With students spread around the world following the transition to online learning, PCC’s end-of-the-year ceremonies went virtual, bringing the student body together one last time.
This year marked the College’s first combined Nurses’ Pinning and Lamp Lighting Ceremony. (In the past, nursing students who have been accepted into the nursing program would have taken part in the Lamp Lighting Ceremony during the fall semester of their sophomore year.)
During the Nurses’ Virtual Pinning and Lamp Lighting, a collage of videos showed senior nursing students across the country being pinned by a friend or family member. The nursing pin presented to these graduates bears the College seal and the words “Beauty,” “Strength,” and “Truth”—three ideals these graduates have exemplified as student nurses. Along with the pin, each graduate received a lamp, a tribute to Florence Nightingale, who was known as “The Lady with the Lamp.”
“I’m definitely very, very proud of this class. They have been very resilient through this,” said Dr. Denise McCollim, dean of Arts and Sciences. “I am excited for what the Lord will have for them.”
Nursing graduate Christina Gibbs (FL) was honored with the Excellence Award, an award traditionally presented to a graduating nursing student who best represents academic achievement, the integration of Christian principles, and the high standards of the nursing profession. Her name will be engraved on a permanent plaque and displayed on campus.
It is tradition for the graduating class of nursing students to select and sing a song during the ceremony, and by submitting videos, these students were able to continue that tradition as a virtual choir. Proclaim Instructor and Coordinator Kristan Fears assisted with providing the accompaniment for the virtual choir as they sang “Yet Not I, But Through Christ in Me.”
“The project blessed my heart because of the meaning behind the song they chose and the beautiful harmonies in it,” Fears said. “I work in the recording studio and was able to be a part of the first virtual class song for the nurses. This is something that I never would have experienced had we not had this unique situation.”
Virtual Graduation on May 8 opened with a reflection of how things would have been—a campus bustling from energy and excitement and a Crowne Centre filled with graduating students and their families—but did not belittle its significance as families came together through the livestream. The virtual event featured a recorded performance of “Behold Our God” from last year’s Commencement; an address from the Honorable Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Pre-Law ’90), a congresswoman in the United States House of Representatives; and remarks from Zach Lewis (AL), the senior class president. The graduating class of 2020 consisted of over 950 undergraduate, graduate, and seminary students, representing 49 states and 34 countries or territories.
In her Alumni Address, Cathy McMorris Rodgers encouraged students to continue to trust God through their experiences. “It’s God Who has given us a spirit of power and love and a sound mind. So during this anxious and uncertain time in America, I encourage you to keep praying. Pray for God’s continued intercession and guidance. As you begin your next journey, my prayer for you is from Proverbs—Trust in the Lord with all thine heart. Lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths,” she said. “While we may be socially distant, I’m excited as we anticipate all the ways that God is working in your life. He is never distant. God is with us in everything that we do.”
Before conferring the degrees, Academic Vice President Raylene Cochran and College President Troy Shoemaker honored students who earned the highest awards bestowed by PCC. Daniel Cantin (NH), Robbie Catuto (TX), Lowenna Clarke (Canada), Emma Edmonds (TX), Chaeli Gutierrez (CA), Sarah Leiford (PA), Jared< (TX), and Katelyn Troutman (FL) each earned the Faculty Academic Scholarship Award, an award given to those with the highest grade point average and who exemplify the ideals and standards of the College. AC Ayuman (Japan) and Brendan Stephens (MI) each earned the President’s Citation of Merit, the most coveted award that honors students who embody the mission and purpose of the College through their personal character and values.
President Troy Shoemaker expressed his heart with the graduates. “Denise and I extend our heartfelt congratulations to each one of you. We’re so proud of your accomplishment. Personally, I’m excited to see what God is going to do through the class of 2020. You’ve worked hard and shown courage and strength that’s been magnified during the final weeks of your senior year,” he said. “I want to thank you for your time here with us and for your commitment to God, your friends, your academics, your college. It’s been our greatest honor to serve you. Pensacola Christian College is a better place because of you.”
Graduates can share their achievement with friends and families online by posting their Graduate Profile from the College website. Each profile displays their earned degree, as well as any other notable achievements, and includes their name being read as it would have been during a traditional ceremony.
After Virtual Graduation’s benediction and singing of the College Hymn, faculty would usually spend the afternoon congratulating their former students, taking photos with them, and shaking hands with their families. While it may be some time before they are able to do so in person, many offered encouragement to their graduating students.
“There are always going to be bumps in the road of life (we hit a major one this semester),” said natural science faculty Dr. James Ridgley. “However, when these bumps cause us to stumble or fall, we must, by the grace of God, pick ourselves back up and finish the race before us. Keep Christ front and center in your life, serve Him faithfully, and you will be amazed with what He uses you for in this life.”
“These times are part of His molding process to make you into the people that He would have you to be,” said nursing faculty Dr. Maybeth Elliott. “Graduation is simply a starting point. God is not finished with you yet. Trust in Him to guide you and follow after His leading.”
“Take initiative and keep learning! Be the person employers hope to hire. Invest in solid friendships and find a good church to support and to serve in,” said English faculty Jennifer Miller.
Congratulations to the graduates of 2020! As time permits, we hope to honor you in a special way during a traditional ceremony on campus. Until then, continue to ponder your path and allow God to faithfully guide you into the next phase of your lives.