ATHENS – Concord University honored the Fall 2020 graduating class during a virtual commencement on Dec. 12. This format was utilized due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The event marked the 22nd Fall Commencement for Concord.

“While we’re unable to celebrate your graduation in our typical way, your accomplishments have not been diminished in any way,” President Kendra Boggess said in her welcoming remarks.

“You’ve accomplished this milestone under extremely challenging circumstances, and I am proud of every one of you. Today is a time to celebrate all that you’ve done and all you will continue to do as you become Concord University alumni,” she said.

As she spoke later in the program, Dr. Boggess offered words of advice and encouragement to the graduates.

“It’s wise to remember that hard work and persistence are two of the most important keys to success. Those alone will take you far,” she said. “Set your mind to a goal, to a dream, to a mission, and love that mission. Believe in what you're doing.”

“Remember to pay it forward,” she continued. “Take with you the gifts of service, kindness, patience, the willingness to help others and encouragement that each of you received while here at Concord and show that to others throughout your lifetime. Take with you the heart of ‘The Campus Beautiful’ and share it with others.”

“We are proud of you, Mountain Lions,” she said. “We send you with the best of wishes and pray that all your dreams come true.”

Jessica Lynn Davidson, of Bluefield, is the class valedictorian. Davidson received a Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude. She majored in Studio Art.

“I am beyond happy to represent those of us graduating in the rollercoaster of a year that has been 2020,” Davidson said as she began her valedictory address.

She went on to contrast Concord’s traditional commencement ceremony with the virtual event for her class. “Instead of being in a sea of black flowing robes and swishing tassels, most of us are probably having the unusual experience of watching our own commencement from the comfort of our homes,” she said.

Recognizing the fortitude of her classmates, Davidson said, “If I was limited to just one word to describe the Class of 2020 here at Concord University, it would be ‘resilient’.”

“In just one year there have been natural disasters, intense political and social issues and of course the unwelcome visitor of a worldwide plague,” she said.

“This year has been chaos, but do not dwell on the negativity, even though it seems to be all around us,” she encouraged her classmates. “Good has come out of this year. Educators, healthcare workers and essential workers have gotten the admiration they deserve. Families were brought closer together, literally and figuratively. And, many people have gained a new level of value for the small everyday moments in the lives of people around them.”

While thanking family, friends and faculty for their support and assistance throughout the challenging year, Davidson expressed her appreciation to her classmates. “I also want to thank you, Class of 2020, for doing your part to keep everyone safe. While we did not get the standard graduation ceremony, we may have saved lives by having an alternative ceremony,” she said.

The commencement ceremony recognized candidates for graduation from the College of Professional and Liberal Studies which includes the Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Education and Master of Social Work as well as the Department of Business, Department of Mass Communication, Department of Humanities, Department of Fine Arts, Department of Education, and Department of Social Work and Sociology.

Also recognized were candidates for graduation from the College of Science, Mathematics, and Health which includes the Master of Arts in Health Promotion, Department of Biology, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, and the Department of Social Sciences. Candidates for graduation for the Regents Bachelor of Arts degree were also recognized.

Among the 183 applicants for graduation in the Fall 2020 class, 44 graduate candidates and 139 undergraduate candidates meeting requirements for graduation were honored. Fifty-four individuals graduated with honors and five received field honors. Five veterans are among the candidates for graduation.

Along with West Virginia, states represented by the candidates for graduation include California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington. The countries represented include Bermuda, Ethiopia, Finland, Ghana, Hungary, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Each graduate had the opportunity to submit photographs for a personalized slide that was shown as their name and degree were announced by Dr. Edward W. Huffstetler, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Dr. Susan Robinett, department chair and professor of business, served as grand marshal. Greetings from the Concord University Board of Governors were delivered by David Barnette, chair of the Board of Governors. Dr. William Williams, faculty president, offered greetings on behalf of the faculty. Greetings from the Alumni Association were brought by Julia Ann Pauley, president of the Alumni Association. Ms. Taylor Carter, president of the Student Government Association, delivered greetings from the Student Government Association. Faculty and staff shared congratulations with the graduates through video messages.

The ceremony is being archived on Concord’s YouTube channel and will also be available on CU’s Facebook page. To watch the program, go to and click on the Facebook or YouTube icon at the bottom of the page.

Following is a list of local students receiving degrees.

Master’s candidates for graduation

Ansted — Melissa Ann Pritt, Master of Arts in Teaching

Mount Hope — Katie Beth Hunt, Master of Social Work

Oak Hill — Mildred Christine Peters, Master of Social Work; David Elliott Pritt, Master of Arts in Teaching

Scarbro — Tif’fanny Octavia Gray, Master of Social Work

Undergraduate candidates for graduation

Danese — Laura Beth Ford, Bachelor of Science in Education

Mount Hope — Michaela M. Conelly, Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude; Alana Deree Humphrey, Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude; Mary Ann McClanahan, Bachelor of Science in Education; Robert S. Shumake, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration; Madison Mae Storm Williams, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, magna cum laude

Oak Hill — Matthew Tyler DeLano, Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude; Andrew H. Hardman, Bachelor of Science; Katherine Jo Skeldon, Bachelor of Science; Donna Gail Stump, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration

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