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LWC Honors Class of 2020 at Virtual Commencement Ceremony

By Venus Popplewell

Shelby Herchenrader was excited for her family to watch her graduate from college. The first in her family to earn a college degree, they were certain to gather and celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime milestone.

"I should have walked the commencement stage in May of 2020, but instead my graduation was postponed until Lindsey Wilson could find a safe way to recognize my class."

Lindsey Wilson College commemorated its 111th and 112th commencements with a pre-recorded ceremony (click for video). Graduates from the spring, summer and fall terms of 2020 were invited to take place in LWC's first-ever virtual commencement. The College received nearly 240 student photos to include as part of the video celebration.

"My family watched it at the same time from separate locations and they were all calling me at once, super excited and congratulating me," said Herchenrader, a communication and media studies graduate from Louisville, Ky. "My mom was adamant about watching it right when it was posted so it would seem more realistic. I don't think she quite understood that it was a pre-recorded video. And my dad sent me a video of my little brother and sister getting excited when they announced my name."

The pre-recorded ceremony, held on Dec. 12, brought together the spring and winter classes of 2020 after the 117-year-old liberal arts college postponed the traditional spring commencement in May. For the spring class, LWC conferred 226 graduate and undergraduate degrees and for the winter class, the College conferred 363 degrees, including five doctoral degrees.

"After the shutdowns in the spring, I hoped the pandemic would get better and then when that didn't happen I was really upset," said Herchenrader. "It wasn't that I didn't get to have a graduation but that my mom didn't get to see me graduate in-person. She pushed me to be the first college graduate in my family. And then, because of Covid, it was taken away from her."

LWC President William T. Luckey Jr., affirmed the graduates for their perseverance in his greeting on the video.

"I so wish we could all be gathered together in one great, big celebration," said Luckey. "But I'm sure you understand that it's just not possible right now. I want you to know that this in no way diminishes your accomplishment. In fact, I think it speaks volumes about your perseverance during these challenging times."

The 40-minute pre-recorded video was only one of the many virtual celebrations honoring LWC 2020 graduates. LWC's School of Professional Counseling honored graduates receiving bachelor's degrees in Human Services and master's degrees in Counseling and Human Development with live pinning ceremonies via video conferencing.

"The LWC educational outreach team and SPC faculty organized 11 virtual, live pinning ceremonies to recognize individuals earning counseling degrees," said Assistant Vice President of Educational Outreach for Online and Graduate Programs Tommie Ann Saragas. "As students' names were called, we witnessed children and parents cheering in the background and kids running over and hugging their mom when she won an academic excellence award."

And although these virtual ceremonies could never take the place of in-person celebrations, Saragas says it has created an experience that is real and personal at a time when it is needed most.

"These virtual pinnings have not been the same as our physical pinning events," Saragas said. "But the emotion, connection to LWC, and mission have held true."

As for Herchenrader, she has already enrolled in an online communication master's program and in the summer she was named a residence director at LWC.

"It feels crazy to have been a part of this historic class -- the Class of 2020. We overcame a lot and I'm really proud of us. I'm glad we made it," said Herchenrader. "You could say over and over again that (a virtual commencement) is nothing like actually getting to walk across the stage. But I'm glad LWC figured out something they could do for us during this crazy time that no one expected."

This story was posted on 2020-12-15 14:01:57
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Communication and Media Studies graduate Shelby Herchenrader

2020-12-15 - Columbia, KY - Photo courtesy Lindsey Wilson College.
Communication and Media Studies graduate Shelby Herchenrader from Louisville, KY, was one of nearly 240 students who submitted photos to be recognized during Lindsey Wilson College's winter commencement virtual ceremony. Herchenrader's commencement was postponed in May due to concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic.

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LWC Virtual Winter Commencement

2020-12-15 - Columbia, KY - Photo courtesy Lindsey Wilson College.
Lindsey Wilson College President William T. Luckey Jr., right, and Vice President of Academic Affairs Trish Parrish in a screenshot from LWC's pre-recorded virtual winter commencement ceremony held on Saturday, Dec. 12. Graduates from the spring, summer and fall terms of 2020 were invited to participate.

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