Erskine College recognized the Class of 2020 in an online tribute May 2, 2020, the originally designated on-campus commencement date.
Two seniors who tied for the highest grade point average in the class were recognized in the celebration. They were Stokes Avinger Brownlee of Saint George, S.C., a business administration major with a minor in healthcare management, and Vincent Raymond Dodge of Satsuma, Fla., a history major with a minor in philosophy.
Winners of student awards usually announced at the campus commencement ceremony were also honored in the online celebration.
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award was given this year to Grayson Wilson Sullivan of Greenville, S.C., who majored in psychology and minored in family studies.The Mary Mildred Sullivan Award was given this year to Mary Ramsey Conner of Greenville, S.C., who majored in early childhood education and minored in Bible and religion.The 2020 recipient of the H.M. Young Ring, the highest award given to a member of the senior class, was Elizabeth Hope Schneider of Greer, S.C., who completed majors in biology and chemistry and minored in psychology.
As he opened the livestreamed celebration, Erskine President Dr. Robert Gustafson, standing under the towers of the Erskine Building, expressed his appreciation to the graduating class as well as his desire to honor them in a campus ceremony. “We want you to know that we are hoping, in August, Lord willing, that we can have an on-site graduation right here in this spot in Due West,” he said.
Provost of the College Dr. Thomas Hellams also addressed students, alluding to Erskine’s mid-semester switch to online instruction and telling students, “I applaud what you have done during this challenging time.” He urged the graduating seniors to “Stop and reflect on what God has allowed you to do and to accomplish thus far in your life.”
U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, Erskine’s originally scheduled commencement speaker—who has served South Carolina’s 3rd congressional district since 2011—offered encouragement to the graduates, who completed their college studies in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “During the chaos, we can remember that our futures are ultimately in God’s hands, and remembering that makes all the difference,” he said.
Professors who submitted congratulatory videos for the celebration included Dr. and Mrs. James Rogers Young Professor of Chemistry Dr. Howard Thomas; Associate Professor of Chemistry and Physics Dr. Tiffany Hayden; Associate Professor of English Dr. Christine Schott; and McDonald-Boswell Professor of History Dr. David Grier.
Student Government Association President Donald Eugene (Trey) Watts of Lexington, S.C., spoke about his love for Erskine and the impact of the college community on his faith and growth. “I am so grateful I came to this place,” he said. “I never thought I would be coming to a college in the middle of nowhere … and have the time of my life.”
Individual slides were created for each member of the graduating class. In addition to students’ names, majors and minors, and photos, many of the slides included quotations from scripture or other sources submitted by the students.
The college plans to host an on-campus ceremony on a date to be announced, once COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings have been removed.
The online celebration of the Class of 2020 may be viewed on Erskine’s YouTube channel.