By Wendy Holdren
A new tradition was started Saturday in Beckley, as more than 150 University of Charleston students participated in the first ever UC-Beckley commencement ceremony.
Dr. Jerry Forster, regional president, welcomed everyone to the ceremony, which he called an exciting first, but also an 80-year tradition in the Beckley area that started with Beckley College.
“We’re starting a new legacy and we’re looking forward to the next 80 years,” Forster said.
He congratulated the graduates and acknowledged their sadness for leaving this chapter of their lives behind, their joy for their accomplishments so far, and the anxiety of “What’s next?”
“I wish you the best with all of your endeavors.”
Forster then welcomed UC President Dr. Edwin Welch to the podium to deliver the commencement address.
He said it was an exciting day for Beckley, with a new institution, new opportunities, and new graduates.
“Some of you may feel a strong affinity with Mountain State University, but I know some of you are delighted to receive a degree from the University of Charleston.”
He said he accepted and recognized the different perspectives of all the graduates, but wanted to leave them all with the same message: “Dream big, plan small.”
He urged the graduates to set audacious goals and follow through with their dreams, and execute them “precisely and specifically.”
Welch said Robert C. Byrd attended political science classes at University of Charleston, which was then Morris Harvey College.
Byrd would make lengthy speeches in class, Welch said, because he said he was practicing to be a U.S. senator. “Little did he know he would be the longest-serving senator in the history of the United States Congress.”
The graduates were then presented with their degrees.
Two graduates in particular, Missy Omar and Pat Crawford, said their experience at UC-Beckley was fantastic.
“UC has an open-door policy and they always have answers,” said Omar, who received her master’s in criminal justice.
“We were never left in the dark,” added Crawford, who obtained his bachelor’s in social work.
Although they said the transition from MSU to UC-Beckley was a bit rocky, they see the new institution as a blessing.
Crawford said he is a military veteran who served in the Marine Corps and his experience as a nontraditional student at UC-Beckley was phenomenal.
Both said they were extremely pleased with the knowledge they obtained and the opportunities they were given at UC-Beckley.
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