Class of 2021 celebrates outdoors at Barker-Lane Stadium

Barker-Lane Stadium, home of the Fighting Camels’ football and lacrosse programs, was home to several Spring 2021 commencement ceremonies this weekend, marking the first time Campbell has held outdoor graduation ceremonies in more than 13 years. 

The ceremonies kicked off on Thursday when the School of Osteopathic Medicine graduated its fifth class of doctors. One hundred forty-eight Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and 18 Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences degrees were conferred before a crowd of distanced friends and family, with special virtual guest Dr. Kevin O’Connor, physician to the President of the United States, delivering the keynote address. On Friday, the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences held its own Barker-Lane ceremony. Adapting to rainy forecasts with a two-hour delay, the college graduated 280 students just in time, as the closing remarks were cut off by the sound of a sudden downpour. 

Saturday morning dawned clear and bright for the conferring of 575 degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences. Commencement speaker Dr. R. Henry Capps, Jr. (’09) spoke of his own fond memories of Campbell. Capps, the executive VP and chief information and digital officer at Wellstar Health System, has led numerous digital innovations over the course of his career. Currently serving on Campbell’s Board of Trustees, Capp is a member of Mecklenberg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and believes that while knowledge and a liberal arts background is important, it is turning the values ingrained at Campbell into action that makes a difference.

“Even the best of intentions without action are simply a fleeting thought without impact,” Capp said. “As you graduate today you will face many challenges, Sometimes the temptation to take the path of least resistance will be appealing. To not act. Acting can be uncomfortable. When you leverage your values and purpose to make a difference, you have no choice but to act and you can literally change the world. 

Capp’s sound advice was woven through a series of anecdotes— a single mother who chose to serve abroad rather than retreat into suburbia after her marriage ended, a Zappos representative who placed care for a customer above procedure and profit, and finally, a tale of three trees. In the imaginative fable, three trees have high hopes for becoming a treasure chest, a ship and the tallest tree in the world. Cut down for a simple trough, a fishing boat, and lumber, the trees are disappointed with their lot — until they each play a role in the life of Jesus, subverting their expectations but becoming more impactful than they could have imagined.

“Remember the tale of the three trees and know that your hopes and dreams may change over time,” Capp advised the graduates. “If you hold firm to your values, strive for purpose in your life and act without complacency, you can use this defining moment of accomplishment at Campbell University not as an ending, but as a beginning.”

Later in the afternoon, the deans of the Divinity, Business, Engineering and Education schools each stepped up to the podium to address their combined 219 graduates. For Dean of the Engineering School Dr. Jenna Carpenter, it was a particularly special occasion — the inaugural class of engineering students graduated virtually last year, and the ceremony Carpenter’s first chance to address Campbell Engineering graduates in-person. 

“I am incredibly proud of our second class of engineering students and their persistence this year,” Carpenter said. “I hope that as you go out into your careers, you send us more good students our way—students with determination and drive like you have shown at Campbell. It has been a privilege to watch you transform from highschoolers into engineers.”