ORANGEBURG, S.C. (courtesy claflin.edu) — Claflin President Dwaun J. Warmack congratulated summer and fall graduates for reaching an important milestone by earning their degrees during the university’s 2020 Virtual Fall Commencement Convocation which premiered Saturday, November 21. He also reminded the Fall Class of 2020 of their exceptional potential and how Claflin has prepared them to achieve their career and personal ambitions.
“I encourage you to look to the future with courage and confidence,” Warmack said. “You represent extraordinary achievers with a distinct confidence and character. We trust that you will go forth with a commitment to visionary leadership and selfless service.”
Claflin’s 2020 Fall Commencement Convocation was virtual to comply with a City of Orangeburg ordinance that restricts crowd gatherings due to COVID-19. The ceremony can be seen on the university’s YouTube and Facebook pages. The university joined hundreds of other colleges and universities across the nation that were forced to move their commencement convocations from live to virtual presentations due to the global pandemic. Claflin’s 2020 Spring Commencement Convocation in May was also a virtual presentation.
“I encourage each of you to envision your destiny,” Warmack said. “It was William Jennings Bryan who wrote ‘Destiny is no matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.’ Your Claflin degree has prepared you to go forth boldly and make a mark on this world.”
Claflin conferred bachelor’s and master’s degrees to more than 150 graduates. The RN to BSN program in the Department of Nursing had the highest total of graduates with 45.
De’Ovion Burris, a criminal justice major from York, S.C. earned the Fall Class of 2020’s top academic honor. She graduated summa cum laude with a 3.93 grade point average.
The ceremony also included a tribute to former Claflin First Lady Alice Carson Tisdale and three other members of the Claflin family who died in 2020. Tisdale was the wife of former University President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale and director of the Honors College that bears her name. Dr. Echol Nix, a distinguished faculty member in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences who resided in Spartanburg, S.C.; Ms. Alinda Pete-Angerville, a senior organizational management major from High Point, N.C.; and Ms. Shadae L. Spann, a junior biology major from Sumter, S.C., were also recognized. Spann was a member of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College.
Dr. Scott Ryan, associate professor of religion, and Dr. Shannon Smith, professor and chair of the Department of Nursing, offered remarks on behalf of the Claflin faculty. They praised the graduates for overcoming the global pandemic and other hardships to earn a Claflin degree.
“Today, you come to the end of a long educational journey to earn your degree,” Ryan said. “You join a chorus of loyal Claflin graduates who wear the Orange and Maroon proudly and serve the world through their visionary leadership. Each Claflin graduate participates in the world in their own unique way – and so will you. We know the past year has been difficult as your life was interrupted by a global pandemic. The final year of your studies has not been ideal, but you did it.”
Ryan told the graduates to continue their quest for knowledge after they departed Claflin. He also shared his perspectives on how to live a rewarding life.
“We hope you will take the learning that started in these halls to become lifelong learners,” he said. “We are also hopeful that you will be faithful in the small things and the everyday details of life. Be kind; do your job with excellence, be generous with your time and resources; do the right things when no one else is watching, and if you are fall or are knocked down, always get back up. Always remember that the world is a better place with you in it.”
Smith commended the graduates on their unwavering commitment to completing their academic responsibilities. However, she also addressed how the pandemic exposed systemic inequities in health care and financial support in minority communities.
“This has been a year we will not forget,” said Smith. “COVID-19 magnified racial, health and wealth disparities in America and people of color have experienced more than others in COVID-related deaths and financial hardships.”
“The virus forced college students like you out of brick and mortar classrooms to online learning. When you are accustomed to learning in a classroom, online learning is not the easiest transition to make. But through everything that has unfolded in 2020 you persevered.”