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Morning Sun
  • Students receive their degrees at Pitt State

  • A dream deferred is not a dream denied. Not for someone as determined as Pechone Stepps, Fort Scott.



    He received his master of science in health, human performance and recreation from Pittsburg State University during commencement ceremonies at 8 p.m. Friday in John Lance Arena, Weede Physical Education Building.

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  • A dream deferred is not a dream denied. Not for someone as determined as Pechone Stepps, Fort Scott.
    He received his master of science in health, human performance and recreation from Pittsburg State University during commencement ceremonies at 8 p.m. Friday in John Lance Arena, Weede Physical Education Building.
    “It was another step,” Stepps said after the ceremony.
    In 2002, an accident caused by an underage drunk driver put the former collegiate basketball player in a wheelchair and cost him a dream position as basketball coach at St. John’s in New York.
    He has undergone extensive rehabilitation since then to overcome a spinal cord injury that paralyzed his legs. He now coaches freshman boys’ basketball at Fort Scott High School, and also works in the school’s A+ program, which helps students identify and complete the credits they need for education.
    And, two years ago, he began working on his master’s degree at PSU.
    “A friend of mine knew I wanted to continue my education and put me in contact with Dr. Scott Gorman in the health, human performance and recreation department,” Stepps said. “Dr. Gorman got me situated to working on my master’s degree.”
    The Friday ceremony was especially precious to him because he did not attend his commencement when he earned his undergraduate degree in communication.
    “When I got my undergraduate degree, I got a job and went to my job,” Stepps said. “When I was at St. John’s coaching basketball I didn’t have the time to give maximum effort to working on a master’s degree.”
    He was one of 300 students receiving their degrees in the College of Education ceremony at 8 p.m. Friday, the second of four commencement ceremonies planned over the weekend. Commencement ceremonies for the PSU College of Technology were held at 5:30 p.m.
    Dr. Howard W. Smith, Dean of the College of Education, thanked family members for supporting their students  and for attending the event.
    Dr. Steve Scott, PSU president, thanked the students for choosing to continue their education at PSU and praised the faculty.
    “When I talk to alumni, and I talk to about 1,000 alumni a year, they don’t ask about the buildings, they ask about the people who helped them,” Scott said.
    He noted that he is a 1973 PSU graduate and was a faculty member before becoming president, and urged the new graduates to remain in contact with the university.
    “I hope your lives are full of opportunities and successes,” he said.
    Christine Downey-Schmidt represented the Kansas Board of Regents.
    “Starting a new chapter of your lives at this time is daunting,” she said, “but education is the best way to improve the quality of your life. Higher education prepares you to enrich the world around you.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Holly Hrabik Olathe, outstanding senior woman, spoke of the importance of the interconnectedness of people as one of the most important aspects of life.
    “That’s what Pitt State is, a family that supports us,” she said.
    Family was also very much on Stepps’ mind at the ceremony. His proud parents, Marion and Clyde Stepps, were present to cheer him on Friday as he received his diploma, along with friend Ethel Smith who has been aiding Stepps, and someone else very special.
    “My son got a chance to see me walk across the stage, and that was very important,” Stepps said.
    Erika Lowe, Pleasanton, who received a degree in elementary education, chose to place a cherished family motto on her mortar board. In red and yellow rhinestones she spelled out “1 More Round.”
    “That’s something that my grandfather used to say to my father,” she said. “When you feel like giving up, just give it one more round.”
    PSU commencement ceremonies will continue today, with the College of Business ceremony at 9 a.m. and the College of Arts and Sciences graduation at 11 a.m., both in the John Lance Arena. A nurse pinning ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. at Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.

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