CLIFTON FORGE — Dabney S. Lancaster Community College observed its spring commencement on Saturday, Sept. 12, in two ceremonies, — one held in the morning and the second in the afternoon — in the DSLCC Convocation Center on the Clifton Forge campus.
Guest speaker Nova Wright, who was honored as the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award, sponsored by the DSLCC Educational Foundation, shared her personal story of academic success.
Describing herself as a 10th grade dropout, she found a part-time job at DSLCC as a work study, years after her fourth child was born; earned her GED; began her college career at DSLCC; earned an associate degree, then a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, one in Library Information Science with a Concentration in Advanced Management of Academic Libraries and another in Education with a Concentration in Instructional Design.
She currently serves as the director of the DSLCC Library.
“Although it may seem silly, when I begin something new, something I have no knowledge of, no experience in, I think back to the support that I’ve received from this college, from these faculty members… that’s when I move forward and I take on each new challenge because I know that I’m not alone. I now know that value of an education,” she said.
Wright credited many members of the staff at DSLCC with encouraging her in her pursuits. She also serves as Instructional Designer for Online Teaching and Learning and is an adjunct faculty member for College Success courses.
Despite the rescheduling and separation of commencement exercises — necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic — both ceremonies were celebrations of hard work and accomplishment, noted DSLCC President Dr. John Rainone.
“The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetime,” he said in his remarks to the graduates and their guests. “I know the transition from face-to-face, in-person learning to online learning in March was likely difficult for some of you.
“You should hold your heads up high for what you accomplished,” Dr. Rainone added. “Between classes, work, family, being a teacher yourself for your children and life, these few months and the spring semester, were no walk in the park. Literally, we you couldn’t even walk in the park until a few weeks ago.”
A total of 63 graduates walked across the stage to receive diplomas for associate degrees, certificates and career studies certificates, and for the first time, a number of graduates from DSLCC’s Workforce Division, who earned workforce credentials, participated in the ceremony.
“As hard as it has been for students to make this transition, it has also been equally challenging for the faculty to shift their mindset to online and remote instruction,” said Dr. Rainone. “Like you, they value the interactions in the classroom, and they miss the face-to-face conversations. They miss you, coming into a classroom laughing and leaving knowing you learned something new that day.
“Like you, they have had to navigate unfamiliar territory to continue to provide high levels of academic engagement. I could not be more proud of everyone who came together for one purpose: you, the DSLCC student.”
Dr. Rainone recognized Luke Bradley of Covington as the recipient of the Gary Lee Miller Outstanding Graduate Award.
Nominated by faculty and staff and selected by peers, Bradley was a member of DSLCC’s Student Government Association, the Fellowship of Faith club and graduated this past spring from DSLCC with his associate’s degree in Science.
Additionally, he serves as the Student Ministry Coordinator at the First Baptist Church in Covington, tutors local high school students, volunteers with the local Christmas Mother and Teen Week programs and helped raise money for the Area 18 Special Olympics by hosting a “Polar Plunge” event.
The award, established in 1969, is named after Lt. Miller, a native of Covington and a DSLCC student, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor and died in combat in Vietnam.
Dr. Rainone also recognized graduate Megan Lewis of Covington, who was chosen as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa All-Virginia Academic Team.
Dabney S. Lancaster Community College President Dr. John Rainone, left, presents Macie Rice of Covington, right, her associate of arts and sciences degree in business administration during DSLCC’s 53rd annual commencement exercises held Saturday at the DSLCC Convocation Center in Clifton Forge. (Gavin Dressler Photo)