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Roanoke College Confers 429 Degrees in Historic Ceremony

Members of the Class of 2020 are now officially Roanoke alumni.

Roanoke College held a virtual ceremony Saturday conferring degrees to more than 400 graduates.

The College plans to hold a larger, in-person commencement ceremony on a future date that has not yet been determined. Saturday’s ceremony ensures that students’ degrees are official and that they can enter the job or graduate school market as holders of a college degree.

Roanoke College students finished their spring semester taking classes remotely due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Saturday’s ceremony was broadcast via Facebook Live, and featured Roanoke College President Michael C. Maxey; Dr. Richard A. Smith, Vice President and Dean of the College; and The Rev. Christopher M.  Bowen, Timothy L. Pickle Dean of the Chapel. They were joined by the Roanoke College mascot, Rooney.

During the ceremony, President Maxey spoke to students at length about the campus community’s resilience in the face of the pandemic.

“This virus has disrupted our lives but it cannot wreck our values or our spirits,” Maxey said.

“It is not often we can claim that, ‘we are part of  history in the making,” Maxey said to the graduates watching online. “But, this degree conferral is history in the making. Its virtual format is historic. The last months are historic. The lack of your presence over the past months is historic. Moving to remote learning is historic. For all of those reasons and many more, you make history. In fact, you are creators of history in this moment.”

Diplomas are being mailed to graduates, and President Maxey said he looks forward to calling graduates’ names and shaking their hands at the full commencement ceremony, to be scheduled in the future.

The Class of 2020 is comprised of 429 graduates from 30 states and 10 countries. Of the 429 graduates, 216 graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, 133 finished with a Bachelor of Science degree and 80 earned Bachelor of Business Administration degrees. The five most popular majors of the class, in order, are business administration, psychology, communication studies, history and public health studies.

Three graduates earned the honor of valedictorian — matching the College’s record of three valedictorians last year. The valedictorians are: Kyle Elizabeth Grohbrugge, a health and exercise science major and public health minor from Grantham, New Hampshire; Kaitlyn Renee Hefele, a biology major and Spanish minor from Ashland, Virginia; and Benjamin Allen Vester, an economics and political science major from Morgantown, West Virginia. For more about these students, see this story.

Smith recognized faculty and staff for their efforts during this period of remote learning. At one point during the ceremony, he asked faculty and staff who were watching at home to stand.

“It is with great pride that I virtually present to you the heart and soul of this College, the faculty and staff,” Smith said. “Even though you can’t see them now, you know them, you know their faces and their hearts. Together, they provide remarkable and steadfast support to our students — both nurturing and pushing them to excel.”

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