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A December to Remember for App State’s More than 1,700 Graduates for Fall Commencement

Approximately 4,000 Appalachian Community members gathered virtually during Appalachian State University’s Fall 2020 Commencement to celebrate App State’s more than 1,700 graduates — a class that has persevered during a global pandemic to reach this momentous milestone.

During the ceremony — which can be viewed by visiting App State’s commencement website — App State Chancellor Sheri Everts conferred degrees to 1,348 undergraduate and 361 graduate students who registered to be recognized in Fall 2020 Commencement.

The ceremony — which began with sweeping drone views of App State’s campus — included remarks by Everts, C. Philip Byers ’85, a member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Heather Hulburt Norris and Executive Director of Alumni Affairs Stephanie Billings ’92. Byers brought greetings from the UNC Board of Governors and the UNC System Office. Alumnus and WBTV News anchor John Carter ’79 was the event’s keynote speaker.

Their addresses were followed by remarks from two students representing the undergraduate and graduate Class of 2020. A Hayes School of Music graduate gave a vocal performance as part of the ceremony.

App State’s alma mater was performed by Grammy-nominated country music artist Luke Combs.

In her video address to graduates, Everts said, “You have earned one of the most significant achievements of your lifetime, and you did so under historically challenging circumstances: two consecutive semesters overshadowed by a global pandemic unlike anything the world has seen in more than a century. We are so very proud of how you persevered and arrived at this momentous occasion with grace and unwavering resilience.”

She continued, “As App State graduates, you will be uniquely positioned to adapt, to lead and to serve in a world that has been fundamentally changed. You will make real and powerful differences in your communities and beyond.”

Byers, in his remarks, said, “Graduates, your education at Appalachian State University has provided you well with the knowledge and skills you will need to achieve the goals and dreams you set forth. Your degree represents hard work and dedication to a most worthy goal.”

Provost Norris recognized App State’s student veterans and military-affiliated graduates for their commitment to both their university studies and their service to the country. Undergraduate and graduate students were recognized for Latin honors — the cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude distinctions awarded based on academic achievement, as well as university honors through App State’s Honors College. The top 2% of graduate students who achieved induction into the Cratis D. Williams Society were also recognized for their academic success in research, professional practice, leadership and community engagement.

“To the parents, other family members and friends of our graduating students: Be proud of these graduates. … Be proud of what you have done to help them achieve this important milestone,” said Norris in her video address to graduates.

Billings brought the Class of 2020 greetings and congratulations from App State’s living alumni — a group of more than 134,000 individuals worldwide. Watch her video address.

The online event has received approximately 4,000 views — and counting.

Graduates and App State faculty shared their celebratory commencement photos through various social media channels. See App State’s commencement website for more Class of 2020 photos and congratulatory messages.

Appalachian State University alumnus and WBTV News anchor John Carter ’79 served as the keynote speaker for App State’s virtual Fall 2020 Commencement. Carter is a former entrepreneur and North Carolina senator who represented the state’s 25th District. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication arts with a concentration in broadcasting from App State. Photo courtesy of John Carter

‘Step up and do great things’

Carter said he found his life’s passion — news broadcasting — while working for 90.5 WASU-FM, App State’s student-run radio station. He advised graduates to create a roadmap or a goal they can use to guide their path as they pursue their own passions and career aspirations post-graduation.

He also encouraged App State’s Class of 2020 to “step up and do great things in your life. Make a positive difference in this world, even if it only impacts one other person. You don’t have to change the world, although you can,” he said.

App State ‘prepared me for life’s challenges’

Wendell Addy, of Raleigh, graduated from Appalachian State University Dec. 11 with a BSBA in computer information systems. Addy, who was named the Walker College of Business’ top computer information systems student for 2020, served as the undergraduate student speaker during App State’s virtual Fall 2020 Commencement. Photo by Marie Freeman

In his address to his peers, Walker College of Business graduate Wendell Addy encouraged App States’ Class of 2020 to embrace uncertainty, citing American lawyer and New York Times best-selling author Bob Goff — “Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.” Watch his commencement address.

“As I look to the future, I am filled with optimism and excitement knowing I am a product of this great institution,” Addy said. “Being at App State molded me academically and it taught me patience, the importance of sustainability and stewardship, how to find my purpose and, most importantly, it prepared me for life’s challenges.”

Addy, of Raleigh, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in business administration (BSBA) in computer information systems. He has secured a full-time position with Citrix Systems Inc., a multinational computer software company, and will soon serve as a technical analyst at the company’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida, headquarters

‘We are truly history in the making’

Jennifer McCracken, who served as commencement’s graduate student speaker, fulfilled a promise she made to herself and her father 23 years ago — she graduated from App State with her Master of Public Administration degree with a concentration in public management. She was also honored with induction into the university’s Cratis D. Williams Society. Watch her address to the Class of 2020.

McCracken, who completed her degree through App State Online’s MPA distance education program, is health director of Catawba County Public Health (CCPH) — a position she has held since mid-March, when the county announced its first case of COVID-19.

“We are truly history in the making,” she said to her fellow graduates. “One of the most important lessons this pandemic has taught me is that challenges bring opportunities — sometimes you just have to look for them. … The challenge of this pandemic has given us new ideas, new ways of communicating, new perspectives and a new appreciation for personal connection.”

She continued, “Did any of us plan to go to school in a pandemic, graduate in a pandemic, or look for a job in a pandemic? The answer is no. However, as we leave Appalachian, we leave stronger because we finished our race in the midst of adversity, and we finished it well.”

Musical performances

Award-winning country music artist Luke Combs, who attended App State from 2008–12, played App State’s alma mater and congratulated the university’s Class of 2020 on their accomplishment, encouraging them to “have fun out in the world.” View and listen to his App State commencement performance.

Hayes School of Music graduate Samantha Latino, of Charlotte, performed John Ireland’s “If There Were Dreams to Sell,” with piano accompaniment by Hayes School of Music Dean James Douthit, as part of Appalachian State University’s Fall 2020 Commencement. Latino graduated with three degrees from App State: a Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in music education–general music education (K–12), a B.M. in music education–choral music education (K–12) and a B.M. in music performance–voice. Photo by Marie Freeman

Hayes School of Music graduate Samantha Latino, of Charlotte, also performed during the ceremony, singing “If There Were Dreams to Sell,” composed by John Ireland. Dr. James Douthit, dean of the Hayes School of Music, provided piano accompaniment.

Latino, who graduated magna cum laude, earned three App State degrees: a Bachelor of Music (B.M.) music education–general music education (K–12), a B.M. in music education–choral music education (K–12) and a B.M. in music performance–voice.

Other music performances for the ceremony included the singing of the national anthem by Ear Candy, App State’s all-female a cappella group, which harmonized via Zoom while physical distancing. Watch and listen to Ear Candy’s performance of the national anthem.

The traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” graduation march was performed by members of the Brass Choir in App State’s Hayes School of Music, who were conducted by the college’s Dr. James Stokes, professor of trumpet. The piece was produced and audio engineered by Scott Wynne, professor of music industry studies and chief recording engineer for the university’s Robert F. Gilley Recording Studio.

Visit App State’s commencement website to re-watch the ceremony and view more social media posts by the newest class of App State graduates.