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Heather Frances Humphries was one of more than 200 graduates who participated in commencement exercises at West Virginia Wesleyan College Saturday, May 7. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree at age 84. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

One nontraditional WVWC student shows it’s never too late to graduate at 131st Bobcat commencement

BUCKHANNON – On Saturday, May 7, West Virginia Wesleyan College Class of 2022 graduates gathered with faculty, staff, family members, friends and esteemed guests to celebrate the college’s 131st commencement.

Among the more than 200 degree candidates was one student who was particularly proud to be graduating with her Master of Fine Arts degree – 63 years after earning her first degree. Heather Frances Humphries earned her first degree from the University of Maryland in 1959.

“I have been a journalist all of my life,” Humphries said Saturday at the ceremony. “A few years ago, I tried to write some fiction and I thought it was just terrible. I thought I needed to get some help and when I learned about West Virginia Wesleyan College and their low residency program, I decided to enroll.”

Humphries decided to take the jump and become a student at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where her experience could best be described as ‘wonderful.’

“It has been absolutely wonderful,” she said. “Most of my classes were through Zoom and it was my first time working with that.”

When asked what her favorite part of her journey was, Humphries said she was fortunate to have had the most wonderful advisors.

“Doug VanGundy has just been great,” Humphries said. “Some of the advisors you work with have been mind-blowing. You email back and forth, and you do not think at 84 years old this is something you can do. But it has been absolutely wonderful experience. I had a ball!”

WVWC President of the Senior Class of 2022 Yuveer Kelkar, of Mumbai, India, told commencement attendees not to forget that graduation is not the end but the beginning of a new journey.

“There is a whole world for us to encounter,” Kelkar said. “Wesleyan has prepared us for this, and we know that. Our college experience has not been like any other in previous generations – we went through a global pandemic, went virtual and returned to in-person learning, and now we are here.”

Kelkar said as students, they went from classrooms to bedrooms, from excursions to breakout rooms.

“We overcame this because, at Wesleyan, students are the heart of the school,” he said. “With multiple community and support groups, we overcame deadlines. This made us grow as individuals. Good or bad, long or short, I will always remember this place and I am sure you can all say this place is special in its own way, too.”

“Remember — our individual success benefits society as a whole because when you succeed, you lighten the burden of your fellow man,” Kelkar added. “When you succeed, you are in a position to give rather than take. Imagine if everyone lived up to their potential and how amazing that would be and how much better the world would be.”

Kelkar said his challenge to himself and fellow classmates is to do all they can to reach their full potential.

“If each of the students in this graduating class is able to do that, just imagine the effect we would have,” Kelkar said.

Dr. Debra Dean Murphy, professor of religious studies and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, delivered the commencement address. Murphy helped to found and co-direct the Center for Restorative Justice on campus and is on the advisory board of the newly formed West Virginia Restorative Justice Project.

Murphy reminded graduates that their calling is different from their vocation.

“You might get paid to be a mathematician or a mechanic, a painter or a professor,” Murphy said. “But your vocation is to live purposefully, gratefully, and mindfully this one precious life you have been given. While this looks different for each of us, there are three essential elements to living out one’s calling in the world: beauty, love and a commitment to justice.”

An honorary degree of Doctor of the College was presented to John Saunders, Ph.D. Saunders first came to Wesleyan in 1978 and retired from teaching in 2004. He then taught part-time and directed Wesleyan’s international scholarship program until 2017. Also, during Saturday’s commencement exercises, the Honorable John F. McCuskey received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. McCuskey was the 70th Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia and served as West Virginia’s Commissioner of Finance and Administration from 1985 to 1988.

Photo courtesy West Virginia Wesleyan College press office

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