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Benedict College Celebrates the Class of 2020 with a Successful “Socially Distant” Commencement

The 150th Commencement Convocation was livestreamed on the Benedict College website and YouTube channel. The ceremony was viewed by over 15,000 people.

COLUMBIA, SC – August 10, 2020 – Benedict College celebrated the Class of 2020 Saturday, August 8, 2020, with a commencement ceremony unlike any other in the college’s 150-year history. The school’s first-ever graduate only commencement ceremony was live streamed on Benedict College’s newly created YouTube channel and could be viewed on its website and social media pages.

Graduates, faculty, platform guests and volunteers arrived early to the Charlie W. Johnson stadium in time to have their temperatures checked prior to entry. Checking the temperatures of each person who enters any Benedict College property is one of many new safety protocols in place on the campus, including universal Covid-19 testing.

The ceremony began at 7p.m., with 143 of the more than 240 graduates in attendance for the historic ceremony.  Those who were unable to attend, were also acknowledged during the ceremony.  Their names were called along with the degree earned and photos were shown on the screens for every student who provided them in advance. 

Craig A. Williams, a distinguished Benedict Alumnus, was the keynote speaker. Williams currently serves as the President of the Michael Jordan Brand at NIKE, Inc. In this role, he leads the vision, strategy, and growth of the multi-billion-dollar global brand. “From freshman year to Zoom College, you made it!” said Williams, who graduated from Benedict in 1990 with a degree in Physics. “At Benedict College, I learned to be comfortable in my skin.”  He encouraged the graduates to dream so big that it scared them and reminded the Tigers that they are the heirs of an awesome legacy. “You have a responsibility to speak up when you see something that is not right, speak up and stand tall.” Williams was conferred the Doctor of Business degree (D.B) and was hooded by his wife, Gloria Williams, who is also a Benedict Alumna.  The couple met on the campus of Benedict College.

“To God be the glory for the things he has done on this day and always in your lives,” said Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, President and CEO of Benedict College. “Your Benedict College – the HBCU the put the ‘BC’ H-B-C-U, loves you and congratulates you!”

The custom-designed “T” shaped stage allowed for Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, President and CEO of Benedict College to safely seat with the platform guests six feet apart and then later walk down the runway-like portion of the stage to congratulate the students as they received their degrees on a separate platform six feet away. The two stages allowed every graduate to take the customary picture with the College President, thus continuing the 150-year old tradition.

Benedict’s recently installed state of the art 23’x 43’ video scoreboard was perfect for the viewing of several video presentations including a tribute to a fallen tiger, Donovan Smalls, whose parents received his degree posthumously.  The final video presentation was the official induction into the Benedict College National Alumni Association (BCNAA) by its President, Patricia Ackason.

The ceremony concluded with a spectacular fireworks show that filled the stadium sky with an array of bright colors.  The fireworks were a special addition to the ceremony and were a complete surprise to the graduates. According to Dr. Artis, “the College wanted to go the extra mile for the students and families. Our students earned the opportunity to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas.  With a little creativity and a lot of careful planning, we made it happen and I couldn’t be more proud.”

About Benedict College

Founded in 1870 by a woman, Bathsheba A. Benedict, Benedict College is a private co-educational liberal arts institution with over 2,100 students enrolled in its 25 baccalaureate degree programs. Defying trends, Benedict College maintains an equal male and female student population. This Midlands HBCU welcomes students from all 46 counties in South Carolina, 30 states across America, and 26 countries around the world. 

Benedict offers several high-demand fields of study in STEM, Cyber Security, Mass Communication, Sport Management, Business Administration, Engineering, Computer Science, Biology, and Education. The College also has a diverse faculty of which 80 percent are full-time, and 60 percent hold doctorates or the equivalent. 

Over the past ten years, three out of five Benedict College graduates have attended professional or graduate schools. There are over 17,000 proud Benedict Tigers throughout the nation. Benedict College has been a community leader for over 150-years and is a significant contributor to South Carolina and the region. Contributing $130 million and 1,218 jobs in total local and annual economic impact, a Benedict graduate working full-time throughout his or her working life can expect to earn $1.1 million in additional income because of their Benedict College degree. 

The College made front-page news in the spring of 2018 when it became the first South Carolina college to lower its tuition by 26 percent. Cutting tuition drew praise from the Commission on Higher Education, South Carolina’s education oversight body. The commissioner noted that the move Benedict College made should be applauded because it offers families affordability and students greater access to higher education. 

Benedict College has been highly regarded and exceptionally ranked for its programs by several academic and traditional publications.  For example, Benedict College was ranked as one of the top baccalaureate colleges in the nation by Washington Monthly magazine for creating social mobility and producing cutting-edge scholarship and research.  In  2019,  Benedict  College received  the  2019 ACE/ Fidelity Investments Awards for Institutional Transformation and was named the HBCU of the Year  by HBCU Digest

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