Community Contributor Bob Carpenter
May 13, 2020 at 2:00 PM
BLOUNTVILLE — Northeast State Community College celebrated the Class of 2020 Tuesday with a virtual ceremony that included a mix of shout-outs from students, best wishes from faculty and surprise celebrity cameos.
The college changed from its traditional ceremony to an online event because of the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, which has caused schools across the country to reimagine commencement ceremonies.
The event was broadcast on WJHL-TV, Facebook, and YouTube.
“Although we cannot be together tonight, I hope this historic occasion can help to commemorate this monumental moment,” NSCC President Bethany Bullock said. “To family and friends, thank you for supporting these courageous students along their journey at Northeast State.”
Notable well-wishers included actor Sean Astin, comedian Cedric the Entertainer, singer/actress Mandy Moore, San Franciso 49ers coach Katie Sowers, Oak Ridge Boy Joe Bonsall, country music singer Jake Owen, Grand Ol’ Opry star Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
“It seems like in every generation, there’s … a kind of defining experience,” Astin said. “This is as significant as the Great Depression. Maybe if you’ll remind yourself as you go along, it’ll take the sting out of the sacrifices and comprises you had to make. You’ve earned the right to your degree.”
The 2020 class represents one of the largest graduating classes in the college’s history. The graduates garnered a total 1,778 associate’s degrees and certificates.
NSCC awarded 23 academic certificates, 491 technical certificates, 495 associate of applied science degrees, 31 associate of arts degrees, 35 associate of science in teaching degrees and 703 associate of science degrees.
“Please know this milestone is worthy of celebration. We are so proud of your persistence,” Registrar Deidra Close said. “Completing a degree is a difficult task, but completing a degree in a pandemic is even more impressive.”
Students were asked to submit short video clips or photos, with many taking the opportunity to thank family and friends for their support.
“I’m so excited to cross the finish line,” Giraldine McEuen said. “I want to say thank you to all school staff, teachers, friends and family.”
In a bit of inspired comedy, electromechanical technology grad Timothy Dougherty’s thank you speech was interrupted by his mother asking him to take out the trash.
“Ma, I’m trying to graduate,” Dougherty said, finishing with a big smile and a shout of “Class of 2020: Electromechanical!”
“You guys are our future, and you are going to help us get through a lot of this, Bonsall said. “Be brave. Be strong. These are strange days, but they’re going to pass, and good things are going to happen.”
Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Connie Marshall closed the event by telling students to move their tassels from right to the left to signify graduation. She then presented the Class of 2020.