Winter graduates commended for their perseverance in online ceremony

Unsurprisingly, perseverance was the theme of Campbell University’s Winter Commencement, a virtual ceremony “attended” by more than 1,600 students and their families on Friday. 

Dr. David Hailey, for 24 years the pastor of Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh and Friday’s commencement speaker, told the 466 graduates that the challenges they’ve faced while finishing their degrees during a global pandemic will only prepare them for the challenges they’ll face in the years ahead. 

“What can I say? Life is messy,” said Hailey, whose son David John Hailey is a two-time Campbell graduate. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way, and sometimes the cookie crumbles. The question is, ‘What do you do then?’ When everything falls apart, when the world tumbles around you, when your carefully scripted plans go rogue … do you just throw up your hands in exasperation and cry out, ‘What’s the use?’ Do you get angry, throw down your cards and quit? Or do you say to yourself, ‘OK, this is the hand I’ve been dealt.’

“How shall I play them?”

Campbell’s winter graduation ceremony — its second consecutive online ceremony since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March — celebrated both August and December graduates who earned associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. Unlike the spring ceremony in May, all 466 graduates’ names were read aloud by Dr. H. Tiago Jones, associate professor and chair of foreign languages at Campbell.

The graduates finished their senior years in the midst of the pandemic that shut down in-person classes from March to July this year. When campuses reopened in August, students attended both socially distanced face-to-face classes and online or hybrid courses. 

Hailey said crossing the finish line was a testament to the students’ resilience and perseverance. 

“Maybe, just maybe, this pandemic will turn out to be one of the most fruitful experiences in all of your college years,” he said. “In fact, I’ll crawl out on a limb a little bit and I’m going to make a prediction that one day … you may look back and say, I didn’t like COVID-19, but I have to admit that it taught me some of the most important lessons of my life.

“Blessed are the interrupted, for they shall be resilient.”

President J. Bradley Creed also congratulated the graduates — and all Campbell students — for their patience and resiliency over the past 10 months. He noted that Campbell was able to finish in-person learning this fall after facing a two-week “pause” during a spike in positive cases in October. He recited the University’s motto, “Ad Astra Per Aspera” — “To the Stars Through Difficulties” — and said those words have never meant more to Campbell. 

“We are living through one of the most difficult periods in recent history, but this experience can only make us stronger,” Creed said.

  • Campbell University is still planning to celebrate 2020 graduates — spring, summer and winter — with an in-person commencement ceremony when state and federal health guidelines allow for large group gatherings again. Friday’s ceremony came a day after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved emergency youth authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccine. The first vaccinations in the U.S. began Monday. 
  • While 466 students received their degrees on Friday, Campbell is scheduled to graduate more than 1,700 students total during the 2020-2021 academic year. 
  • Associate Professor of Mathematics Janis Todd read scripture at the beginning of the ceremony Friday — her final act at Campbell University after 53 years of teaching. Todd, who was hired by then-President Leslie Campbell (son of founder J.A. Campbell) in 1967. Just months later, Campbell stepped down and was succeeded by Norman Adrian Wiggins. Todd is the very few  Campbell professors to have served under four of the University’s five presidents. 
  • Thirty-four students graduated summa cum laude with a grade point average of at least 3.9. They were: Margaret Barbosa, Hannah Faye Byrd, Shelby Elizabeth Duncan, Elena Heike Eichenseer, Luke Flint, Yalmar Guzman, Miles Baker Hunt, Kristina Kasper, William Jacob Kelly, Darin Gustave Knecht, Kyndal Nicole Lievano, April Natalie Lopez, Ryan William McAllister, Amber Marguerite Mobley, Bailey Arias Pechner, Eric S. Perham, Chantay Terry Stanley, Cayli Maegan Sutton, Katherine Sutton, Michael Allan Swartz, Jacob Thornton, Lindsay Margaret Walker, Edward Joseph Walsh III, Joseph Paul Steadman, Carmen Versoza, Victoria Elizabeth Grace Weinner, MacKenzie Dallas Wiseman, Christopher Martin, David Leibov Marx, Jeffrey Turnipseed, Ariane Michaela Andreaco, Brittany Hope Gobble, Kristin Lamberth and Chinenye Norah Obodo.