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Cap and gown: 701 degrees conferred at Shepherd University’s 146th commencement

By Staff | May 17, 2019

Shepherd University President Mary J.C. Hendrix opens the baccalaureate program commencement ceremony in the Butcher Center on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Shepherd University celebrated its 146th commencement on Saturday, conferring 640 baccalaureate degrees and 61 graduate degrees during ceremonies held in the Butcher Center and Frank Center Theater, respectively.

Families and friends overflowed the seating in the Butcher Center on Saturday afternoon, despite the ceremony being live-streamed on Shepherd University’s website for the first time this year.

Following the processional, Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the National Anthem, Shepherd University Student Government Association representative and senior Madison Nicole Ronevich delivered the student welcome.

“Today’s a testament to the faith you’ve put in us,” Ronevich said to the family members and friends in the audience. “We did it! It is here we came to learn who we were, discover who we are and who we want to be. Never forget the fact that you are strong and can be whomever you choose to be. Think of how much work we’ve done, and how much we have to look forward to as we got to the future. Be a leader, change the world if you want to — here’s to us!”

President Mary J.C. Hendrix then presented the President’s Award to Shepherd University class of 1970 alumnus Karl Wolf, who works at the university and is an active member of its alumni association.

Shepherd University Director of Vocal Activities and Department of Music Chair Rob Tudor conducts the Aries Tenor/Bass Choir in singing "Hallelujah," one of two songs performed to honor the family and friends of graduating students, during the baccalaureate program commencement ceremony on Saturday afternoon. Tenors in the ensemble were Matthew Anderson, Garrett Damon, Matthew Gray and Isaac Vila. Basses in the ensemble were Timothy Hubbard, Hunter Hudson, Kenneth My, Jerel Parker and Isaac Seffers. Tabitha Johnston

“I am privileged to present the 2019 President’s Award to Karl, in appreciation of your service to Shepherd University,” Hendrix said. “Your generous support of Shepherd University serves as an inspiration to our students, our faculty and our staff.”

While the graduate degree ceremony featured Rev. Jamie Washington, Ph.D. as its commencement speaker, the baccalaureate degree ceremony attendees heard from honorary doctorate of business degree recipient and Shepherd University class of 2008 alumnus Brandon Dennison, about how his college education prepared him to be the CEO of his own company, Coalfield Development Corporation.

“As a proud Shepherd graduate myself, this is an honor,” Dennison said. “We together make up the Shepherd community. Only slightly more than a third of Americans have a college degree or higher. Does that make us better than them? Certainly not. However, learning is something to be celebrated. This degree does equip you with a special resource to succeed.

“In the summer of 2010, I and a group of friends founded a business designed for social and environmental good,” Dennison said, mentioning his 501(c)3 nonprofit helps unemployed or underemployed individuals gain job skills and experience, so they can find a good job once they finish the six-month program. Many of those in his program are recovering from addictions.

“I think we often underestimate the power of the words, ‘I believe in you,’ and I think we also see the damage done when people in a community don’t feel believed in,” Dennison said. “As a student, I often felt frustrated that I couldn’t do more to address the issues I felt needed the deepest input. But we can come together to combine all of our learning and perspectives to make a difference.”

The 640 graduating baccalaureate degree students wait for their degree conferral, during Shepherd University's commencement ceremony on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

During the ceremony, 47 baccalaureate degree recipients were announced as Joseph McMurran Scholars. The class of 2019 gift to Shepherd University was a set of patio furniture for the Dunlop and Printz Apartments.

Shepherd University Director of Instrumental Studies Scott Hippensteel directs the Shepherd University Brass Ensemble in playing the processional for the baccalaureate program's commencement ceremony on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

Students walk across the stage to receive their baccalaureate degrees in the Butcher Center on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston