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210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279


For immediate use May 7, 1999 -- No. 324

N.C. local angles: Asheville, Burlington, Carrboro, Charlotte,
Durham, Greensboro, Hillsborough, Pinehurst, Raleigh.

Out of state: Boston, St. Louis, suburban N.J., Washington, D.C.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will hold commencement at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, May 16, in Kenan Stadium. Some of this year’s less traditional human-interest story ideas, alphabetically by local angle (in-state students first), and contact information through commencement:

Asheville, Chapel Hill, Washington, D.C.:

Termain Kyles will head to South Africa this fall to study that nation’s new constitution. "It’s an amazing document that came out of years of apartheid," he said. "It offers protection for classes that our constitution doesn’t offer protection to." Someday, it might give him a dissertation topic. In the meantime, he also will use the trip, funded by a Frances L. Phillips Travel Scholarship from the university, to polish his prowess on a South African drum.

Indeed, the communication studies major marches to a different drum. "He’s an incredible, exceptional person, one of the two or three really brilliant people I’ve ever met," said Dr. Joel Schwartz, longtime Carolina professor of political science. "He’s also a free spirit." After his junior year at UNC-CH in 1994, Kyles left school to found a job skills training and substance abuse counseling program in the local Interfaith Council’s homeless shelter. Then he co-founded Empowerment Inc., a nonprofit facilitating home ownership for low-income residents. "This is a person of the utmost integrity, impeccable honesty and concern for people we just forget about in society," Schwartz said. "At a very young age, he has done an awful lot to change these people’s quality of life."

Kyles lived in Asheville until he was 6. His family moved to a low-income neighborhood in Washington, D.C., then, when he was 15, back to Asheville, where he graduated from the city high school. One summer at Carolina, he took Schwartz’s course on race, poverty and politics. The next semester, Kyles helped teach the course at Schwartz’s request. "I’d been writing and researching the topic for 30 years," Schwartz said. "He not only knew more than I knew, in terms of his experience, but he had also read everything I had read. He was the most provocative and stimulating student I’d ever had." Kyles (all summer), 919-929-6108 or; Schwartz, 919-962-0403; UNC-CH local relations coordinator Aaron Nelson, 919-962-7772.



Originally, Matthew Oakley of Burlington aimed to go into music education. He and his brother once had a blues group, and he has worked during college playing bass, guitar and piano in local bands. But the N.C. Teaching Fellow changed his tune through that state scholarship program’s required practical experience in classrooms. "The younger the kids got, the more creativity I could have," Oakley said. "I really hit my niche with preschool children."

So he became a pioneer. On May 16, he’ll be the only male among 10 students graduating from the School of Education’s Child Development and Family Studies Program, for birth to kindergarten education. Oakley, who minored in religious studies, has been the only male to enroll in the program in its four years. But his male friends neither envied nor teased him about the ratios in his classes after they found out how many hours he spent student teaching and volunteering in school service projects.

Oakley, who expects to work in special education, believes young children need positive male role models. "I think it’s critical to this new population of preschoolers and kindergartners, with so many growing up in households where fathers aren’t present or are not taking active roles in their children’s education," he said. "Being in the first wave of men going out to this field can only help to add perspective and depth to the way we educate these children."

His wish for a graduation gift? A Tom Wolfe white suit. "My freshman year, I attended a talk with Mr. Wolfe here on campus," he said. "Apart from the obvious class and style the man displays, Mr. Wolfe is a writer I respect for his ability to keep his finger on the cultural pulse of America for more than three decades." Furthermore, lest graduation lead Oakley too close to adulthood and a mundane existence, "perhaps a fine line is drawn in the sand in that battle if my first real suit is thoroughly impractical." Oakley: 919- 932-7828,


Carrboro, Durham, Hillsborough:

When Seletha Pherribo, 39, of Carrboro started college at Carolina, her daughter, Kiana Pherribo Hunter, was just 10. "We even used some of the same math tutors," said Pherribo. "We took algebra together, and Spanish." Their hard work will pay off when Pherribo graduates May 16 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and Hunter on June 12 from Carolina Friends School in Durham. Their "very large family" will attend both ceremonies. "And how ‘bout I’m going to graduate school?" said a very happy Pherribo, who deferred her admission to N.C. Central University’s Agency Counseling Program "so I can get my daughter off to college."

