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May 2010

Roads taken and not taken
Novelist Margaret Maron advises UNCG's newest alumni to enjoy the journey

Life often holds mysteries more wonderful than our best-laid plans, novelist Margaret Brown Maron told approximately 2,300 new graduates at UNCG's spring commencement. Be ready for the unexpected and do what you love.

“Life does not come with a GPS,” Maron told the crowd, “so pack your bags, Class of 2010, and enjoy the trip!”

Margaret Maron, whose roads led from WC to marriage and a writing career, returned to campus and received an honorary doctor of letters degree after her commencement address.

Margaret Maron, whose roads led from WC to marriage and a writing career, returned to campus and received an honorary doctor of letters degree after her commencement address.

Maron, a Johnston County native and author of 26 mystery novels, quoted Robert Frost's poem “The Road Not Taken” as she spoke about the choices she made and the twists her life has taken. Frost's poem ends with the classic lines: “Two roads diverged in a wood and I / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”

Maron attended UNCG (Woman's College) but left after her sophomore year to take a summer job at the Pentagon. In Washington, she met her husband, who was, she said, “absolutely the right road for me to take.” He, by chance, wound up at the Pentagon because he was drafted by the Navy instead of the Army.

“Leave yourself open to serendipity,” Maron advised, “and always remember that money and things can be serious roadblocks. Things especially.”

She spoke about her choice to live frugally and stay at home to follow her passion, writing. Writing hasn't made her rich and famous, she said, but it has enabled her to make a living doing what she loves.

“If you think you have to have a big house, a new car, the latest electronic gizmo with all the apps, you may well find yourself stuck in a job you hate, unable to walk down a more interesting road because you can't afford to leave the one you're on,” she said. “If I could, I would make you all raise your right hands and solemnly swear to pay off your credit card every single month.”

Applause erupted as Maron warned graduates against debt. “Those are your parents clapping!” she quipped and then continued, “Debt is a trap — a lot easier to get into than to get out of. It ties you down, limits your choices, and keeps you from exploring the roads up ahead.”

Later in the ceremony, she was given an honorary doctor of letters degree.

David Klein, Class of 2010 student speaker, also spoke about the importance of loving what you do and doing what you love.

“No matter what field of study you decided to pursue UNCG has given you a head start towards your dreams,” he said. “My first-grade teacher said, ‘David, no matter what you decide to be in this world, be the best. If you want to be a teacher, be the best teacher to ever step foot in a classroom. If you want to be a singer, make your voice heard in every corner of the earth. Don't ever give up on your dreams.’”

At the conclusion of the commencement ceremony, JoAnne Smart Drane from the reunion Class of 1960, one of the first African-Americans to attend Woman's College, and Margie Julia Wiggins, Class of 2010, rang the University Bell, a long-standing tradition honoring UNCG's newest alumni.




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