A fast-moving thunderstorm may have interrupted the ceremony, but the strong winds and heavy rain didn’t dampen the spirit of celebration at Snead State Community College’s annual Spring Commencement.
Students, faculty and staff, family and special guests gathered at the Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheater on Thursday, May 6, to share in the successes and accomplishments of the 2021 graduating class as well as some of the 2020 graduating class.
The ceremony began as planned with bright sunshine and a brilliant blue sky, but after graduates began crossing the stage to receive their diplomas, the inclement weather caused a delay in the ceremony. Once Snead State employees were made aware of the impending storm, they passed out ponchos to the guests, but inevitably the wind and rain drove the attendees to seek shelter. After more than 30 minutes passed, college representatives improvised a set-up for graduates to make that walk across the stage.
“Our graduates worked hard to reach that milestone, so we were going to do all we could to make sure they had their rightful time to celebrate,” said Snead State President Dr. Joe Whitmore.
The podium was pushed to the back of the covered stage along with the table holding the blue diploma covers. Graduates were called to form a single line, and one by one, their names were called. Amid applause and cheers, they crossed the stage, received their diplomas from Dr. Whitmore and posed for photos while their loved ones and Snead State faculty and staff crowded on the stage to watch.
“It didn’t go quite as planned, but it was still a special moment for our graduates. And it was a special moment for us. Commencement is one of our favorite events of the year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to cancel last year’s live ceremony. It was important to us to have an in-person event this year. It was definitely one to remember,” said Dr. Whitmore.
This year’s Commencement was a special occasion not only for the graduates but also for Dr. Whitmore. At the beginning of the ceremony, Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees member Matthew Woods formally conferred Dr. Whitmore as the 12th President of Snead State Community College.
“In Dr. Whitmore, we found a leader, but more importantly, we found a man of great personal faith…During these challenging times, he has continued to focus on excellence even in economic uncertainty and a pandemic. We have found a leader in the truest sense of the word,” said Mr. Woods.
Mr. Woods closed the official investiture by presenting Dr. Whitmore with the President’s medallion.
“It is an honor for me to stand here today as the 12th President of such a great institution. I am truly humbled to be entrusted with the legacy of this great college, and I am excited as we pursue together the many great opportunities that lie before us.
“Over the past several months since being appointed to this position, many of you have heard me speak in some context about my personal calling and how I ended up at Snead. But today I do not want to talk about me. I want to talk not just about my calling, but our calling ‘together’ as Snead State Community College, in this time and this place, and how we will live out that calling together. Much like myself, I am sure all members of the Snead faculty and staff feel unique personal callings to their individual positions. But I believe it is especially important for us to discern what I will call our ‘Collective Calling’,” Dr. Whitmore said.
Dr. Whitmore compared the work of Snead State to that of a group of people in a rowboat, working together to move it in the direction they want to go. That type of teamwork is at the heart of the College’s Collective Calling to serve students.
“We are collectively called to this time and to this place. Being called to this time means Snead State must continue to do what we have done for almost 125 years — prepare our students with the tools to live both a fulfilled life as individuals and to be valued in the marketplace. We must continue to articulate passionately our belief in the value of continued education for both general education transfer students and career technical education students going directly into the workforce. And we must reject the narrative and the perception that education is somehow disconnected from the needs of our society and our community.”
While Dr. Whitmore addressed the calling of the College, the Commencement guest speaker addressed the graduates’ calling as they move on from Snead State. Congressman Robert Aderholt shared advice on persevering through life and on interacting with people who cross their paths.
“I’d like to give you a few simple lessons — I’d like to call them simple rules for human relations that I have run across…They’ve been around for a long time. If you try to put these simple rules into practice, you’ll be shocked at the rewards it will give you.
“The first is to take time to speak to people…The second thing is to take time to smile at people…A smile is the first thing you notice when you meet a person. It really makes a big impact. No. 3, call people by their name. No. 4, just be friendly and helpful to people whenever possible. No. 5, be kind to people. Speak and act like everything you do is a genuine pleasure. No. 6, be genuinely interested in other people. No. 7, be generous with your praise and be sparing of your criticism. No. 8, be considerate of the feelings of others. No. 9, have a good sense of humor, and No. 10, always be alert to give service to others.
“I want to add one more. Don’t overlook the importance of faith. Every one of us needs an abiding faith to get us through those tough times,” Congressman Aderholt said.
The evening was a time for honoring the success and achievement of students. Some of the graduates were also recognized as award recipients.
John David Hutchens of Horton received the Civitan Best All-Around Student Award. The Civitan Award is presented annually to the Best All-Around Student of the graduating class. To be eligible for this award, the student must have attended Snead State Community College for at least three semesters and attained a minimum cumulative academic average of 3.0 on a four-point scale. In addition, the student should have participated in extracurricular and community activities. The student is elected by a vote of the faculty from a list of eligible graduates who are participating in the graduation ceremonies.
Logan Edmonds of Guntersville and Sara Koonce of Fayetteville, Tenn., were awarded the James B. Allen Award. The award is presented annually to the Outstanding Student of the graduating class, but this year both students were chosen. This award is a gift of the late James B. Allen, United States Senator from Alabama. To be eligible for this award, the student must have exhibited outstanding qualities of leadership and service, attained a minimum cumulative academic average of 3.5, and attended Snead State Community College for at least three semesters. Recipients are elected by a vote of the faculty from a list of eligible graduates participating in the Spring ceremony.
Sara Koonce and Maddy Devin of Boaz were recognized as this year’s members of the All-Alabama Academic Team. The All-Alabama Scholarship program is a complement to the All-USA National Academic Team Program, which is sponsored by USA Today, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the American Association of Community Colleges.
Sara and other members of the Lady Parsons Softball Team as well as members of the Parson Baseball Team were presented their diplomas on Wednesday, May 5, at a special Commencement ceremony held at Snead’s ball fields. The baseball and softball graduates were unable to attend the traditional Commencement ceremony because they were traveling to compete in the NJCAA District Tournaments starting Friday, May 7.