On Saturday, May 1, 2021, 173 Ferrum College graduates from 12 different states crossed the commencement stage at Adams Stadium during a socially distanced graduation ceremony.
The night before, on Friday, April 30 at 6 p.m., the College hosted an in-person ceremony, also at Adams Stadium, for the class of 2020. This ceremony followed last year’s commencement exercises, which were held virtually due to COVID-19. Friday’s keynote speaker was Virginia’s 2021 Teacher of the Year Anthony Swann. Class of 2020 graduates dressed in regalia and took photos with Ferrum College President David Johns. See photos from that event here.
The class of 2021’s commencement exercises began on Saturday at 10 a.m. and included award presentations under mild, sunny skies. The keynote speaker was New York Times bestselling author Jeff Selingo, who has written about higher education for more than two decades.
The ceremony began with the ringing of the historic Schoolfield Hall bell by President Johns and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Aimé Sposato. Afterward, Sposato opened the commencement ceremony with a warm welcome to the graduates, family, friends, faculty, and staff. She noted that “each graduate has a special person or many people that have supported them throughout the past four years,” and thanked them for “sending care packages at just the right time, enduring virtual classes on Zoom, and sometimes getting late night phone calls accompanied by a few tears, doubts, and challenges.”
Following the invocation given by Reverend John Heck of Saint Peter’s-In-the-Mountains Episcopal Church, Johns took the podium to welcome the crowd and remind the graduates to thank their families for the support they received over their years at Ferrum.
Johns then commended the graduates on their dedication and progress. He instructed them to use what they had learned, saying “We are all given this one life; it is precious, a gift. I urge you to invest your life in healing the world. One of the hallmarks of a Ferrum College graduate is that we are committed to our motto – Not Self, But Others…Through your work, make the world healthier, happier, more free and just. Make it better.”
Ferrum College Board of Trustees Chair Scott Showalter ’73 and Alumni Association member Beth Simms ’09 each gave greetings on behalf of their respective boards. Afterward, Professor of Religion David Howell, who is retiring after 23 years of service in teaching, was recognized.
The presentation of awards followed. Professor of Environmental Science Delia Heck received the Exemplary Faculty Award, which recognizes a Ferrum College faculty member who embodies excellence in and commitment to teaching, demonstrates concern for student welfare in areas beyond academic studies, and is recognized as a competent scholar. Heck received numerous nominations for her service to the College and the greater community.
The Senior Academic Excellence Award was presented to Alexzondra Mattson ’21 of Virginia Beach, VA. This 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. Mattson maintained a 4.0 GPA and has earned a Bachelor of Science in pre-professional health sciences with a pre-med emphasis. She has been accepted to multiple Juris Doctor of Law programs and plans to make a decision soon.
Jack Sheehan ’21 of State College, PA, received the Arthur S. Owens Leadership Award, which is presented annually to the senior chosen by the faculty who best exemplifies the qualities of 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. His next step is to attend graduate school at Utah State University.
The Lillie Warwick Slaven Award was presented to Mia Brower ’21 from Kernersville, NC. The award is given to a student who exemplifies the ideals of the ministerial profession and is recognized as an outstanding student leader at Ferrum College.
Christian Haley ’21 of Boones Mill, VA, received the James T. Catlin Citizenship Award, which is given each year to the student who has best demonstrated qualities of citizenship and leadership.
Mattson was awarded one of two Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards. The other went to Jacob Wilson ’21 from South Boston, VA. Recipients of this award are of noble character, spend their time bettering humankind, and apply fine spiritual qualities to their daily living. Wilson’s future plans involve teaching science in a secondary education setting.
Following the awards presentations, Selingo addressed the graduates, telling them to “get ready to navigate the ambiguity of life, heed the forces that take you in different, even opposite directions, and focus on what’s most meaningful to you…and in all your decisions, small and large…be patient, optimistic and yes, have a little faith.”
Student Government Association President Kintwon Pettiford ’22 of Hillsborough, NC then greeted the crowd and introduced Brower as the senior class speaker. She sent best wishes to the graduates and serenaded the crowd with a beautiful a cappella song.
Johns and Sposato conferred degrees on the eight first-ever Ferrum College graduate students receiving the degrees of Master of Science in Psychology and Education Specialist in Teacher Leadership and Coaching. The degrees were awarded by Dean of the School of Graduate and Online Education Studies Sandra Via.
Fifteen Boone Honors Program (BHP) graduates were also individually recognized and awarded a medallion by the program’s director, Professor of English Lana Whited. This year marks the highest number of honors medallion recipients, with a previous record of ten recipients in 2014. Read more about the fifteen BHP graduates here.
After the conferring and awarding of undergraduate degrees by Johns and Sposato, the crowd was asked to join in the singing of the College’s “Alma Mater.”
See photos of the 105th Ferrum College commencement ceremony here.
Jack Sheehan ’21 received the President’s Cup. Read about him in this Franklin News-Post article.