GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Nearly 2,000 East Carolina University students graduated Friday during the university’s fall commencement ceremony in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

Chancellor Philip Rogers recognized the many accomplishments of the graduates and reminded them of their shared bond as alumni.

“It’s important to remember you each took many different paths to an ECU degree — the path to a bright future filled with opportunity,” he said. “You all arrived here from different places and with different backgrounds and … ambitions, but you all leave this place as Pirates, as one ECU family, and I’m proud that you chose this university to be part of your life’s journey.”

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Rogers introduced keynote speaker Misty Miller, a 1999 ECU alumna and senior vice president of organizational development for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, who encouraged the graduates to be flexible, to find and pursue their passions, and to invest in relationships.

“You have to stretch yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of, and that takes courage,” she said. “But Pirates have courage. They have the audacity to aspire to something more and they never shrink from a challenge.”

Also addressing the graduates were Ryan Bonnett, Student Government Association president; Dr. Anne Ticknor, faculty chair; Scott Shook, chairman of the ECU Board of Trustees; and Lee Roberts, representing the UNC Board of Governors.

Bonnett reminded the graduates of their shared experiences at ECU and the importance of what they’ve learned both inside and outside the classroom.

“The piece of paper and the education we have received at ECU will give you that foot in the door and get you looked at for jobs, but the skills and experiences that you’ve gained outside the classroom are the ones that will get you the jobs, earn promotions and make connections in your career,” Bonnett said.

As graduates enter the workforce or continue their educations, Miller asked them to remember what sets ECU apart.

“It’s so much more than an institution of higher education,” she said. “It is a beacon of hope for an entire region. This is a place that elevates equity and accessibility, a university that tells a young girl from the mountains of North Carolina that she can be anything and then gives her the knowledge, the skills and the confidence to do it.

“This place is special. Remember, wherever life takes you from this day forward, you’ll always be a Pirate.”