For eight years, Pherribo, a single parent, has been a part-time Carolina student and full-time administrative assistant in UNC-CH’s continuing education division. She took classes at night, on her lunch hours and during summer school. "I was raising a daughter and trying to set an example for her," she said. "You should go on to college before you start raising a family."

Raised in Hillsborough, Pherribo got married right after high school. "Big mistake," she said. During her marriage, "I did go to a junior college, but Carolina wouldn’t accept any of those credits. I had to start from scratch like I was a freshman." And as if that wasn’t enough, "how ‘bout, I couldn’t swim?" Carolina requires every undergraduate to pass a swimming test to graduate. "I had to take a swim class to learn how to swim to pass the test." Pherribo, days, 919-962-1107.



When poor families lack money for rent or medicine or shoes for their kids, Crystal McNiel of Charlotte gets it for them -- "if possible, from the state, and if not, she just finds it," said Dr. Katie Dunlap, head of the master’s degree social work program McNiel just completed. "Her primary concern is the well-being of her clients."

In the past three years, McNiel has continued the full-time job she began in 1992 at the Mecklenburg County Social Services Department; completed eight weeks of foster parent training with her husband, Tim; taken in two foster children; and earned the master’s degree from Carolina. The first two years, she studied through a UNC-CH School of Social Work satellite program at UNC-Charlotte. The third, she commuted to Chapel Hill every Tuesday. "I wanted to get more education so I could work with clients more effectively," she said.

She said the foster children have been a gift. Dunlap said McNiel was a gift to the kids. "They were troubled children," Dunlap said. "She’s really turned their lives around." When she earns her degree in the School of Social Work ceremony May 15, it will come with the school’s Annie Kizer Bost Award for an outstanding student who plans to work in public welfare in North Carolina. Crystal McNeil, days: 704-336-4993; Dunlap, days, 704-547-2082.



Morehead Scholar Janora McDuffie of Durham will spend her final Morehead-funded summer enrichment program learning and performing traditional African dance in Johannesburg, South Africa, and across the continent. Then, after a swing through Europe, the double major in psychology and communication studies will spend late August with her family and dog in Durham. After Labor Day, she’ll head to Atlanta as a management consultant with Ernst & Young. Active in student affairs at Carolina, McDuffie has helped raise funds for a new black cultural center building and served as vice president of this year’s senior class. As such, she will deliver a student message at the May 16 ceremony in Kenan. McDuffie: 919-942-8392,



The Beahm family of Greensboro is in for a round of aerobics on May 16 as well as commencement. In School of Education ceremonies after the campuswide commencement at 9:30 a.m., daughter Lisa (Elisabeth) will graduate from the elementary program at noon in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union. At 12:45 p.m. in Peabody Hall, Lisa’s fraternal twin, Jenny, will graduate from the middle grades program with an English as a second language certificate. "They were going to be at the same time, but they changed it so my parents could get to both graduations," Lisa said. Not to mention the twins to each other’s ceremonies and brothers Christopher, a Carolina freshman, and Michael, 13, to both. (Of course, Michael hopes to attend Carolina.)

Both twins gravitated to teaching as teens, working in Greensboro’s Westover Church youth programs and at year-round Hampton Elementary. Both concentrated on science in their education training; both played volleyball. Now, Lisa is interviewing for teaching jobs. Jenny hopes to do Christian missionary work in Asia for a year before beginning her teaching career.

Their secret to navigating college as twins? Don’t live together. "We live together at home for the summer and holidays," Lisa said. "At school, we decided it would be best to meet other people. But we’ve always lived in the same building or on the same hall. We see each other all the time. You get to be better friends throughout college." Elisabeth Beahm: 919-969-6689,;   Jennifer Beahm: 919-969-9441,; family home in Greensboro: 336-852-9427.


