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West Virginia Wesleyan Announces Graduation Weekend Keynote Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipient

Apr 28, 2021

Buckhannon, W.Va. – Today, West Virginia Wesleyan College announced its keynote speakers, as well as the recipient of an honorary degree, for its graduation weekend festivities, which is slated for May 7-9. 

Dr. Patrice Harris, the first Black woman to serve as president of the American Medical Association and a West Virginia native, will be the keynote speaker during Wesleyan’s outdoor commencement exercises for the Class of 2021, which will be held Sunday, May 9 at 10 a.m. at Cebe Ross Field. Graduates are limited to two guests and the ceremony will be livestreamed on 

Harris grew up in Bluefield, West Virginia, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, a Master of Arts in counseling psychology and her medical degree all from West Virginia University. Harris has chaired the AMA Opioid Task Force since its creation in 2014 as it works to eliminate barriers to treatment, provide patients with affordable access to non-opioid pain care and fight the stigma faced by those with substance use-disorders.  Harris also has a passion to improve the lives of children, working for children both clinically and in the advocacy arena. An adjunct professor in Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Harris continues in private practice and consults with both public and private organizations on health service delivery and emerging trends in practice and health policy. 

A Wesleyan graduate who also made history at West Virginia Wesleyan College and went on to create impact throughout his career will receive an honorary degree during the May 9 commencement. Captain William S. “Bill” Norman, ’60 (Ret.), will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters. Norman was one of the first Black students to racially integrate the residence halls at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Norman earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and mathematics from the College, a Master of Arts in international relations from American University and a degree from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business’ Executive Program.  

Norman served 11 years on active duty as a commissioned and decorated officer in the United States Navy and 15 years as a Navy Reservist. In the private sector, Norman’s career has reached the highest echelons of business and government from Cummins, Inc. to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK), the White House, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Travel Association. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on numerous corporate boards.  

In addition to commencement, Wesleyan will celebrate the Class of 2021 with a Baccalaureate service on Friday, May 7 at 7 p.m. in Wesley Chapel.  Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, who has served as Resident Bishop for the West Virginia United Methodist Conference since July 2012, will be the guest speaker. Steiner Ball is also a member of the College’s board of trustees. A native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Steiner Ball earned her Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School and her Doctorate of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary. Attendance is restricted to May 2021 graduates of WVWC who have completed the commencement application and the baccalaureate ceremony will be livestreamed for guests.


West Virginia Wesleyan College (WVWC) is a private, four-year residential liberal arts college in Buckhannon, West Virginia. A tradition of excellence for more than 130 years, West Virginia Wesleyan is home to 14 Fulbright Scholars. The Princeton Review ranked Wesleyan one of its 2021 Best Colleges in the Southeastern Region of the United States. U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 Best College Rankings designated Wesleyan a “Top 20” Best Value – Regional Universities (South) and one of the “Top 75” Regional Universities (South). WVWC offers students more than 40 majors and 40 minors; graduate programs in athletic training, business administration, creative writing, and nursing; 22 NCAA Division II athletic programs; multiple performing arts groups; and more than 70 organizations. Founded in 1890, the College is closely affiliated with the United Methodist Church and abides by the Wesley doctrine that emphasizes service to others. For more information, visit