Buckhannon, W.Va. – Today, members of the Board of Trustees and Faculty and Staff of West Virginia Wesleyan College, along with friends and family of the graduates, celebrated the Class of 2021 at its 130th Commencement exercises in an outdoor ceremony at Cebe Ross Field. Nearly 200 students, which includes Summer 2020, December 2020 and May 2021 graduates, participated in the ceremony, which featured a keynote address, entitled ‘Stand in Your Authentic Voice,’ from Dr. Patrice Harris, the first Black woman to serve as president of the American Medical Association and a West Virginia native. In addition, Captain William S. “Bill” Norman ‘60 (Ret.), one of the first Black students to racially integrate the residence halls at WVWC, received a Doctor of Humane Letters as an honorary degree recipient. Watch the 2021 commencement exercises online here.
“Your commitment, your compassion, your perseverance – the very qualities that led you to this moment are the qualities you can trust to lead you through the rest of your lives,” said Harris, a Bluefield, West Virginia native. “So keep being your best selves – knowing the skills, the values, the relationships and perspective you learned here will be a part of your best selves going forward.”
“Find the confidence to stand in your authentic voice,” she said.
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. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, a Master of Arts in counseling psychology and her medical degree all from West Virginia University.
Norman, who received an honorary degree at commencement and who will forever be enshrined in Wesleyan’s history for breaking the racial barrier in residence halls, went on to have a distinguished career in both the public and private sectors. He 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, Pentagon and the U.S. Travel Association. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on numerous corporate boards.
Of the May graduates who participated in the ceremony, which comprised approximately 160 undergraduate and 20 graduate degrees, roughly 23 percent were first-generation college students. The gender breakdown was nearly even with 51% female and 49% male.
Nearly 60 percent of the Class of 2021 is from the Mountain State and almost half of those students – 47 percent – received a West Virginia PROMISE Scholarship, a merit-based financial aid scholarship for West Virginia residents. 17 states and eight countries were also represented.
The most popular academic programs for undergraduate degrees were nursing, criminal justice, biology, exercise science, business administration and chemistry.
Graduate Sarah Wilmoth ‘21, of Fairmont, West Virginia, majored in religious studies and will be starting her Master of Divinity at Duke Divinity School while pursuing ordination in the United Methodist Church.
While at Wesleyan, Wilmoth was a Service Scholar, section leader in the marching band and a member of concert band, Appalachian Ensemble, Religious Life Council, United InterVarsity and the chapel worship team. She was a walk-in tutor for religion and philosophy students. Wilmoth assisted organizing a Special Needs Prom for one year and led the organization for two years. She also began lay-preaching at local churches.
“I am so thankful I chose Wesleyan,” she said. “It has brought me some of my favorite people. My mind has been challenged and my view of the world has broadened.”
In addition to commencement, Wesleyan celebrated the Class of 2021 with a Baccalaureate service on Friday, May 7 in Wesley Chapel. Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, who has served as Resident Bishop for the West Virginia United Methodist Conference since July 2012, was the guest speaker. Steiner Ball is also a member of the College’s board of trustees. Both graduation and Baccalaureate services were livestreamed on the College’s website at www.wvwc.edu.
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN COLLEGE
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 wvwc.edu.