When graduate Matt Van Hoose of Greensboro heads to Montevideo, Uruguay, in September on a Fulbright Scholarship, it won’t only be to further his prowess at the tango -- although he certainly hopes that will be a result. The Morehead Scholar’s latest academic plum will let him study the tango’s artistic and symbolic role in contemporary Uruguayan culture. "I would very much like to get the work published when I return," he says.

Now graduating with highest honors in history, the international studies double-major last summer explored Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Buenos Aires, Argentina, on his final Morehead-funded summer enrichment program. The trip produced "The Price of Admission: Comparing the Nationalization of Tango and Jazz," Van Hoose’s 110-page senior honors thesis using the dances to explore the social and cultural histories of the United States and Argentina. The work won UNC-CH’s Institute for Latin American Studies’ annual award for best undergraduate honors thesis on a Latin American topic and the history department prize for best undergraduate honors thesis. In his spare time, Van Hoose plays lead tenor sax in the UNC-CH Jazz Band. On May 17, he leaves for a summer in England working on rock artist Peter Gabriel’s annual WOMAD Festival: World of Music, Art and Dance. Van Hoose: 919-969-9454 or 336-852-2127,



Jason Karn of Raleigh finished his bachelor’s of music in vocal performance last December at Carolina, but his real commencement begins this summer. After an audition in Boston this spring, he became one of 33 singers worldwide, among 231 who applied, chosen for this summer’s vocal fellowship program at Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts.

The fellowship, worth an estimated $10,000, will board him at the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and entitle him to coaching from vocal masters, participation in a fellows’ production, and free admission to all rehearsals and shows at the celebrated venue. Then, he’ll begin work on a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston -- on scholarship.

Meanwhile, Karn will join the chorus this weekend in the Raleigh Opera Company’s "The Magic Flute." He also will perform in the Triangle Opera Company’s "La Boheme," in late May and early June at the Carolina Theater in Durham. He works full time at a Raleigh marketing firm while continuing voice lessons from Mary Gayle Greene in Carolina’s music department. She wouldn’t be surprised to see Karn performing with the Metropolitan Opera someday. "He has a beautiful voice," she said. "He’s very hard-working, and he has polished his music technically and diction-wise." Karn through mid-June: 919-821-2530; Greene, 919-962-3377; fellows program spokesman Katie Lempert, 617-638-9430. After June 11, Lempert will be at Tanglewood at 413-637-5310.



Massachusetts: Boston and suburbs:

To hear Andrea Beloff tell it, graduating right on time on May 16, with a double major and a 3.75 grade-point average, is no big deal. But the Norfolk, Mass., senior in political science and journalism and mass communication has endured massive chemotherapy and radiation for bone cancer since age 15. By the time the disease was diagnosed, "it had spread to my lungs and my skull. ... People always say it must take so much courage, but I don’t think that. In any situation, you find the strength to do it."

 For two years in and out of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, she made it to her high school, King Philip Regional in Wrentham, 16 days. One must press her to learn that the treatments "felt like being hit by a Mac truck." Instead, her ready observation: "I had tutors. I liked learning independently. I couldn’t have done it without the school’s help."

Beloff graduated on time and, the cancer now at bay, entered Carolina in fall 1995. All was well until the disease reappeared in the fall of her sophomore year, sending her back to Mass General. "The first time they had given me the best that they had and it hadn’t worked, so for awhile they were at a loss as to what to do."

They chose a stem cell transplant: Doctors removed the cells -- those in the bone marrow that manufacture blood cells -- isolated Beloff and "gave me massive doses of chemo, as much as they could. It knocked out my immune system ... but the hope is that they were able to get any microscopic pieces of cancer that might be left. Then they gave me my stem cells back.

"Three professors let me finish the last four weeks of the semester by mail. They sent class videos and assignments and detailed notes. They’d send my work back with their comments. I was so surprised that they would go out of their way to do that because they didn’t have to.

