There was no tent, stage, caps and gowns, or family members sitting in attendance. But while many colleges across the country held virtual commencements, or no commencements, Williamson College of the Trades held a “Drive-In” Commencement.
On Friday, May 29, 72 of the 74 members of the Class of 2W0, wearing face masks and observing other COVID-19 Red Phase guidelines, received their diploma on campus at the 127th Commencement.
Students lined up in their cars around the loop road and, one at a time, drove to the west corner of Rowan Hall, got out of their car, walked across the lawn and rang the Alumni Bell. They then walked to the lineup pad where President Michael and Mary Nell Rounds and Board Chairman William 7W9 and Janet Bonenberger stood applauding, went to a table to receive their diploma and any awards they had been selected for, went back to their car and drove off as Williamson men, past faculty and staff who lined the road congratulating them with signs, waves, and words of congratulations.
In his opening words, President Rounds said, “For a school with a 130 plus years of history, it is hard to find something that is truly unique and different than anything we have ever done in our past. But today is one of those rare occasions.
“Things changed dramatically two and one half months ago when all of our students left campus. But they have persevered and these seniors have completed their journey.”
He said the idea for a drive-in ceremony came from Janet Bonenberger and he thanked Christopher Thomas, senior class president, for helping to plan the event by telephone. He also thanked the faculty and staff who transitioned very quickly from classroom teaching to distance education so students could complete their spring semester. “They went above and beyond to make it work and I am so proud of them.”
As each senior began his walk, Dale Plummer, athletic director, read his name, trade, activities, and, any shout outs he may have provided.
Stephanie Boon, registrar, and Thomas Moffitt, dean of students, handed out the diplomas. Rev. Mark Specht 7W7, chaplain, opened the ceremony by leading the singing of the alma mater and the pledge of allegiance and giving an invocation.
Dr. Todd Zachary told each driver when it was his turn to proceed, and Thomas Wisneski, vice president of research and assessment, standing under a balloon arch, told each student when he should begin walking. Timothy Burbage, director of food services, disinfected the bell handle after each use.
Rounds announced that a traditional Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2W0 would be held on Saturday, Oct. 17, during Homecoming Weekend, with speeches, caps and gowns, and walking across the stage.
He also announced that five members of the staff and faculty are retiring. They are: Dennis Johnson, business and finance instructor, who began in 1987; Glenn Tomlinson, director of paint and coatings technology, who began in 1997; Charles “Chuck” Feld, horticulture instructor, who began in 2006; Samuel Wrightson, dean of education, who began in 2015; and Jeremy Stolzfus, director of experiential discipleship and leadership, who began in 2018.
He closed his remarks saying, “No other class has ever had a graduation like this. It is a testament to your ability to adapt and overcome and stay focused on your objective — graduation. You did it! Congratulations! We look forward to celebrating with you at Commencement in October.
“Success requires sacrifice.” Congratulations graduates!