Catawba College Awards Degrees at Annual Commencement

Catawba College awarded baccalaureate degrees to 208 graduates, Class of 2021, at three separate ceremonies on May 15, 2021, in Keppel Auditorium on campus. The in-person ceremonies followed safety rules that the College has had in place for the past two academic years, while holding in-person class...

Catawba College awarded baccalaureate degrees to 208 graduates, Class of 2021, at three separate ceremonies on May 15, 2021, in Keppel Auditorium on campus. The in-person ceremonies followed safety rules that the College has had in place for the past two academic years, while holding in-person classes during the pandemic.

The ceremony, billed as the 169th and 170th commencement, included the Class of 2020, who were invited to walk at this event, since the College was unable to have a physical ceremony in 2020. The 2020 graduates were presented first at each of the three ceremonies. The ceremonies, held at 10 a.m., for graduates of the School of Arts and Sciences and School of Performing Arts; 2 p.m., for graduates of the School of Education and the School of Health Science and Human Performance; and 4 p.m., for graduates of the Ketner School of Business.

The services in Keppel, for graduates and invited guests with tickets, were livestreamed in Tom Smith Auditorium, Omwake-Dearborn Chapel, and Leonard Lounge. They ae also online on the Catawba website, the College Facebook page, and the YouTube channel for those who were unable to attend. 

Three special awards were presented during the ceremonies, and two retiring faculty members were recognized for their service to the institution. 

albertoborges.jpgOryan Malul of Rishon LeZion, Israel, and Alberto Borges of Nairobi, Kenya, were presented as the female and male recipients of the prestigious Whitener Awards. These awards have been presented each year since 1927 during the graduation exercises to honor the woman and man in the graduating class who embody, to a high degree, the qualities of good character, leadership, and scholarship. Recipients are nominated, with final selections made by the faculty. The awards are made in memory of Dr. Edgar Whitener of High Point, North Carolina, who served as a trustee of Catawba College from 1921 to 1966 and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1925 to 1944. 

Peter Lozano of Charlotte received the Barbara Andrews Medal, presented to the graduating senior in the Distance and Online Program who most successfully embodies the attributes of character, leadership and scholarship. This award was established and named in honor of Barbara Andrews of Salisbury, the first director of this Program at Catawba College. Selection for this award is made by the Catawba College faculty from the six graduating seniors in the program with the highest grade point averages. Students eligible are those who have attended Catawba for at least two years and have earned a cumulative grade point average of at least a 3.5.

Dr. Constance Rogers-Lowery, College Provost, recognized retiring faculty members Dr. James K. Stringfield, Jr., Professor of Education, and Dr. Douglas K. Brown, Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. 

Dr. Stringfield joined Catawba in 1997 as an Associate Professor of Teacher Education and was named to head Teacher Education at the College in 1998. He was named Professor of Teacher Education in 2005. In 2009, he was named dean of the Goodman School of Education with responsibilities for both teacher education and physical education departments. A former high school science teacher, he came to Catawba from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he served as Associate Professor and Coordinator of secondary education, Program Director of Science Education, and Director of the UPJ Center for Mathematics and Science Education. He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill. 

During his tenure at Catawba, he successfully collaborated with colleagues in leading the unit through two highly successful continuing accreditation visits from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI). 

He also re-established science education programs in biology, chemistry, comprehensive science, and middle grades science in cooperation with faculty from science and teacher education and worked with Environmental Science faculty to establish a new major in Environmental Education in 2006-2007. Working with faculty and Academic Computing, he expanded the educational computing laboratory. He was also successful in collaborating with colleagues to win a number of grants, including those from the Proctor Foundation, Duke Power, and AT&T.

In fall 2006, the department received a $250,000 grant from an anonymous donor to establish the Shirley Peeler Ritchie Academy for Teaching. Dr. Stringfield was recipient of the Clifford C. and Lillian A. Peeler Professor Endowed professorship in 2006. Previous honors include being named North Carolina's Outstanding Biology Teacher, sponsored by the National Association of Biology Teachers in 1988 and honored as a "Teacher's Teacher" by area educators at a banquet sponsored by an ad hoc committee of colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 1997. Dr. Stringfield has conducted numerous workshops as well as presented at local, state, and national conferences.


Dr. Brown has taught 13 years at Catawba, and before that, 19 years at the Altoona College of Penn State and three years at Livingstone College. His research is in Reverse Mathematics, the study of axioms necessary to prove the fundamental theorems of Mathematics. He has spent 20 years as a part-time paramedic. He holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. 

Dr. Maria Vandergriff-Avery, Director of the College Honors Program, recognized honor graduates Abigail Birkhead, Caroline Forrester and Alex Johnson. Dr. Vandergriff-Avery also presented the College Honors Program scholars and their thesis titles, including: Jordan Giffin - A Man Chooses: Examining Bioshock as an Extension of Political and Science Fiction Literature to Analyze and Critique Political Ideology; Brielle Jobe - Found in Translation: Multi-Lingual Theatre in the Fight Against Xenophobia; Heidi Mueller - Short-Term Effects of COVID-19 on Athletic Departments in North Carolina; Michaela Patterson - Shuns, Germs, and Meals: How Social Stigma Influences Disease Transmission in Human Populations; Hannah Ryan  - Are all Post-Colonial States with Ethnic Polarization Destined for Civil War?; Natalie Standard / Swimming with Autism: The Benefits Beyond a Good Workout; and Neha Sudhakar - Nostalgia for an Unknown Homeland: Bollywood Music and Second-Generation Indian American Identity.

Junior Marshals were Jennifer Chambers, Bailey Benton, Kimberly Betancourt, Victoria Hunter, Caleigh Kenna-Shadrick, Emily Phillips, Matthew Smith, Julia Southern, and Mary Wall. 

Also participating were the Catawba College Brass Ensemble, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Clapp, ’70, Chaplain and Senior Vice President; Adwoa Ofori-Gyau, Senior Class President; William “Bill” Graham, ’83, Chair of the Catawba Board of Trustees; Dr. Vandergriff-Avery, Faculty Senate Chair; and Johnathon Boles, ’16, Staff Council Chair. 

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