On a stage framed with a mixture of white and dark red poinsettias, more than 100 graduate and undergraduate students on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, received their degrees and became the newest members of the College of Charleston alumni family. Cheers echoed through TD Arena as family and friends congratulated graduates, marking the return of the annual winter commencement ceremony, which was cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the CofC undergraduates donned black tuxedos and black dresses and the graduate students wore traditional graduation robes, face masks remained an important accessory for all members of the winter Class of 2021 during this commencement ceremony to help mitigate COVID risks during the gathering. In all, around 500 graduates earned their degrees at the conclusion of the fall 2021 semester.

CofC President Andrew T. Hsu, left, and English professor and commencement speaker Simon Lewis, right, address graduates during winter commencement. (Photos by Mike Ledford)

College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu congratulated the graduates and praised them for being an uncommon class during these uncommon times.

“What you have faced these past years as students gives you a preview of what is to come in the future,” said Hsu. “Times are changing more quickly than ever, and you are showing yourselves capable of changing with them.”

College of Charleston English professor and commencement speaker Simon Lewis agreed with Hsu. During his commencement speech, Lewis acknowledged that this graduating class faced many hurdles including helping the CofC community navigate a global pandemic.

winter commencement

More than 100 undergraduate and graduate students participated in winter commencement on Saturday at TD Arena.

“As you leave this commencement ceremony and begin your post-college life, you can do so not just with the usual pride in your academic and other accomplishments, but with additional pride that your behavior – your self-sacrifice in putting up with the various restrictions we have all had to endure – was in part responsible for everyone getting through,” said Lewis. “That’s an achievement most other graduating classes cannot boast.”

Lewis says COVID has shown how we are all connected.  “You are who you are – we are who we are – because of other people.”

During the ceremony, the College also granted honorary degrees to former College of Charleston interim President Stephen “Steve” Osborne ’73 and his late wife, Mary Turner Osborne.