Chowan University Celebrates Commencement Ceremonies for Classes of 2020 & 2021
“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” proclaimed Rev. Mari Wiles, Minister to the University for the 161st and 162nd Chowan University Commencement Ceremonies held respectively on May 8 and 9. This selection from Psalm 11:24 was a fitting acclamation for the year-delayed in-person ceremony for the class of 2020, as well as the class of 2021. Each graduate and family could now rejoice as these days had finally arrived after months of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Saturday, May 8 members of the class of 2020 made the pilgrimage back to Murfreesboro from their homes, military assignments, or graduate programs. Fayetteville, NC native Dorian Mitchell ‘20, returned to campus after completing his first year in the Master's program for Biomedical Science at Campbell University. Mitchell shared that he would “miss his first home away from home” but was grateful to “finally get closure.”
It was a unique circumstance for most of the Chowan Community as they welcomed back former students who had been away. The emotion of it was not lost on Charleston, SC native Grace Arredondo ‘21 who served the class of 2020 as a junior marshall and then as one of her 2021 class speakers. “Being overjoyed for the 2020 graduates and a day away from becoming an alumna myself was a surreal experience. There was a tangible tone of community and solidarity in the air” stated Arredondo. “Sitting socially distanced, we have never been closer in heart and brotherly love.”
Representing the Board of Trustees, newly elected chair Kemper Baker brought greetings to each of the classes. Baker shared that for most students the trustees are not overly visible. He shared with the graduates that the board is made of strong leaders who care about Chowan and her students.
Dr. Maurice Fluitt, alumni council president praised the graduates for their perseverance through the “dual pandemics of COVID-19 and social injustice.” Fluitt challenged each class to get involved and to be an advocate for their University. He encouraged the graduates to give back to the University and then recognized those students who made their first gift to the University through the Blue Cord campaign.
Each ceremony featured student speakers. Kendall Butler, Zoe Gray, and Jacob Hunter represented the class of 2020. The 2021 speakers were Grace Arredondo, Alajah Gray, Ryan Martin, Alexis Riddick, Elizabeth Walker, and Michael Wilkerson. Each speaker brought a unique perspective but shared the common thread of overcoming personal struggles through the Chowan experience. Elizabeth Walker wore her brother Chris’ backpack as a memorial to his recent passing. She shared, “you never know what backpacks others are carrying, so show kindness and love purely with every ounce you have in you.”
For each ceremony, Kaymber Felton ‘20 delivered a powerful message in the song, “Witness,” arranged By Mark Hayes. Following Felton, the Senior Scholastic awards were presented to those students who have maintained a 4.0. The Class of 2020 Senior Scholastic awards were presented to Angelique Goin and Loricia Martin. The class of 2021 had a four-way tie and awards were given to Ginger Jordan, Hunter Kinion, Julieta Lecce, and Kerrin Mailhot.
On May 8, the Doctor of Humane Letters was conferred upon Dr. Francis “Frank” M. Taylor for his selfless service to the Chowan University Community. Dr. Taylor currently serves as Director of Medical Services for Chowan.
The 2020 Faculty Excellence Teaching Award was bestowed on Mrs. Christina Rupsch. At the May 9 ceremony, Dr. Hunter Taylor, Dean of the School of Business and Design was awarded the 2021 Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.
After the presentation of the awards, provost, Dr. Danny Moore called each student's name for a most welcomed walk across the graduation stage. President Kirk Peterson transformed the usual handshake into a “fist bump” for safer greeting as he presented diplomas. After conferring the degrees Dr. Peterson challenged the graduates to “remain true to your integrity” and encouraged them to heed the Proverbs 2:2 “to walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous.”
After the singing of the alma mater, Rev. Wiles concluded each ceremony with a benediction encouraging all to “go boldly to change this world, go boldly to love extravagantly even when it is not returned, to go boldly to partner with God in sharing the light in a very dark world.“ Following the benediction, the faculty processed to the Susan Parker Kerr Gazebo to line the entry as each graduate rang the ceremonial bell, a rite of passage for entering freshmen and graduating seniors.
Please join Chowan in congratulating the classes of 2020 and 2021 on their achievements.