PCC to Celebrate Class of ’21 Virtually Due to COVID

Warren Cupola set against cloudy blue sky.

WINTERVILLE—For the second consecutive spring, the coronavirus pandemic will keep Pitt Community College from holding an in-person ceremony to celebrate its graduates.

Instead of gathering in Williams Arena on the campus of East Carolina, PCC has created a virtual commencement program to honor the 1,432 graduates who earned a combined 2,022 degrees, diplomas and certificates during the 2020-21 academic year. It will go live on the PCC website May 11 at 8 a.m.

“Graduation is a time-honored tradition that I look forward to each spring, so it’s disappointing that this year’s ceremony won’t take place in person,” PCC President Lawrence Rouse said. “Though I’ll miss seeing the sea of PCC Blue that forms as our graduates enter the arena and the smiles on their faces as they cross the stage to the cheers of family and friends, I’m grateful technology has given us a way celebrate the PCC Class of 2021, because they’ve certainly earned it.”

This year’s virtual ceremony will feature recorded remarks from Rouse and PCC Trustees Chairman Gary Evans. Thomas Stith III, who became president of the 58-member N.C. Community College System on Jan. 11, will serve as commencement speaker.

Stith, who toured Pitt’s campus April 7, took the helm of the nation’s third-largest community college system after spending two decades in public service and business in North Carolina, including four years as chief of staff to former Gov. Pat McCrory. His familiarity with the eastern part of the state comes from the five years he spent working to improve its economy as economic development program director at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Marching Order, a California-based company specializing in graduation planning, has established the framework for PCC’s online commencement. Students were invited to upload photos and special messages that will be displayed during the program along with their academic achievements, such as special awards and participation in student clubs and organizations.

“While it’s not the commencement we were all hoping for this spring, the virtual ceremony will still honor our graduates for reaching a significant educational milestone,” said PCC Graduation Specialist Emily Davis. “We’ve done our best to make the virtual event as similar to the in-person program as possible. A professional announcer will call each graduate’s name, and each member of the graduating class was given a chance to order a cap and gown, diploma cover and honor cords as keepsakes or to use in the photo they submitted for the ceremony.”

Once the link to PCC’s virtual graduation is live, Davis says the ceremony will be available for viewing for one year. She added that graduates will be able to download their individual slides from the presentation to share on social media.