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Winthrop year starts in stride

Winthrop University President Anthony DiGiorgio, left, and his wife, Gale, lead the traditional Blue Line after Winthrop Convocation on Monday. The traditional ceremony marks the beginning of the new school year.
Winthrop University President Anthony DiGiorgio, left, and his wife, Gale, lead the traditional Blue Line after Winthrop Convocation on Monday. The traditional ceremony marks the beginning of the new school year.

They don't have the words down pat yet, but members of Winthrop University's class of 2011 gave their alma mater a trial run Monday during the school's convocation ceremony at Byrnes Auditorium.

The event brought the more than 1,000 students together to celebrate as a group, possibly for the last time until graduation.

In a booming, powerful voice, convocation speaker Montrio Belton urged students to get engaged in their studies and their community, and to play an active role in bettering civilization.

Belton, who has a bachelor's and a master's degree from Winthrop, is the principal of Monroe Middle School in Monroe, N.C.

He was born to a teenage mother and worked hard to graduate from high school. He joined the Army Reserves and continued his education before becoming a voice for underserved students.

Not to be confused with the many other people who no doubt have relayed a similar message to students, Belton connected with the crowd by sharing some of his lighter personal experiences from Winthrop.

"I often find myself conversing with friends about our experiences in Richardson Hall, the midnight Taco Bell runs, the fraternity and sorority parties in the old Peabody gym -- with the ending of every party causing great frustration to the Winthrop Police Department," he said.

"But besides the late-night rendezvous, we also find ourselves reminiscing about the immense intellect possessed by our professors," he said.

After being formally welcomed to Winthrop, freshmen in navy blue Winthrop T-shirts followed the president and faculty in processing out of the auditorium in the traditional blue line.

The blue line began in 1895, when Winthrop's first president led students in blue and white uniforms down Oakland Avenue to attend church services the first Sunday before classes began.

Instead of church services, students now are welcomed to a community picnic on the lawn in front of Tillman Hall, where churches, businesses and student groups gave out information about their offerings.

Belton's words resonated with many of the students.

"I thought it was nice that we still try to keep the traditions going," said Tiara Green, a freshman from Sumter. "He inspired me to really try to get involved and give back to my community, not just get my degree for myself."

Other students said they already have plans to get involved.

Malcolm Boyd, a freshman from Hartsville, said his views are in line with Belton's. Boyd said he wants to engage in campus politics and is considering joining student government.

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