“With 2020 behind us and 2021 half over, this group of graduates has had to be more resilient, more determined, and more patient than those before them.”

Those were the words of Spoon River College faculty association president Todd Thompson, giving a nod to the disruption caused by the pandemic as he addressed graduates and viewers via video during the virtual ceremony that aired on YouTube May 14 in celebration of the College’s 60th commencement.

SRC student Bailey Norton did the same when she spoke. “I think I can speak on behalf of the entire student body when I say that we never imagined we would be attending class every day with a mask on our face, or even taking part in a virtual graduation. We are living through history each and every day.”

Despite it not being a traditional ceremony, graduates were still honored and awards were still presented.

Dean Missy Wilkinson recognized students who were nominated to the All-USA Academic Team and also named to the Phi Theta Kappa All-Illinois Academic Team. Chosen on the basis of academic achievement, volunteer work, campus activities, honors and awards, this year’s All-Illinois Academic Team members were transfer students Madison Draughn and Travaughn Miller, and career and technical education students Aja Lawson and Devon Simpson. Simpson was also recognized for being named a 2021 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar, the first of its kind to support students as they plan to enter the workforce upon the completion of a degree or certificate.

Recognized for academic excellence were Phi Theta Kappa members who have maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA while at Spoon River College. Those students were Piper Denny, Madison Draughn, Desiray Meyer, Sophia Oaks, Caitlin Patterson, and Ethan Stambaugh.

Student Achievement Award recipients, announced by Dean Holly Norton and Dean Brad O’Brien, were transfer student Travaughn Miller, and career and technical education student Alex Schmidt.  These awards are given to students who show individual initiative, personal development, and have made progress toward their achievement of goals, along with participation and success in college extracurricular activities.

Following the student awards, President Oldfield recognized faculty members for teaching excellence.

Michael Maher, sociology faculty, received the Illinois Community College Trustee Association Full-Time Faculty Award. “Besides teaching excellence, this award recognizes the ability of a teacher to take a personal interest in students, and to inspire enthusiasm through their teaching techniques,” said Oldfield.

Sarah Strode, nursing faculty, was the recipient of the H. Truman Standard Award. “Besides teaching excellence, this award recognizes meritorious service to the institution and displaying the College’s core values of caring, respect, integrity, fairness, and responsibility,” Oldfield said.

In closing, President Oldfield talked about the changes and challenges brought about by the pandemic. “Two of the many lessons we have learned during this COVID pandemic are resilience and adaptability. Being able to adapt to any circumstance you are faced with is a skill that will take you far in your life. You have been asked to adapt to change and embrace uncertainty. I am confident that the knowledge you have gained from your instructors and self-confidence you have developed will help each of you continue to be successful.”

The virtual commencement can be viewed on the Spoon River College YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/SpoonRiverCollege.

In addition, three stage walk-throughs were held May 11 for students who wanted the opportunity to wear their cap and gown and receive their diplomas with a limited numbers of family present. That event can also be viewed on the College’s YouTube channel, and additional pictures have been posted on the Spoon River College Facebook page.