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76 graduates flip tassels at USCL

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By Greg Summers

Walking across the stage of the University of South Carolina Lancaster’s Bundy Auditorium wasn’t optional for Joseph Hammond on Saturday.
It was something he had to do.
After going to school part-time since 2008 to earn a bachelor’s degree, the summa cum laude graduate enjoyed every second of shaking hands with USCL Dean Walt Collins.
“This day means a lot, but it means even more for my family,” said Hammond, a father of two, who works at Resolute Forest Products in Catawba.
Hammond said his studies sometimes caused him to miss ball games and school events for his son Zachary, 8, and daughter, Caroline, 11. At times, those responsibilities fell on his wife of 16 years, Crystal.
“They’ve seen me go through this process and all this work, having to let things go sometimes,” he said.
“They’ve also seen what it takes to get through tough situations and not to give up. I hope this is going to open up some opportunities for all of us,” Hammond said.
Hammond was one of the 76 of 197 USCL graduates to participate in spring commencement Saturday.
Some graduates earned two-year degrees, while others like Hammond earned a four-year degree through the University of South Carolina’s Palmetto Programs.
“This is a proud occasion for all of us at USCL. Students, you couldn’t have made it this far without the help of others,” Collins said, noting how family and the USCL faculty have roles in students’ academic success.     
USC President Harris Pastides lauded the local support that helped students like Hammond flourish and called USCL an important part of the “Gamecock Nation.”
Pastides told the graduates once they turn their tassels, their status will change instantly from those who have toiled and worked for academic accomplishment to USC alumnae. He also noted this year’s graduates will see a more positive employment market than last year’s.
“I’m excited to offer you a heartfelt sendoff because I have every confidence that you are well prepared for your future,” he said.   
Before degrees were conferred, one of USCL’s own, former Lancers basketball player Nathaniel “Nate” Barber, gave the commencement address.
Now a senior vice president at South State Bank in Columbia and a member of the USC Board of Trustees, Barber is the bank’s director of community development.
After his time at USCL, Barber transferred to USC, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1978. He also studied at LaGrange College and Georgia State University before earning a master’s degree from Indiana University in 1983. Along the way, he worked for the Milliken Co., Georgia Lockheed, ALCOA and Merrill Lynch before being name the director of small business development and an assistant business professor at Winthrop University.
While at Winthrop, Barber was selected as an exchange professor to Shanghai International Studies in China and as an adjunct professor at Nantong University (2009-12).
A widower, father of two and a grandfather, Barber is active in Columbia and is chair of the S.C. Association for Community Economic Development Board, as well as the Richland County Library board, the Columbia Housing Authority and ETV Endowment Board.
“I feel like I’m back at home,” he said. “This is where it all began for me.”
Barber said he had no idea in 1973 that his career path would take him from living in the Ellen Dean Hotel as a freshman USCL student to China.
Barber said he was the first member of his family to earn a college degree and encouraged the graduates to make good decisions, be open to opportunities, travel and keep learning.
“The question is what do you want to do next and how do you go about doing it,” Barber said.

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Contact Greg Summers at (803) 283-1156