Emory & Henry Graduates at Outdoor Commencement Ceremony

Posted by Rachael Wilbur
It was a commencement ceremony like none other in the history of Emory & Henry College with two ceremonies held on the field of Fred Selfe Stadium on the College’s main campus for the Class of 2021 and returning alumni from the Class of 2020 to march across the platform stage on May 8, 2021.

Family members, friends, faculty and staff met the requirement orders from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to meet the outdoor capacity needs safely to celebrate and recognize the Classes of 2021 and 2020 for their accomplishments.

“This has been a time of perseverance, resiliency, grit and determination for many during a world-wide pandemic,” said Emory & Henry President John W. Wells who presided over the ceremonies and served as keynote speaker. “Our students have displayed the real essence of the Emory & Henry culture being adaptable, critical thinkers, problem solvers, servant leaders and difference makers. Their world was rocked in the middle of their college experience and they made the best of it and are moving on toward great plans.”

See all the photos from each ceremony here 

A total of 226 degrees were awarded at the morning ceremony at 10 a.m.

Undergraduate degrees awarded:
Bachelor of Arts - 137
Bachelor of Fine Arts - 2
Bachelor of Science - 73

Graduate degrees awarded:
Master of Arts in Community and Organizational Leadership - 1
Master of Education, Professional Studies - 13

Twenty students graduated summa cum laude; 42 students magna cum laude, and 47 students cum laude. Awards were presented to the following:

The BYARS MEDAL IN SCIENCE is awarded to the graduating senior who has compiled the most outstanding academic record in the sciences - Emily Hill, Chemistry and Biology, Bland, Va.

The ELEANOR GIBSON VIA SCIENCE AWARD recognizes a female candidate for the Bachelor of Science degree for marked achievement and unusual promise for future service and includes a cash stipend - Madison Jackson, Math and Physics, Guilford, NY.

The SENIOR SERVICE AWARD is bestowed by vote of the faculty upon a member of the senior class in recognition of unusual and distinctive service to Emory & Henry College - Isabella McCall, Sociology, Geography, Religion and History, Meadowview, Va.

The SNAVELY SENIOR SCHOLARSHIP PRIZE honors the student who holds the highest academic average in the senior class - Asha Thomas, Mass Communications, Wytheville, Va.

The OUTSTANDING SENIOR AWARDS are selected by vote of the faculty, and honor two representatives from the senior class for outstanding records of campus leadership and academic scholarship. Recipients are Molly Diment, Music, Staunton, Va. and Rachel Hatcher, Music, Christiansburg, Va.

Megan Mitten, from Harding, Pa. was the Senior Orator for the Class of 2021. “Emory & Henry gave me authentic real-world experiences. As a student I have had the opportunity to observe many phenomenal music teachers, and I was able to teach some great students during my practicum placement.” Mitten will finish her master’s of education degree at Emory & Henry and hopes to begin teaching music. Her speech was titled “Lifelong Learning: The Path to Creating a Brighter Future.”

Other notable highlights included:
The parents of Gracie LeAnn Dimit, Steve and Brandi of Marion, accepted her Posthumous Bachelor of Arts degree presented by President Wells. She was lost in a tragic car accident in 2020. Flowers on the stage contained sunflowers, a favorite of Gracie’s, whose memory is a blessing to the Emory & Henry community. She was a gifted student with a bright future ahead of her and a popular figure involved with Kappa Phi Alpha sorority and the Spiritual Life Program. In the summer, she worked with developmentally disabled or at-risk young people. She was studying to be a history teacher. A memorial is being established in front of Weaver Hall where the K-Phi’s often meet, with sunflower benches and a boulder plaque, to remember Gracie and her impact on the campus and to commemorate her life.

Graduate Will Davis, from Wake Forest, North Carolina, was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the North Carolina Army National Guard and will be assigned to the 230th Support Brigade Battalion, a support unit of the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team in High Point, North Carolina. He’s a beneficiary of Emory & Henry’s emerging ROTC program and the first student in its school’s history to receive a full-tuition Army ROTC Scholarship. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications. Outside of the Guard, he plans to pursue a career in law enforcement becoming a Deputy Sheriff in Carteret County, North Carolina.

Isabella McCall, Meadowview, Va., earned four majors in four years with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology, Geography, Religion and History. She plans to attend ETSU and participate in their Masters of Social Work Program.

Maggie Crutchfield, Franklin County, Va., received a major in Biology and is the daughter of Jon and Anne Crutchfield, Emory & Henry alumni. In addition her sister Haley, also an alumna, married her college sweetheart and with his family and hers, there is a combined 18 Emory & Henry degrees between the Crutchfields and the Byrds. Maggie plans to add another degree with her fall enrollment at the Emory & Henry School of Health Sciences in Marion.

The College honored Willie J. Thompson, who received a Doctor of Culinary Arts for his 58 years of service as a chef at Emory & Henry. Over the decades, “Chef Willie” touched the lives of countless students by exhibiting a caring heart, welcoming attitude, and friendly smile. He is fondly remembered by alumni for his famous fried chicken. Thompson is a well-known Chilhowie resident who has been married to his wife, Lillian, for 59 years. His lifelong dedication to Emory & Henry is inspiring and illustrates how many members of the African American community helped build and sustain Emory & Henry over its 185-year history.

On Friday, May 7, ceremonies were held on campus for special communities of students to recognize their contributions to the campus and successes achieved. They were presented with stoles to wear during the commencement ceremony: Asian Ceremony, floral stole; Appalachian Ceremony, white stole; First Generation Ceremony, blue and gold graduation cords; The Global Scholars Ceremony, medallion and international stole featuring the flag of the student’s nation; The Lavender Ceremony, lavender stole; The Raza Ceremony, serape stole; Donning of the Kente Ceremony, African American Community, kente cloth stole; and ROTC, uniform representation. A baccalaureate ceremonial video was debuted on Facebook and YouTube for students and families featuring President Wells among other leaders of the College.

Many students have shared plans with the new van Vlissingen Center for Career and Professional Development staff who helped support their next successful journey in graduate school or employment:

Graduate school placements include: Georgia Tech, East Carolina, VIrginia Tech, ETSU, Duke University, Emory & Henry College, Radford University, The Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University, UNC WIlmington, USC, Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, Lincoln Memorial University DeBusk College of Medicine, Lincoln Memorial College of Veterinary Medicine, and Lenoir-Rhyne University, Environmental Science & Policy, among others.

Future employers include: Eastman Chemical Corporation, BDO USA CPA, First Bank & Trust, Meadowview Elementary School, Kappa Sigma National Fraternity Inc, American Conservation Service, Parkdale Mills Manufacturing, U.S. Army, Henrico Public Schools, Wallace Middle School, City of Knoxville, Police Academy in Kingsport, State of Virginia ABC, Abingdon Elementary School, Watauga Public Schools, Cherokee Health Systems, and Ecom USA CPA, among others.

“Emory & Henry has given me the connections and skills that will help me throughout my career,” says Rice Rander from Lynchburg, Va. “Without the amazing Emory & Henry chemistry faculty, I would be where I am today; they have been incredibly supportive and pushed me to do my best. Dr. Michael Lane helped me get a summer research experience in Scotland over the summer between my sophomore and junior years.” Rander will pursue his PhD in Chemistry at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California.

For more senior profiles visit www.ehc.edu/commencement/

  • Class of 2021 Commencement
Our students have displayed the real essence of the Emory & Henry culture being adaptable, critical thinkers, problem solvers, servant leaders and difference makers. Their world was rocked in the middle of their college experience and they made the best of it and are moving on toward great plans.
—President John W. Wells

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