"I was able to bring my laptop into the isolation room, so I did my correspondence courses. I was able to e-mail my friends at school. ... I think always having something to keep me busy, something to move forward on, really got me through it. You can’t be stuck in the misfortune of it. You can’t be sad and depressed over what you can’t do. You have to focus on what you can do."

Beloff finished her sophomore courses and her treatment in time to volunteer for her third summer at a camp for terminally ill children, like one she’d attended during high school. "Being in the hospital all the time you’re feeling awful, and you see kids who aren’t doing well. But at camp, you see kids living full and happy lives, and it gives you a lot of hope."

A spontaneous fracture in her weakened left leg, where the cancer had originated, put her on crutches from that summer through August 1998. No matter. Her junior year she turned in a superior performance working part-time at UNC-CH News Services and as a national finalist for the prestigious Truman Scholarship. By May 1998, she’d begun a year working part-time at UNC Hospitals. This spring, she won the university’s Terry Sanford Award for Excellence, for the undergraduate who wrote the best political science honors thesis. In the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, she was named H.C. and Lois Cranford Outstanding Graduating Senior in Public Relations. She will speak at the school’s commencement ceremony.

Beloff hopes to work in a Boston hospital this summer. She will begin work this fall on a master’s degree in health services administration and policy at the University of Michigan, where she has a merit-based scholarship covering all tuition from The Henry Ford Health Systems. Beloff, 919-929-6249,


"Sometimes, you've got to go far from home to find your soul mate," said Darcie Coleman, who will earn a master’s degree from the School of Social Work, as will her fiance, Christopher Plourde.

She grew up in Acton; he, in Danvers, another Boston suburb. They went to different colleges -- never saw one another until both joined a 40-member social work class at Carolina. And when she really first noticed him, he was a lima bean: Halloween 1997. "He was the cutest lima bean I’d ever seen."

Friends and classmates first and now co-chairs of their school’s student organization, they both will speak at the school’s May 15 commencement.

July 24 is the date for the big wedding in Boston. From August to February, they’ll work for an Episcopal Church mission in Costa Rica in a church preschool program. Becoming fluent in Spanish -- as Plourde almost is already -- will help them become good social workers back in the United States, they believe. "What a great way to start our marriage," said Coleman. "Doing something fun that will help our career." Coleman and Plourde through May: 919-968-9845, and After June 1, call Plourde at 978-777-1722.


St. Louis, Mo.; Bergen County, N.J.:

Two dramatic art graduates in the May 16 ceremony will be Autumn Dornfeld of St. Louis and Guy Olivieri of Cresskill, N.J., both headed for bright opportunities in theater.

Dornfeld, a Morehead Scholar with a 3.8 grade-point average, has been accepted to the Director’s Lab at Lincoln Center in New York City. On the job, she’ll meet promising directors and help with production; off, the aspiring actress will make auditioning a second full-time job. "It’s an incredibly hard field," she said. "Most people say if you can imagine yourself doing anything else, do it. But I can’t imagine not doing it." With or without the Lincoln Center post, she’d planned to move to the Big Apple in June: "I’ve got to do it now while I can handle the poor conditions -- eating cheese and crackers."

Roles with the PlayMakers Repertory Company at Carolina have helped direct Dornfeld toward her ultimate goal, acting on stage and screen. Autumn Dornfeld: 919-942-9598,


Olivieri, who has directed, produced and acted in student company plays at Carolina, is one of an elite few headed for the N.C. Stage Ensemble in Pinehurst this summer. The company chose about 20 actors and actresses among 750 who auditioned. Olivieri, a tenor whose ambitions include performing in musicals, will appear in the company’s "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" in June and July. Then he’ll head to Memphis for an acting and technician internship with Playhouse on the Square, a major regional theater. A Phi Beta Kappa member with a 3.75 grade-point average, Olivieri is serious about becoming a professional actor. "But I’d also like to get a graduate degree so I could teach acting at the college level." Olivieri: 919-942-9598,

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News Services contact: L.J. Toler, 919-962-8589;