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Davidson College Celebrates the Class of 2020

by | May 17, 2020 | News, Stories from Davidson College

Davidson College President Carol Quillen addressed members of the Class of 2020 via a livestream ceremony on Sunday afternoon. [screen capture]

Davidson College held a virtual celebration for the members of the Class of 2020 Sunday afternoon. While most seniors and their families participated in the ceremony via a secure Zoom, several groups of students watched it on their screens on the Chambers Building lawn, exulting in the sight of friends among scores of photos of classmates, professors and staff.

Senior Class President Caroline Roddey.

The ceremony included congratulatory photos and videos from fellow students, staff, faculty, and alumni that served as the preludes to comments and remarks by Dean of Students Byron McRea, Senior Class President Caroline Roddey, and President Carol Quillen.

Class President Caroline Roddey wore her cap and gown, and had silver mylar balloons that spelled “2020” behind her. She walked her classmates through memories from before they arrived on campus, during their time on campus, and the amazing accomplishments of some in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, she noted classmates who were 3D printing PPE (personal protective equipment) for healthcare workers, others who donated their room & board refunds back to the college to help fellow classmates, and still others who are making significant contributions in their home communities. She noted that this was all on top of being the first class to be required to finish all their classes, senior projects, and recitals online via remote learning.

Roddey introduced a special musical tribute to the Class of 2020 – the “Pokemon Theme Song” was arranged by Kyle Athalyde, conducted by Professor Bill Lawing, and performed remotely by the Davidson Jazz Ensemble.

Emily Duval reacts to being named the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award Student recipient.

McRea announced the student recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award. Instead of the usual (in person) process of not naming the recipient until the laundry list of the recipient’s accomplishments, he announced at the outset that the recipient “by unanimous and enthusiastic nomination of the faculty committee” was Emily Duval. Based on her online reaction – the well-deserved award seemed to come as a surprise to her. The Questbridge and Bonner scholar has been actively engaged in off campus, working with Crisis Assistance Ministry and the Center of Hope – supporting neighbors who are housing insecure. She also supported the local Room in the Inn program that is a collaborator effort between students and members of Davidson College Presbyterian Church. She has also supported the Lula Bell Houston Center, the Davidson Ecumenical weekly worship service, and well as LearnWorks at Ada Jenkins and the “Freedom Schools” summer program. Duval hopes to become a bilingual educator.

Most of the members of the Class of 2020 attended online.

President Carol Quillen, began by acknowledging that “Today is not the day that you expected. It is not the day that any of us expected.” She then highlighted some of the usual challenges of a “typical” Davidson commencement day: making the weather call, finding good seats in the shade on Chambers Lawn, and carefully planning that last-minute restroom trip. After that, Quillen made a promise: “You want and deserve the chance to celebrate in person, on campus, ideally outside on a beautiful day like today – with music, and flags, and a procession through a corridor of cheering professors, and your name correctly pronounced – ringing throughout the campus. And we will do that. We will have a commencement ceremony.” She then told them that while today really matters, it is not that ceremony. As she subsequently noted that they are now Davidson College graduates, the online screen shifted from featuring Quillen to featuring split-screen squares of dozens of seniors on the other end of the livestream. Some wore caps and gowns, some surrounded by family, and others in front of virtual backgrounds featuring the Davidson College campus. She then talked about their accomplishments and the challenges that they faced, and talked about their potential to “use your experience to make this planet safer, more just, and more humane for everyone.”

Meg Houck, Davidson Class of 2020, grew up in Davidson. After watching the ceremony online she walked over to campus with her parents (both alums) and took a moment to sit on the bench that honors her late grandfather – the Rev. Dr. Thomas Miller (Class of ’56).

Returning to the prospect of an on-campus commencement, Quillen revealed that college trustees have pledged $200,000 to help students return to campus for a real, live commencement on a future weekend when it is safe to do so. She concluded by saying that she looked forward to seeing the members of the Class of 2020 back on campus soon.

The livestream concluded much as it began – with a montage of photos and videos of the class of 2020, as well as video words of encouragement and congratulations from Davidson alumni: including: Dylan Glenn ’91, Clint Smith ’10, Allison Hall Mauze ’84, Anthony Foxx ’93, Durin O’Linger ’17, Stephen Curry ’10, Liz Clasen-Kelly ’00, and Dara Ferguson ’17.

The entire 30-minute celebration is accessible at

Steph Curry joined in the efforts to congratulate the Class of 2020.




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