On Saturday, May 11, 2019, 211 Ferrum College graduates walked the commencement stage on Hart International Plaza on campus to receive their diplomas. The commencement exercises began at 10 a.m. and included award presentations under threatening skies that eventually gave way to a light spring rain. The keynote speaker was Rev. Bruce Hitchcock, advocate for inclusion and district superintendent of The United Methodist Church’s Ohio Valley District, who roots his work in service not only to Ohio but to our local Appalachia region, as well.
Provost Aimé Sposato opened the commencement ceremony to welcome the crowd of family, friends, faculty, and staff on hand to celebrate the graduates’ achievements. “Commencements are often thought of as bittersweet endings,” Sposato noted. “But as the word ‘commence’ means, we are truly celebrating beginnings on our campus today. This is your moment to shine.”
Following the invocation given by Dean of the Chapel Jan Nicholson Angle, President David Johns greeted the crowd and instructed the graduates to thank their friends and families for their love and support, as “great achievement requires a group effort.” Johns then reminded the students of Mother’s Day, stating, “Your mother will always be smarter than you!”
In closing, Johns reflected: “Amazing things happen here at Ferrum College each and every day – sometimes in big and splashy ways, but very often, in small and incremental ways. And, before you know it, we gather together in this place to celebrate the transformation of lives that has taken place.”
Ferrum College Board of Trustees member Suzanne Smith ’98 and Alumni Association Vice President Twyla Tatum ’04 each gave their greetings on behalf of their respective boards. Five distinguished faculty members, who will retire after 154 years of combined service to the College, were recognized: Dr. Faye Angel, Dr. William “Dub” Osborne, Dr. Bob Pohlad, Professor Susan Spataro, Dr. Carolyn Thomas, and Dr. Demetri Tsanacas.
The presentation of awards followed. Associate Professor of Biology, Katie Goff, received the Exemplary Faculty Award, which recognizes a full-time faculty member at Ferrum College who exemplifies excellence and commitment to teaching. Goff, who was recently honored at the College’s employee recognition lunch for 10 years of service to the institution, is beloved by her students and passionate for the campus community. Along with her commitment to guiding students on their career pathways, she is the dedicated advisor for Minds-N-Medicine, a club that supports students’ experiences as early career health professionals.
Three graduates received the Senior Academic Excellence Award: Leya Deickman, of Fayetteville, NC; Koby McMahon, of Annapolis, MD; and Joshua Wright of Stuart, VA. The award is based on grades earned in all college courses by a full-time student, including those taken at Ferrum, as well as those received in transfer from other colleges or universities. All three seniors maintained a 4.0 GPA. Deickman earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology; McMahon received a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice; and Wright received a Bachelor of Science in mathematics.
Leya Deickman ’19 also received the Arthur S. Owens Leadership Award, which is presented annually to the senior chosen by the faculty who best exemplifies the qualities leadership, initiative, honor and outstanding character. Recipients of this award must also hold an excellent academic record, have participated in extra-curricular activities, and shown creative initiative in making Ferrum College a better place to study, work, and live.
Following the awards presentations, Rev. Hitchcock addressed the graduates. “Life is yours,” he said. “There is nothing that can hold you back. You were educated for a purpose.” Hitchcock closed with a charge to the graduates: “You are going to change the future; we depend on you. Ferrum, get busy living!”
Student Government Association President Lawrence Baranski ’19, of Williamsburg, Va., then introduced Senior Class President Andrew Meadows ’19, of Chatham, Va. After presenting the senior class gift to President Johns, Meadows introduced Deickman as the senior class speaker.
After thanking the class of 2019 for the honor of being asked to speak, Deickman referenced her extraordinarily busy schedule as a full-time student, full-time mother to her four-year-old son, residence hall advisor, and athlete, among other activities. She explained that she was able to do it all with the support of this graduating class. “Whether we do it intentionally or not, we all contribute to the success of others by simply supporting them in both small and large ways,” Deickman said. She closed with advice: “While this moment will pass us by, just as all of the experiences of college, let us be mindful of those who surround us in support and who have led us to this very day. Be willing to accept help when it is offered so you can be successful…and always be willing to give help, so you can be that support for someone else.”
After the conferring and awarding of degrees by Johns and Sposato, a celebratory picnic lunch was held under tents on Franklin Hall quad for all in attendance. The weekend events also included a traditional Baccalaureate service on Friday evening in Vaughn Chapel followed by a candlelight ceremony at Hart International Plaza symbolizing the light of knowledge that the new graduates will carry forth into the world.