ELKINS - About 200 graduating students attended a baccalaureate service Friday night at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins.
The event, which kicked off commencement weekend, included music, scripture, the presentation of hoods to students and guest speaker Heather Goodwin Henline, The Inter-Mountain's publisher and general manager.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Joseph Roidt said the presentation of the hoods is a special moment for the students and the faculty.
Graduate Treavor Dubiel, left, hugs his new fiancee, Kristen Justice, during the presentation of hoods at the Davis & Elkins College Baccalaureate Service Friday night at the McDonnell Center on the college campus. Dubiel proposed to Justice during the event. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean)
"Our purpose in gathering here is to recognize the achievements of all our graduates," Roidt said.
"Baccalaureate allows us to recognize the relationships between our students and faculty."
For the presentation of hoods, each student was given the opportunity to select a professor, faculty member or school employee who has influenced them throughout their college career.
The hooding concluded with Criminology and Psychology & Human Services Major Treavor Dubiel proposing to his girlfriend, Kristen Justice. Much to the delight of the crowd and Dubiel, she said, "Yes."
The hooding portion of the ceremony was immediately preceded by the keynote address in which Goodwin Henline spoke to students about "The Power of One." As she explained, it means that while an individual can have support from family and friends, only he or she can make success happen.
"For those of you who have taken advantage of all D&E has to offer, I believe you are well-prepared to begin authoring the next chapter in the book we call life. But before we look ahead, let's ponder a moment all you have accomplished," Goodwin Henline said. "Your hard work and determination have gotten you to this amazing milestone in life - completion of your college education. Whether you choose to pursue the world of work or to continue on the path of higher education or some other life choice, no one and nothing ever can take away what you have accomplished by earning your degree."
Goodwin Henline encouraged students to go forward in life and to make a difference wherever and whenever possible.
"As tomorrow's leaders, I want to encourage D&E's graduates to not be afraid to stand up for what is right and just, even if you are the only one in a sea of many to do so. What you do - and sometimes your failure to take action - can have a ripple effect that lasts a lifetime," she said.
"Be the change you seek, the dream you dream, the shining star in a sometimes dark world. Illuminate through action," Goodwin Henline concluded.
The service came to a close with a benediction and words of wisdom to the students from Benfield-Vick Chaplain The Rev. Kevin Starcher.
"To the graduating class of 2014, this is your last night as a student," Starcher said. "You are surrounded by family, friends and loved ones. Soak it all in."