Bridgewater College was pleased to celebrate the Classes of 2021 and 2020 during a series of in-person commencement ceremonies May 1 and 2 on the campus mall. In accordance with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s capacity limits for commencements with regards to COVID-19 guidelines, the College held six commencement ceremonies for both undergraduate and graduate students over the two days. Students in the Class of 2021 were honored in one of four ceremonies Saturday, and students in the Class of 2020 were honored in one of two ceremonies on Sunday.
The College maintained COVID-19 protocols during all ceremonies including requiring everyone on campus to wear masks and to adhere to 10 feet of social distancing. Each student received three tickets for guests to attend their commencement ceremony. And every ceremony was livestreamed so that additional family members and friends could watch the graduation virtually.
Approximately 321 undergraduate and 32 graduate students from the Class of 2021 received degrees at the ceremonies. Dr. David W. Bushman, president of Bridgewater College, conferred the degrees.
This year’s commencement speaker was Dr. Stephen L. Longenecker, Edwin L. Turner Distinguished Professor of History at the College. A distinguished scholar of religious history, Longenecker is retiring from Bridgewater College at the end of the 2020-21 academic year after 32 years as a professor in the Department of History and Political Science.
In his address, titled “It is a Small School,” Longenecker paid tribute to the Bridgewater experience and reflected on the ways the community has persevered through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The title of Longenecker’s address is based on Daniel Webster’s famous statement before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1818 when he represented Dartmouth College in a case about contract law: “It is, sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it!”
“Despite the unique circumstances of the small-college experience experienced by the Class of ’21, I encourage you to value your accomplishment,” Longenecker said. “You received a first-class small-college education like every other class in the history of Bridgewater College in circumstances much unlike those of any other class in the history of Bridgewater College.”
At Bridgewater, Longenecker received the Martha B. Thornton Faculty Recognition Award in 2003 and the Faculty Scholarship Award in 2011, recognizing both his classroom teaching and extensive scholarship and publication record.
The author of six books focused on American religious history, along with numerous articles, book reviews and papers in his field, Longenecker was also recognized with the Award of Merit by the Pennsylvania German Society in 2007 and received the Nelson R. Burr Prize in 2019 from the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church.
Among the 321 undergraduate students in the Class of 2021, 137 earned bachelor of arts degrees and 134 earned bachelor of science degrees. Eighteen members of the undergraduate class graduated summa cum laude—the top academic honor, which requires students to achieve at least a 3.9 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. Thirty-two graduates earned magna cum laude honors—a 3.7 or better average. Cum laude honors, requiring a 3.4 grade point average, were earned by 65 graduates.
For the first time, Bridgewater College graduated students from four different master’s programs. Three students graduated with a master of science in psychology—mental health professions; five students graduated with a master of arts in digital media strategy; 13 students graduated with a master of science in athletic training; and 11 students graduated with a master of science in human resource management.