen. Richard just smiled and very calmly explained to me how not to make that mistake again by drawing out a schematic and switching instruction with numbers.”

His last story was about a young male school teacher who came into their church because he needed his home gutted about two months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Blakeslee asked the man if he owned the house. The man told him no, but the owner promised him that he would repair the house if he could get it gutted.

“I told him that the rules of the Methodist church didn’t allow us to work on commercial property,” Blakeslee said.

The man told Blakeslee he was desperate and that the volunteers and church were his last hope. Again, Blakeslee told him that they could not work on commercial properties.

“He got down on his knees, head bowed, tears coming down his cheeks, not saying a word,” Blakeslee explained. “It was just the two of us, me standing, looking down at him, he on his knees. I helped him up, took him over to a table, handed him the work order form.”

Blakeslee instructed the man to leave a blank after the question: Do you own your home? That same evening Blakeslee invited the man to supper and introduced him to the volunteers.

“I stood there for some 30 minutes talking and watching this young man who a few minutes ago was on his knees, tears coming down his cheeks, now laughing, talking and roasting a hot dog over the fire,” he said. “When I left to drive home, I thought to myself, this is what it is all about.

“What is important is that for that moment, we gave this young man hope and the knowledge that others cared about him.”

In closing, Blakeslee stressed the points he was trying to make with the personal stories he shared.

“We are blessed to live in a country that respects freedom and the ability of individuals to make a difference.”

Next he added, “We are blessed to have family and friends who really care about us.”

Lastly, he said, “We all make mistakes. It is part of our growing experience.” Quoting Lawrence C. Jones, founder of Piney Woods School, Blakeslee said, “The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how we use them. Life comes to each of us in fragments. Neither success or failure is ever final.”

He also encouraged the graduates to thank those in their lives who have encouraged and supported them.

“Give them a hug, thank them and tell them how much you love them. Call or text those that couldn’t be here today and tell them the same thing,” he said. “They won’t always be on your life journey. This could be the best moment of this graduation exercise.”



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