WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Dec. 10, 2022 — Despite the gloomy December weather West Liberty University graduates enjoyed a joyous celebration of Fall Commencement today in the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex (ASRC). One-hundred and sixty graduates made up today’s graduating class.
The 11 a.m. ceremony began with a welcome and congratulations delivered by Dr. W. Franklin Evans, WLU President. Evans thanked both the graduates and their family members and friends for trusting and choosing West Liberty University.
Interim Provost Dr. Cathy Monteroso then introduced special guests, including the keynote speaker Arlene Brantley, who serves on the WLU Board of Governors.
Fellow Board of Governor member and alumnus David McKinley next provided brief comments from the board.
Student speaker Austin Pyles, then delivered his commencement speech. Pyles is from New Martinsville, W.Va. and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Exercise Physiology from the College of Education and Human Performance.
“I would like to take a moment to recognize the outstanding professors that have helped us to have the honor of sitting in these seats today, because without these instructors, we would not have made it this far. Thank you all very much and please keep up the great work,” Pyles stated.
He commended his fellow graduates and wished them the best in their future endeavors. He concluded by saying:
“Thank you, faculty and fellow peers for being along for the journey, such as enriching everybody’s academic experience and making the Hilltop a warm, cozy home for this great, big family. So, for the last time, as an undergraduate student: Go Toppers!”
Brantley next delivered her commencement comments. A Google strategic account executive who resides in Atlanta, Ga., she began by referencing the fact that most of the graduates were born about the time of 9/11 tragedy and also had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic crisis.
Brantley congratulated the class for pushing on and adapting to the virtual world of the pandemic. She referred to the poem, “The Road Not Taken,” written by Robert Frost and its reference to “the road less traveled.”
“It takes a special person born into a world with such challenges to step into your greatness,” she said.
“To celebrate you, the class of 2022, of West Liberty University. It is a privilege to be here. You are the change agents as you venture on this road less traveled,” Brantley stated. “Everyone of you have innate gifts. You are agents of change, grounded in a rich West Liberty Hilltopper experience.”
Brantley then referred to her childhood in Trinidad and her fear of the water buffalo as she walked to school. But her dad told her, “Focus on your books and it will take you very far. Take advantage of this opportunity. … He instilled in me that education is the door to opportunity. Education challenges new ways of thinking and has the capacity to change lives.”
Brantley concluded by repeating a theme that she made earlier in the speech, quoting the words of internationally acclaimed author Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
President W. Franklin Evans conferred an honorary doctoral degree on Brantley after the announcement of student honors.
After the formal presentation of the Class of 2022, degrees were conferred on all graduates, both undergraduate and master degree students.
Following this, 2021 Alumnus Jonathan Howard delivered greetings from the Office of Alumni Affairs.
The ceremony was enhanced by the music provided throughout the ceremony by both the University Concert Band, under the direction of Dr. Alvin Simpson, and the WLU Singers, under the direction of Dr. Douglas McCall.
The Commencement ceremonies were streamed live on Topper Station and were broadcast live on social media for those unable to attend. (For replay, please visit topperstation.com.)
A reception followed the ceremony and was held in the Bear’s Den (cafeteria).