Brevard College Graduates Take Off!
Last updated 5/10/2021 at 1:04pm
After an academic year that presented unprecedented challenges, Brevard College held the 168th commencement in the college's history on Saturday at Ives-Lemel Family Field. A total of 135 college graduates walked across the stage to receive their reward – a Brevard College diploma.
"The most significant recognition we bestow today is the Brevard College diploma itself," said the Rev. Dr. David C. Joyce, president of Brevard College. "The diploma signifies a level of education that the vast majority of people in this world, and even in this country, may never have the opportunity to obtain."
The ceremonies were held in-person after last year's commencement was held virtually as a result of adjustments made due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the conclusion of the spring 2020 semester with online classes, Brevard College re-opened its doors for in-person learning for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. Through perseverance, unity and sacrifice, the academic year was successfully completed with final exams concluding earlier this week. The 2020-21 year culminated with an in-person commencement.
This year's commencement was split into two ceremonies. The first ceremony, which began at 8 a.m., was held for graduates receiving degrees in business and organizational leadership, criminal justice, education, psychology and wilderness leadership and experiential education.
The second ceremony began at noon, where graduates received degrees in art, biology, English, environmental studies, exercise science, health science, history, integrated studies, mathematics, music, philosophy and religion, and theatre.
The second ceremony also included several graduates from the class of 2020 who were unable to experience an in-person commencement last spring.
The 168th commencement ceremony was held for the first time at the newly expanded Ives-Lemel Family Field. A stage graced midfield, where the graduates walked across to received their diplomas. Families were seated in the new grandstand at Ives-Lemel Family Field, with the graduates seated on the stadium turf in front of the stage.
Attendees of the event wore masks, while social distancing was implemented to ensure a safe environment for the once-in-a-lifetime event. Each ceremony began with the piping sounds of bagpiper Cameron Nixon (Class of 2016) as a sea of black regalia greeted beaming family members awaiting the commencement. A welcome from Joyce, along with an invocation from class of 2021 graduate and Christ Club President Cody Dillon Ingram, opened the proceedings.
"We come here this morning to salute the outstanding achievements of the graduating class of 2021 as well as the class of 2020," said Joyce. "These two classes have persevered and sacrificed in so many important ways that will never be forgotten."
The 2021 graduating class earned an abundance of accolades throughout the students' years at Brevard College. During its tenure, the class took Brevard College's motto – "Learn in Order to Serve" – to heart and provided the community with over 8,500 hours of community service in their four-year span.
Brevard College student-athletes showed their strength in numbers. A total of 43 student-athletes walked at graduation, with 35 graduates wearing the scholar-athlete senior stoles for academic and athletic excellence. The women's tennis team, graduating three seniors, earned the highest GPA for all athletic teams, while three seniors were inducted into the prestigious National Football Foundation Hampshire Honors Society.
The direct, hands-on experiences and focused reflection these graduates received has led to internships and jobs within several industries, acceptance to and assistantships at several esteemed graduate schools, jobs within law enforcement, and with theatre companies, to name just a few post-graduate opportunities.
Transylvania and surrounding counties in Western North Carolina can claim 25 of the newly minted graduates, while the remainder traveled from 17 states and three foreign countries (Dominican Republic, Brazil and North Macedonia) to make Brevard College their home. With just 750 students, Brevard College remains purposefully small in order to offer unique and challenging experiential learning opportunities for all students. The college employs 52 full-time faculty and 190 full-time staff.
While most colleges invite a well-known guest speaker to their graduation ceremonies, Brevard College stays true to its mission to engage its students in the process and encourage personal growth by choosing two outstanding seniors to speak at commencement.
Graduating seniors Rebeccah Rojas and K'nique Eichelberger delivered messages to their fellow graduates as this year's commencement speakers. Each senior class speaker was introduced by fellow graduate and Student Government Association President Caitlyn Cloud-Morton.
Rojas, a native of Murrieta, Calif., earned her degree in business and organizational leadership, with a minor in pre-law. One of the most accomplished women's soccer student-athletes in school history, Rojas served as SGA treasurer and as a peer leader for first-year students. During her time at BC, she earned both the Dr. Barbara Boerner Emerging Leader Scholarship Award and the Sustainable Leadership Award. A dean's list student every semester, Rojas plans to pursue a master's degree in business administration at Los Angeles Pacific University.
"We are here today because of the sacrifices the people surrounding us have made," said Rojas in her senior speech. "This diploma may have our name on it when it is presented, but it's not just for us. It is for our communities that we will guide. Our education and challenging experiences that we encountered this past year have demonstrated that we can change the future to what we envision it."
Eichelberger, a native of Columbia, S.C., earned his degree in music and theatre.
As a senior at Brevard College, he was named the outstanding theatre (performance) major and outstanding music major. His recent credits include "The Last Five Years," "Little Shop of Horrors," "Into The Woods" and "Streetcar Named Desire."
Post-graduation, Eichelberger will work as a resident actor with the Charleston Stage in Charleston, S.C.
"Today, we see the results of our dedication," said Eichelberger to his fellow graduates. "Today, we see the fulfillment of our accomplishments. Today, our paths will begin to diverge and for many of us it is unclear where our paths will lead next. Wherever our paths may lead, they started right here at One Brevard College Drive."
After the greeting from Barbara Hulsey, chair of the Board of Trustees, five graduates were recognized by Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Dr. R. Scott Sheffield for academic excellence.
The C. Edward & Brona N. Roy Good Citizenship Award was presented to Brittany Franks. The Presidential Award for Distinction was awarded to Eichelberger.
The Presidential Award for Scholarship went to Kurt Cope, Solomon Turner, and Carson Waddell.
The 2021 Exemplary Teacher Awards were also unveiled, with honors going to Dr. Sarah A. Maveety, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Hernan D. Biava, assistant professor of chemistry, each honored. Additionally, the hooding ceremony with faculty and staff members who impacted graduates was incorporated into this year's commencement program.
After the awards, along with the senior class and faculty speakers, the names of the 135 Brevard College graduates were announced and the graduates crossed the stage to receive their diploma from Joyce and Sheffield.
One special member of the graduating class, Rakeem Sweezy, was honored posthumously throughout the graduation ceremonies during several touching moments, including the presentation of a certificate of honor to the Sweezy family.
Sweezy, the 2017 Brevard College Freshman of the Year and an active member of the theatre program, passed away on Dec. 8, 2017.
To conclude each ceremony, Joyce offered his traditional charge to the graduating class of 2021 followed by the traditional Brevard College hymn "Guarded Well By Mountains" led by Eichelberger and fellow graduate Sydney Windham.
"And now, members of the classes of 2020 and 2021, it is time for you to head off to the new careers and the new lives you will be fashioning for yourselves," declared Joyce. "We trust that you leave here a better version of yourself because of your time at Brevard College."