By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
Roane State’s unique drive-through graduate recognition events produced “absolute joy in the form of laughter, smiles and tears of happiness,” college administrator Teresa Duncan said.
The events were held at eight Roane State Community College campuses May 12-16 as a way of congratulating the college’s graduates while campuses were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those graduates were invited to drive to campuses during scheduled hours to be commended for their achievements in a setting featuring recommended safety precautions. Signs pointed the way to the event, marked by a tent and well-wishers standing by, some shaking pom-poms and all offering congratulations.
Students and their families received Class of 2020 yard signs noting their achievement, along with college memorabilia. Cupcakes baked by an alumnus were also handed out. Roane State President Chris Whaley, Duncan and other college administrators, faculty and staff members were on hand at each event.
Several county and city mayors, two state representatives, Roane State Foundation members and residents were among other attendees.
Roane State President Chris Whaley had his picture taken with each graduate and asked each one about their Roane State experiences and their future plans. “He didn’t introduce himself as the president,” Duncan said. “He’s so humble.”
“I was so moved at how appreciative the students have been for these events, and we’ve had fun cheering them on,” said Duncan, vice president of workforce and community development.
Duncan said Sharon Wilson, site director at the Scott County campus, suggested the drive-through events, and plans for them quickly jelled.
“We’re so thankful to the Roane State Foundation for providing Class of 2020 yard signs for us to distribute at our campuses,” Whaley said. “Since Commencement has been temporarily delayed, this was an opportunity for us to congratulate our graduates in person.”
“It’s been wonderful hearing them describe just how much Roane State means to them and to hear their plans for the future. I’d like to thank our staff and faculty for organizing and participating in these incredible events,” Whaley added.
Officials used the events as an opportunity to conduct informal polls of many of the approximately 300 graduates who attended the events. They were asked if they would attend a formal in-person graduation ceremony if the Tennessee Board of Regents approved it. Duncan said the graduates “overwhelmingly” wanted to attend, and they wanted it to be held in July if possible. Plans for Roane State’s official commencement ceremony will be announced soon.
Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit www.roanestate.edu.
Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.