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‘Lead bold and thrilling lives’ – Furman celebrates Commencement for the class of 2021

A member of the Class of 2021 waves during Commencement 2021.

View a gallery of photos from commencement
Read commencement speech by Angela Walker Franklin ’81
Read commencement speech by Jacqueline Elizabeth Faustin ’21

2021 student and faculty awards
2021 Senior Spotlights
View the archived livestream here

Just after 7:30 on Saturday evening May 8, after hundreds of seniors had taken their seats in Paladin Stadium and the invocation was delivered, Furman President Elizabeth Davis officially welcomed students, families and guests to the university’s 2021 Commencement.

“We’re delighted that family and friends are here to share this evening with the undergraduate and graduate degree candidates, who are the stars of this show,” Davis said to those assembled in the stadium, as well as the hundreds watching an online livestream. “We’re able to gather tonight because of our campus community’s resilience and the tremendous care that you showed each other over one of the most challenging years that any of us have faced.”

The students had assembled to line up and make final adjustments to their regalia before beginning the procession into the stadium at 7 p.m., as the Furman Symphonic Band played Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” under sunny skies.

Nan Frances Perry ’21 presented the Senior Gift, the Class of 2021 Joseph A. Vaughn Scholarship, providing aid to incoming Black students from the Upstate.

Davis, along with Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Kenneth Peterson and Board of Trustees Chair P. Edwin Good ’67, then began the awards presentation. Awards included the General Excellence Awards, the Scholarship Cup, and the Alester G. Furman Jr. and Janie Earle Furman Awards for Meritorious Teaching and Advising.

Jacqueline Elizabeth Faustin ’21 delivered the student address, noting that she and her classmates had triumphed over a series of challenges, including a reckoning with racial injustice and COVID-19.

“I won’t sugarcoat it: Our class persevered through many traumas during our time at Furman,” she said. “However, the gratitude I have that we went to a school like Furman is insurmountable. … I can only hope that each of us find communities in our next season that give us a soft place to land, as Furman has time and time again.”

After receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, Angela Walker Franklin ’81, the 15th president of Des Moines University in Iowa, stepped to the podium to address the graduates.

“It feels so good to be back on campus,” said Franklin, who recalled traveling to Furman from her hometown of McCormick, South Carolina, to attend summer band camps. “My Furman roots run deep, and I bleed purple!”

Acknowledging the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and congratulating the graduates for their “dedication and resiliency,” she urged them to look to 2021 and beyond.

“Today, I want us to lift our heads with pride and celebrate what we expect from all of you: a promising and accomplished future,” she said, as the sun began to set over the stadium.

The class of 2021 “will be the thinkers, writers, scholars, artists, designers, scientists and more who will secure the health and well-being of future generations,” she said. “Pursuing your ambitions, your dreams, while at the same time living model lives built on sound ethical foundations, will be our salvation.”

In the final moments of her speech, Franklin told attendees: “Lead bold and thrilling lives to the fullest.”

Following an ovation from the students and their family and friends in the stands, Davis rose again for the conferring of degrees. As the candidates filed across the stage and Dean of Faculty Jeremy Cass announced their names, the university president handed out fist-bumps – along with more than 500 Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Liberal Arts, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science and Education Specialist degrees.

“I hereby confer upon each of you the appropriate degree with all of its rights and responsibilities,” Davis told the graduates. “Congratulations!”

When the whoops and cheers from the graduates and their guests had subsided, Davis continued.

“Remember that Furman is not something you leave behind. This university and your experience here will affect your life and your soul forever,” she said. “We send you forth with great pride and affection. May you continue to thrive, prosper and grow. Good luck and godspeed.”

After the Alma Mater and a benediction under the lights of Paladin Stadium, the postlude began, and the class of 2021 rose from their seats as Furman’s latest alumni, ready to commence their bold and thrilling lives.

 

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