WVWC graduates nearly 200, welcomes esteemed keynote speaker


BUCKHANNON — West Virginia Wesleyan College conducted its 130th Commencement exercises outdoors Sunday, May 9 at Cebe Ross Field, celebrating approximately 160 undergraduate and 20 graduate degrees from the Summer 2020, December 2020 and May 2021 sessions.

Roughly 23% of the May graduates were reportedly first-generation college students and almost 60% of them hail from the Mountain State. Nearly half of those West Virginia students were also recipients of the WV Promise Scholarship, a merit-based financial aid program for residents. Students from 17 states and eight countries were represented in the Class of 2021. According to WVWC, the most popular academic programs for undergraduate degrees were nursing, criminal justice, biology, exercise science, business administration and chemistry.  

WVWC was proud to welcome Dr. Patrice Harris as the esteemed keynote speaker on Sunday morning as she presented “Stand in Your Authentic Voice.” Captain William S. “Bill” Norman ‘60 (Ret.), one of the first Black students to racially integrate the residence halls at WVWC, also received a Doctor of Humane Letters as an honorary degree recipient during the ceremonies.

“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,” Harris encouraged the graduates. “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.”

A native West Virginian, Dr. Harris is the first Black woman to serve as President of the American Medical Association. She grew up in Bluefield and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, and a medical degree, all from West Virginia University.

Harris has also served as a chairman on the AMA Opioid Taskforce since its creation in 2014. The taskforce works to eliminate barriers to treatment, provide patients with non-opioid pain treatment, and to fight the stigma faced by those with substance abuse disorders. She has a passion to improve the lives of children, working for them both clinically and in the advocacy arena.

As an Adjunct Professor with Emory University’s department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Harris continues in private practice and consults with both public and private organizations on health service delivery and emerging trends in practice ad health policy.

“It is always an honor and a privilege to get back home,” said Harris. With a West Virginia background, Harris sees a rising issue with health challenges; however, she recognizes that with challenges come opportunities. In a teaser to her commencement speech, Harris expressed, “Be open to learning from people who don’t look like you, think like you, and worship like you. Be open to learning.”

“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,” the college shared.  

Wesleyan also celebrated the graduates with a Baccalaureate service on Friday with guest speaker Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball. You can view the 2021 WVWC Commencement exercises and Baccalaureate services online at www.wvwc.edu.

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