After more than 50 years, Bryant “Pete” Paris ’66 finally got a chance to participate in commencement at East Carolina University earlier this month.
Paris was one of 14 graduates of the class of 1966 who participated in the Golden Alumni Reunion hosted by the East Carolina Alumni Association on May 5-6, 2016. The 50th reunion class donned gold robes and led the class of 2016 into commencement ceremonies in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
“I didn’t get to walk in 1966, so I was thrilled to finally put on a cap and gown,” said Paris. He was supposed to complete his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1965, but was just a few credits short. He started working full-time at the NC Medical Society while finishing his courses, and a travel assignment prevented him from participating in the next year’s ceremony.
In addition to commencement, about 25 total participants including family members participated in other activities like tours of campus and a special reception and champagne toast with the class of 2016, co-hosted by the Pirate Club. Paris, who lives in Raleigh, drove in for just the graduation ceremony.
“I loved being there,” said Paris. “It was a treat to see some faces I hadn’t seen in 50 years, and some I didn’t recognize. We told stories and had a wonderful time. I really enjoyed it.”
Paris also took pride in watching his niece, Kinsey “Palmer” Watson, graduate with the class of 2016.
“It was so special and neat knowing my uncle was a part of the commencement ceremony with me, as a 50 year graduate,” Watson said. “I know not many people share their graduation with a relative who is celebrating their 50th anniversary, so it made the day that much more special.”
Watson says she fell in love with the ECU campus the day she first visited. “The campus was so beautiful and homey feeling!” she commented. “Graduation was a very bittersweet feeling. I am not quite ready to leave behind the home away from home I have created during my time at ECU, but I am excited for what the future holds!”
Paris knows the feeling well. “I have a lot of fond memories there. I told Palmer [who had been considering UNC-Chapel Hill] that once you go to East Carolina, you won’t want to leave. You can’t help loving it.”
Originally from Alamance County, Paris came to ECU after serving four years in the Air Force, mostly at Langley Air Force Base. Paris said he chose ECU because “I wanted to focus on learning, but when I wasn’t learning, I wanted to have fun.”
Paris went on to work for the NC Medical Society for about seven years, and then spent more than 25 years with the NC Medical Board, a separate entity, before retiring in 1999. He says his experience at ECU prepared his well for his career.
“I believe I got an excellent education at East Carolina,” Paris said. “It fit me to a T.”
By Jackie Drake