By Harley Nefe
Students wearing black and gold academic regalia, walking across the stage and receiving a diploma will look a little different for graduates during Appalachian State University’s Fall 2020 Commencement, which is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 11 at 4 p.m.
Typically, the cheers of family and friends are contained within the walls of the Holmes Convocation Center on campus; however, due to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, graduation celebrations will take place near and far, as Mountaineers gather virtually to acknowledge the Class of 2020, similar to the university’s Spring 2020 Commencement.
More than 1,700 Class of 2020 graduates will be recognized during Appalachian State University’s virtual Fall 2020 Commencement. This number breaks down into a total of 1,348 undergraduate and 361 graduate students who have applied to receive their degrees.
App State also created a Fall 2020 Commencement page on their website where the link to the commencement video will be made available shortly before the program begins. The page also contains the ceremony schedule along with information on the speakers for the event.
Presiding — Dr. Sheri Everts, Chancellor
“Pomp and Circumstance” — Hayes School of Music
“The Star Spangled Banner” — App State a cappella group Ear Candy
Welcome — Dr. Heather Hulburt Norris, Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor remarks
Commencement Address — Dr. Sheri Everts, Chancellor, remarks
Greetings from the University of North Carolina System — C. Philip Byers ’85, UNC Board of Governors member
Greetings from the Appalachian Alumni Association — Stephanie Billings ’92, Executive Director of Alumni Affairs
Remarks and Performance from Graduating Students
Wendell Addy — Bachelor of Science in business administration in computer information systems, December 2020
Samantha Latino — Bachelor of Music in music education (general music and choral music, K–12) and vocal performance, December 2020
Jennifer McCracken — Master of Public Administration in public management, December 2020
Keynote Address — John Carter ’79, WBTV News Anchor,Bachelor of Science in communication arts with a concentration in broadcasting
Presentation of Candidates — Dave Blanks ’05, Production Assistant and Audio Engineer
Dr. Neva J. Specht, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Marie Huff, Dean, Beaver College of Health Sciences
Dr. Janice Pope, Interim Dean, College of Fine and Applied Arts
Dr. James Douthit, Dean, Hayes School of Music
Dr. Melba Spooner, Dean, Reich College of Education
Dr. Sandra Vannoy, Acting Dean, Walker College of Business
Dr. Mike McKenzie, Dean, Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies
Conferring of Degrees — Chancellor Sheri Everts
Closing Remarks — Dr. Heather Hulburt Norris
Alma Mater — Luke Combs, Singer/Songwriter
John Carter, WBTV News Anchor, Bachelor of Science in communication arts with a concentration in broadcasting
After graduating from App State in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts with a concentration in broadcasting, John Carter began working as a news assistant at Charlotte’s WBTV. From 1979–89, Carter worked as a general assignment reporter, consumer reporter, Western Bureau Chief/reporter, news producer/consumer producer and news producer/managing editor. He was also host of the WBTV show “Carolina Camera,” traveling across North and South Carolina as a feature reporter.
Over the next seven years, Carter formed his own video production business and opened a comic book shop in Lincolnton. He was elected to the North Carolina Senate, representing the state’s 25th District, and served as a public information specialist for Mecklenburg County. He returned to WBTV in 1996 to anchor its morning news show and later, “WBTV News at Noon”.
A survivor of prostate cancer — the No. 1 cancer in U.S. men — Carter routinely shares informative news and feature reports about the disease and works closely with the American Cancer Society to share its message about the life-saving importance of early cancer detection.
Carter has received numerous awards and honors for his video and journalistic work. He is also a 1992 recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian award.
Wendell Addy, BSBA in computer information systems, December 2020
Wendell Addy is graduating from App State as 2020’s top computer information systems (CIS) student in the Walker College of Business. The 4.0 GPA senior, who was born in Liberia, holds an associate degree from Wake Technical Community College and will earn his Bachelor of Science in business administration in computer information systems in December.
Since transferring to App State in summer 2019, Addy’s success as a Mountaineer has been on a fast track: In addition to the scholarship he received for the top CIS honor, Addy was awarded merit-based scholarships when he was accepted to App State and, in the 2019–20 academic year, he earned a spot on the Chancellor’s List — awarded to full-time students with a GPA of 3.85 or higher. He was also inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, a national honor society for business students.
After engaging in three virtual internships this summer, Addy secured a job offer from Citrix Systems Inc., a multinational computer software company. After he graduates, he will serve as a technical analyst at the company’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida, headquarters.
“Being able to live out my dreams — I will attribute that to App State,” he said.
Jennifer McCracken, MPA, public management, December 2020
Jennifer McCracken, who is among the Hickory cohort of students in App State Online’s MPA distance education program, will earn her Master of Public Administration with a concentration in public management.
McCracken serves as 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. A registered nurse, McCracken joined CCPH in 1998 and was named the department’s assistant director in 2016 before being named interim director in 2019.
She said her pursuit of App State’s MPA has exposed her to broader areas of government and provided her with advanced knowledge in finance, budgeting, health policy, personnel administration and program evaluation — knowledge she can apply directly in her current role to reimagine local public health both during and in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“The relationships I have built while at App State are some of my most valuable,” McCracken said. “I not only have lifelong colleagues but lifelong friends.”
Upon graduating, McCracken will be inducted into App State’s Cratis D. Williams Society, which recognizes the top 2% of graduates from the Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies for their academic success in research, professional practice, leadership and community engagement.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a certificate in public health leadership from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in music education–general music education (K–12)
B.M. in music education–choral music education (K–12)
B.M. in music performance–voice
Hayes School of Music (HSOM) senior Samantha Latino, of Charlotte, will graduate from App State in December with Latin honors, receiving her Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in music education–general music education (K–12), B.M. in music education–choral music education (K–12) and B.M. in music performance–voice.
Latino chose to attend App State after participating in the university’s Cannon Music Camp for three summers. “The camp allowed me an inside look on what being a music student at App State would be like, in addition to getting to know App State’s faculty, campus and culture,” she said.
While at App State, she has been involved with HSOM’s Chamber Singers and University Singers choirs, as well as the Knitting and Crocheting Club. She has also represented vocal performance students as a member of HSOM’s Student Advisory Board.
After graduating, Latino aims to teach music in North Carolina at the elementary level. She is also considering pursuing a future master’s degree in vocal performance.
Latino is a recipient of the Joe and Anna Phelps Music Scholarship and the Mariam Cannon Hayes Endowment for Music Excellence Scholarship.
Alma Mater Performance
Award-winning country music artist Luke Combs will join App State in celebrating the Class of 2020 by performing the university’s alma mater. Combs, who attended App state from 2008–12, was recently honored as Male Vocalist of the Year at the 54th Annual Country Music Association Awards. His most recent album — “What You See Ain’t Always What You Get” — was named the 2020 CMA Awards Album of the Year.