The COVID-19 pandemic presented a serious dilemma for colleges and universities across the nation. Faced with the dilemma of whether to end the semester mid-way through, pause the semester, or transition all face-to-face classes to online delivery, Sandhills Community College chose the latter.
The week Sandhills Community College curriculum students were away from campus for their Spring Break, local concern about the virus began in earnest. Later that week, the decision was made to carry out the semester online. The College extended the break for another week, and instructors transitioned all of their face-to-face classroom instruction to online delivery.
The decision of whether to cancel, postpone, or carry out graduation also needed to be made. Because the Administration recognized that students in their final semester of medical and technical programs needed to graduate and enter their career fields straightaway, the College committed to holding graduation on the originally scheduled date of May 16.
On that Saturday at 10 a.m., the SCC class of 2020 was honored with a Virtual Commencement Ceremony complete with special music, award presentations, speeches, and the recognition of each graduate. Six hundred forty individuals were presented with 588 degrees, 31 diplomas, and 131 certificates.
When viewers tuned in to the broadcast, they were treated to “Pomp and Circumstance” poignantly set to drone footage of the captivating campus.
Situated from a podium in Owens Auditorium, President John Dempsey welcomed viewers and began the ceremony. Associate Professor and Fine Arts Department Chair Ryan Book performed the National Anthem on the electric guitar.
Adjunct instructor Kristina Henckel then played Grande Waltz Brillante Op. 18 by Chopin, overlaid with photos from the 2019-20 academic year.
Student Government Association President Raymond Villalobos addressed his fellow graduates praising them for working diligently to finish the semester and their college year with distinction.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees George W. Little then gave a welcome from the Board.
Chair of the Nursing Department Professor Lynne Phifer followed Little. She spoke about “unplanned courses” that students, faculty, and staff undertook as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, and explained that many were plunged into online learning and teaching for the first time. “The COVID-19 deeper lessons may have been in what we learned about ourselves and each other,” she said. “How we cope, how we reason, and maybe even who and what we truly value.”
Phifer reminded viewers that, “our interaction with others and the world around us determine true success in life.” She thanked the Class of 2020 for their patience and resilience, kindness toward others, their fortitude and determination in reaching their goal of college graduation.
Most appropriately, she left the graduating Flyers with an Irish benediction, “May your day be filled with blessing like the sun that lights the sky and may you always have the courage to spread your wings and fly.”
C-Step Coordinator and Physical Education Department Chair Professor Tim Nocton announced the recipient of the Faculty Award. This is presented to the student who has shown outstanding academic performance and character. Dustin Maguire was announced as the winner.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Rebecca Roush named Hannah Canady the recipient of the Mary Luman Meyer Award. The award is given to the graduate who has contributed the most to the life of the College during their two years of study at Sandhills.
Roush then presented the candidates for degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Because students were not able to walk across a stage, each graduate who submitted appropriate information had a webpage created on the Virtual Commencement 2020 web area. The page was shown during the ceremony as their name was called by Dean of Instruction Julie Voigt.
President Dempsey returned to the podium, acknowledging that this is the moment he’d usually ask graduates to move their tassels from left to right. Graduates were asked to stand up wherever they were and allow those watching to clap for them.
“We’re so very thankful that you have shared the last several years with us,” Dempsey remarked. “You’ve been our students, you’ve been our friends, and honestly, for the last several months, you’ve been our inspiration.”
The Virtual Commencement 2020 website is now available linked from the SCC website. In addition to the ceremony, visitors can learn more about each graduate and leave remarks in their Guestbook.
The ceremony, the first of its kind for SCC, was very much a team effort, entirely produced by SCC staff and faculty. To view the graduation website, visit: virtualgraduation.sandhills.edu.
Recognizing Nurse Graduates
Typically, SCC Nurses are recognized in a solemn Pinning Ceremony in The Village Chapel. Because of the current social distancing practices, the event could not be held.
An alternate ceremony was held which was most fun and celebratory. On Friday, May 15, the graduates were celebrated with a drive-through Pinning Ceremony in front of Stone Hall on the Pinehurst campus.
The graduates paraded by in vehicles decorated with posters, streamers, oversized nursing caps, and in many other creative ways. The enthusiastic crowd of well-wishers, College staff, and Nursing Department faculty cheered the graduates as they drove past Stone Hall.
Horns honked, sirens blared, music played, and hands clapped as a decorated extension tool handed them a gift bag containing their special pin and other gifts.
A website recognizing the graduates of the Nursing program can be found at sandhillspinning2020.com.
Feature photo: The Sunrise Theater dedicated its marquee to all Moore County schools’ class of 2020. Courtesy photo.