Ferrum College 104th Commencement

/Ferrum College 104th Commencement
Ferrum College 104th Commencement2020-05-22T22:45:44+00:00

Virtual 2020 Commencement

On Saturday, May 9, 2020, a day usually filled with activity, excitement, and crowds of family and friends, the Ferrum College campus was brilliantly sunny, chilly, and quiet.

At 10 a.m., the College began its 104th commencement ceremony during which 200 seniors from 14 different states were honored during a ceremony that was streamed online. The College was forced to postpone its traditional in-person graduation event due to the novel coronavirus.

Although the delivery was different, the commencement exercises remained generally the same. The program began with a slideshow of the graduates, and President David L. Johns and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Aimé Sposato continued the tradition of ringing the large bell on campus to signify the start of the ceremony. The keynote address was brought by retired Professor Emeritus of Biology and Horticulture Bob Pohlad.

Virtual attendees were welcomed by Sposato, as she noted that “commencements are often thought of as bittersweet endings but today we are truly celebrating new beginnings.”

Following the invocation given by Dean of Chapel Jan Nicholson Angle, Johns offered a greeting, telling the graduates, “against all odds, and in the face of enormous challenges, Class of 2020, you made it! Nothing is going to stand in our way today, of celebrating and honoring you, and nothing is going to stand in your way of achieving your dreams.”

Ferrum College Board of Trustees chair Phyllis Karavatakis ’76 and Alumni Association President Twyla Tatum ’04 each gave greetings on behalf of their respective boards.

After thanking Ferrum College staff members for their dedication during the global pandemic, Sposato recognized nine distinguished faculty members with 212 years of combined service in teaching at the College: Seasonal Director of Technical Services in Library Sciences Peggy Barker; Professor of Economics Rathin Basu; Assistant Professor of English Karen Duddy; Professor of English John Kitterman; Associate Professor of English Melvin Macklin; Assistant Professor of Marketing Michele “Micky” Naff; Associate Professor of Accounting and Business Christine Stinson; Associate Professor of Social Work Jennie West; and Assistant Professor of Sociology Peg Wimmer.

The rank of Faculty Emeritus was bestowed upon the following retirees: Professor of Philosophy Gary Angel; Professor of Theatre Arts Harold Wayne Bowman; Professor of English John Bruton; Professor of Biology and Horticulture Bob Pohlad; Associate Professor of History C. Milton Rowan; Professor of Biology and Environmental Science Carolyn Thomas; Professor of History Mike Trochim; and Professor of Business Demetri Tsanacas.

The presentation of awards followed:

  • Jennie West received the Exemplary Faculty Award
  • Christopher Michael Stone of Ferrum, VA received the Senior Academic Excellence Award
  • Layura Henley ’20 from Wytheville, VA, received the Arthur S. Owens Leadership Award

Following the awards presentations, Professor of Environmental Science and Chair of the Natural Science Division Delia Heck introduced Pohlad. He spoke about the unique graduation ceremonies he and his late wife, Carolyn Thomas, had attended over their 41 years as professors at Ferrum College. “You are the virtual commencement class of 2020! Embrace it! You will always be remembered for it. It may even be a key to your next job,” he said. “We all must embrace the opportunities and experiences that we have had with each other. They make us who we are. We are Ferrum Strong and we adapt.”

Senior Class President Caitlin Hodges ’20 told the graduates that “each of you has a niche in the world, and it’s unlike any other person’s niche and it suits you perfectly. However, it may not be easy to attain and it may even seem impossible to start the journey. Vocation is a choice that each person has to make on their own. It is your choice to tell the world you who are. She ended her speech by telling the graduates that “Panthers don’t settle, and we do not take the path of least resistance. So go on, go out into the world and make it one you want to live in.”

After the conferring and awarding of degrees by Johns and Sposato, the Panther Band performed the College’s “Alma Mater” under the direction of Sixto Montesinos, assistant professor of music and director of bands.

The ceremony closed with eight celebrity guest appearances by actor Ty Burrell of the television show Modern Family; comedian Joel McHale of The Soup, Community, and Card Sharks; author David Baldacchi; Ferrum College alumnus, actor, writer, and producer Mike McColl ’93; actor Graham Phillips of Riverdale and The Good Wife; actor Jamie McShane of Sons of Anarchy, Murder in the First, and Bloodline; comedian Keegan Michael Key; and actor Connor Trinneer of Star Trek Enterprise.

Along with the in-person commencement ceremony, the traditional baccalaureate service and candlelight ceremony, normally held on Friday evening before graduation, was also postponed due to the coronavirus. The College has plans to reschedule both events.

Read the full article here.

  • Caitlin Hodges ’20 was featured in a Roanoke Times article by Amy Friedenburger. Read it here.
  • Brian Mann ’20 received the President’s Cup. Read about him here.
  • Jennie West received the Exemplary Faculty Award
  • Christopher Michael Stone of Ferrum, VA received the Senior Academic Excellence Award
  • Layura Henley ’20 from Wytheville, VA, received the Arthur S. Owens Leadership Award


Panther Band

Dr. Aimé Sposato
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Rev. Dr. Jan Nicholson Angle
Dean of the Chapel

Greetings from the President
Dr. David Johns

Greetings from the Board of Trustees
Mrs. Phyllis Karavatakis ’76
Chair, Board of Trustees

Greetings from the Alumni Board
Mrs. Twyla Tatum ’04
President, Alumni Association

Presentation of Awards
Dr. Johns and Dr. Sposato

Exemplary Faculty Award
Senior Academic Excellence Award
Arthur S. Owens Leadership Award

Introduction of Speaker
Dr. Delia Heck
Professor of Environmental Science

Commencement Address
Dr. Bob Pohlad
Professor of Biology and Horticulture (Ret) and Prof. Emeritus

Introduction of Senior Class Vice President
Miss Mikayla Moreno ’21
President, Student Government Association

Presentation of Class Gift
Miss Layura Henley ’20
Vice President, Senior Class

Introduction of Senior Class Speaker
Miss Henley

Senior Class Speaker
Miss Caitlin Hodges ’20
President, Senior Class

Presentation of Graduates
Dr. Sposato

Conferring of Degrees
Dr. Johns

Awarding of Degrees
Dr. Johns and Dr. Sposato

Alma Mater
Dr. Sixto Montesinos, flute
Connor Rock, trombone

Celebrity Guest Appearances