Brevard College Holds 166th Commencement Ceremony


The rain held off and the sun was shining bright in time for graduates and their families to embrace the joy of Brevard College’s commencement ceremony. One-hundred and eleven eager and fresh-faced college students crossed the stage to claim their award for four years of hard work: A Brevard College diploma.

“The most significant recognition we bestow today is the Brevard College diploma itself —for it signifies a level of education that the vast majority of people in this world, and even in this country, will never have the opportunity to reach,” said BC President David Joyce in his welcome to the graduates.

By 9 a.m., the Betty Neal Academic Quadrangle was filled with the sounds of a bagpiper piping while a sea of black regalia greeted beaming parents awaiting the College’s 166th Commencement Ceremony.  

“We come here this morning to salute the outstanding achievements of the graduating Class of 2019, a class that has clearly made its mark on our college in so many important ways,” Joyce said.   

The 2019 graduating class has earned an impressive collection of accolades too many to mention, both as seniors and throughout their years at Brevard College.  During their tenure, this class took Brevard College’s motto – “Learn in Order to Serve” – to heart and provided the community with over ten thousand hours of community service in their four-year span. As students, they replicated scientific studies, wrote manuscripts, produced films, and built communities through clubs and service organizations, and so much more.

Brevard College student-athletes showed their strength in numbers. The Women’s Soccer team, graduating six seniors, earned the highest GPA for all athletic teams. Two seniors were inducted into the National Football Foundation Hampshire Honors Society. Both male and female Athletes of the Year broke career and single-season records and received honors for their performances on and off the field.

The direct, hands-on experiences and focused reflection these graduates received has led to an internship at Disney,  acceptance to and assistantships at several esteemed graduate schools, and jobs within a police department, touring with a theater company, and positions at the Brevard Music Center.

Transylvania and nearby counties can claim 18 of these newly minted graduates, while the rest traveled from 15 states and six foreign countries (Canada, Japan, France, and Germany) to make Brevard their home.

With just 703 students, Brevard College remains purposefully small in order to offer unique and challenging experiential learning opportunities for all students. The College employs 52 full-time faculty and 190 full-time staff.

While most colleges invite a prominent guest speaker at graduation ceremonies, Brevard College stays true to its mission to engage its students in the process and encourage personal growth by choosing two outstanding seniors to speak at Commencement.

Haley Putnam and Megan Orr are this year’s commencement speakers.

Putnam, a native of Brevard earned her degree in Psychology with minors in Health Science Studies and Environmental Studies. She is a member of the Institute for Women in Leadership and the Brevard College Honors Program, Psi Chi, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Alpha Chi. Putnam will pursue a Master of Public Health degree at Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

“As I stand here looking out at all of you; my fellow classmates, faculty, staff, and all of our friends, and families, I feel nothing but joy and gratitude,” said Putnam. “The many experiences we’ve had here have allowed us to learn new skills, and establish friendships & connections that will last a lifetime. Thanks to the amazing people here at Brevard College, this place has truly become our home.”

Megan Orr, a Biology Major from Cullowhee, NC, also pursued minors in health science studies and natural history. She is a member of the Institute for Women in Leadership and has served on the steering committee for two years. Orr is an honors student and a member of Tri-Beta, Alpha Chi, and Omicron Delta Kappa honors societies. She has served as a teaching assistant, peer tutor, and supplemental instructor in the Sciences. She is a founding member and Vice President of the Brevard College Biology Club.

“Make no mistake about it, while we are ready for small moments which are the building blocks of our relationships, the class of 2019 is ready to face those challenges that confront us,” Megan affirmed to her classmates. “It is all these moments which add up to make a life worth living. Right now, we all have a unique opportunity to do new things. Maybe, we will not all change the world, but we can change our lives, the lives of others for the positive every day. We are the class of 2019!”

Following the student commencement speakers, three graduates were recognized by Dr. R. Scott Sheffield for academic excellence. Haley Putnam, Caroline Safford, and Jessica Wiegandt all won the Presidential Award for Scholarship. Lance Perl received the C. Edward and Brona N. Roy Good Citizenship Award, and Haley Putnam and Jessica Wiegant both received the Presidential Award for Distinction. This special award goes to graduates who show outstanding leadership, service, and academic achievement.

And then one by one, 111 Brevard College seniors crossed the stage and the first of many rites of passage in their lives.  

No longer “Guarded Well by Mountains,” as the traditional Brevard College hymn goes, the graduates were released out into the world to embrace new lives and new adventures.

President Joyce offered his traditional charge to the Class of 2019:

“And now, members of the Class of 2019, it is time for you to head off to the new careers and the new lives you will be fashioning for yourselves,” Joyce said. “We trust that you leave here a better version of yourself because of your time at Brevard College.”

Brevard College is consistently recognized as one of the best liberal arts colleges. The College’s focus on experiential learning, small class sizes, and location the mountains of Western North Carolina near Asheville makes Brevard a top choice college for students around the world.