Wiley College seniors returned to campus on Saturday for the first time since last spring, to walk across the stage and earn their diplomas as part of the university’s 132nd commencement ceremony.

The first to celebrate senior graduation in Harrison County, Wiley College awarded 102 graduates their degrees on Saturday.

“As Wiley-ites, you are expected to be a beacon of light in the communities where you live, work and serve,” Wiley College Chairman of the Board Walter Sutton Jr. said Saturday. “It is our expectation that you will do so with distinction.”

Wiley College President Herman Felton Jr. introduced Keynote Speaker Rev. Matthew Whatley who congratulated the students on their hard work to continue their studies throughout the pandemic.

“Let’s celebrate that not even a global pandemic by COVID-19 could stop you from getting your degree and walking across the stage,” Whatley said. “According to the 2021 Census Report, bachelor degree attainment is at an all time high at 32 percent of Americans 25 or older. In the workforce, you now become one out of three. That means this is not the end, that’s why they call this ceremony a commencement. We are just getting started.”

Whatley then told a story from Kobe Bryant’s successful basketball career about keeping an eye on the goal.

“Kobe Bryant understood the goal was not winning the game, the goal was winning the championship,” Whatley said. “He understood there was still so much more work to do. You still have some more work to do.

“This day, receiving a diploma, does not necessarily make you special but what does make you special is the last four or five years on this campus makes you special. The hustle you had to master each semester makes you special. The friendships you made that you will carry through life make you special and it’s the swag of knowing that you graduated from the home of the Great Debaters. You are a Wildcat. Most of all, it’s knowing that you have been fearfully and wonderfully made and that greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world — that’s what makes you special.”

Next up, East Texas Baptist University students will earn their degrees and certifications during two separate commencement ceremonies set for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on May 8 at the university’s Rogers Spiritual Life Center.

Elysian Fields High School will be the first of the area high schools to have its students walk the stage and take their diplomas during a ceremony set for 7 p.m. on May 14 at Yellowjacket Stadium.

Three area high schools will all celebrate on one big night when Marshall High School hosts its ceremony at 7:30 p.m. on May 21 at Maverick Stadium and both Waskom and Jefferson High Schools host their ceremonies at 8 p.m. on May 21 at Wildcat Stadium and Bulldog Stadium, respectively.

Texas Early College High School in Marshall students will celebrate their high school graduation at 2 p.m. on May 22 at the Panola College campus in the Q.M. Martin Auditorium. Panola College will host a virtual graduation ceremony only on May 6.

Both Hallsville and Harleton High Schools will celebrate senior graduation at 8 p.m. on May 28 at Bobcat Stadium and Wildcat Stadium, respectively.

Texas State Technical College in Marshall celebrated its spring 2021 commencement with a virtual ceremony last week.

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