Leaving a place you’ve come to love is often bittersweet, even when it is a happy departure full of promise and new adventures. That was the feeling among the nearly 700 College of Charleston graduates who celebrated spring commencement Saturday, May 8, 2021, during two ceremonies for the School of Business, the School of the Arts, and the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance.

“I’m sad to be graduating and sad not to be seeing my classmates in the future,” said Caroline Boscia, who graduated with a degree in exercise science, noting that her favorite professor was exercise science faculty member Bill Barfield. “Seeing my major friends is one of my best memories and my friends in my sorority.”

Graduates Ethan Pierce and Owen Calvert

“I feel happy and sad,” said finance major Ryan Ledwith, who has accepted a job in commercial real estate. “Graduation is my proudest moment.”

Others were appreciative that they made it through a challenging year in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and said they were grateful to be able to have a graduation ceremony, albeit with no in-person guests due to capacity limitations. Eager parents and family members lined the gate along St. Philip Street to cheer on their graduates in the Cistern Yard, while others watched from satellite locations on campus.

“I think we’re lucky to be graduating in person,” said Owen Calvert, who majored in historic preservation and community planning and is attending Rutgers University this fall to pursue a master’s degree in city and regional planning. “It’s nice to be able to actually come to the Cistern and have the tradition like the alums before us, celebrate college and finish it .”

RELATED: View the spring commencement program with the names of all graduates.

Stephanie Laudein, second from left, with friends

Stephanie Laudein, an economics major who also competed with the College’s track and field team, was feeling thankful for her time at CofC.

“I’m happy to have been a part of all the programs, the business school and athletics program and Market Process Scholars,” Laudein said. “I’m especially glad to have spent time in this beautiful city and to have been a part of this amazing experience.”

CofC President Andrew T. Hsu applauded the graduates for their resolve over the last year, saying that when times get tough in the future they are well equipped to weather those obstacles.

“I encourage you to draw on this experience for the rest of your lives to remind yourself that you can push through anything,” Hsu said.

Above: Nigel Redden Below: Valerie Morris (Photos by Mike Ledford and Heather Moran)

Commencement speakers Nigel Redden, general director of Spoleto Festival USA, and Valerie Morris, dean emeritus of the College’s School of the Arts, also lauded the members of the Class of 2021 for their ability to come overcome the hardships of the past year and to look ahead with hope and determination.

“Pivoting is an essential skill and you’ve already learned it,” said Morris. “Planning and then adapting for change, what I’ve just termed pivoting, will keep you moving forward throughout your life.”

Redden urged the graduates to be open to the world as it unfolds and to welcome new opportunities as they come.

“You are about to embark on a series of choices that may well define the next 40 to 50 years of your life,” he said. “Take the time to let it be a passion.”