For more than two centuries, the College of Charleston has held its spring commencement ceremonies in the City of Charleston.
That streak ended on Thursday, May 6, 2021, when one of the five traditional College of Charleston Spring 2021 Commencement ceremonies was held at the Patriots Point Soccer Stadium in Mount Pleasant.
The change in venue was the result of COVID-19. Because of social distancing rules related to the coronavirus, the College was forced to limit admission to the traditional Cistern Yard ceremonies to graduating seniors only. But many graduates wanted to have their families and friends with them for this special occasion. To accommodate those graduates, the College gave seniors the one-time option of participating in a unique commencement ceremony at Patriots Point and allowed them to invite a limited amount of guests.
Over 400 students took the College up on that offer.
Patriots Point may be over 5 miles from the heart of the College of Charleston campus, but the traditions and excitement surrounding this ceremony made it seem as if CofC’s iconic Randolph Hall was only steps away.
The beaming graduates were decked out in the traditional CofC commencement attire of white dinner jackets and white dresses. Family and friends cheered and waved during the opening procession, and graduation selfies throughout the ceremony were the preferred photo of the day.
“This is a graduation ceremony like no other in the College’s storied history,” said College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu during his remarks to the graduates. “I think it is only fitting that you, as a history-making class during these most unusual times, get to also make history in your graduation ceremony.”
Senior Tashianna Dase, who graduated with a degree in accounting, said it was an easy decision for her to participate in the Patriots Point ceremony.
“Like everybody else, I wanted my family to be here to support me and watch me walk across the stage,” she said.
Fellow accounting major Angel English agreed. She says she wanted to be with her family during this special occasion.
“I always dreamed about graduating from college,” she said with a smile. “I always dreamed about wearing my white dress and walking across the Cistern.” She admits that walking across a stage at Patriots Point is very different from walking across the Cistern, but she said that is OK. “I’m still here, and I’m very blessed to be here.”
Commencement speaker Helen Turner Hill, Chief Executive Officer of Explore Charleston (formerly the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau), congratulated the graduates and told them that they are now part of the history of Charleston.
“You are now knit into the very fabric of the history of Charleston,” she told the crowd. “Because you were here, Charleston will never be the same.”
As the graduates sat socially-distanced on the field, parents and families sat in the metal bleachers surrounding the field.
Karen Campbell was in the stands to watch her daughter Chiri Chinaga Campbell-Billie graduate with a degree in political science. She says the graduation ceremony meant the world to her.
“I’m tremendously proud of her,” said Campbell of her daughter. “This is just a major achievement for her and my entire family.”
Four more graduation ceremonies are scheduled for Cistern Yard this May 7-8.