SALISBURY, N.C. – Rowan-Cabarrus Community College will once again honor graduates with a drive-through commencement ceremony at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The event is scheduled for Friday, May 21 and will follow the same socially distanced format as the College’s December 2020 graduation ceremony.
Graduates will, quite literally, cross the finish line on the Speedway’s track beginning at 10 a.m.
“We continue to make it our priority to keep our students, faculty and staff as safe as possible while celebrating the remarkable achievements of our graduates under the challenging conditions presented by COVID-19,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus. “Our December graduation on the track was an experience to remember, and we know that this ceremony also will create memories for a lifetime.”
More than 730 graduates will receive associate degrees, diplomas and certificates earned during the Spring 2021 and Summer 2021 academic terms, with over 350 graduates expected to participate in the drive-through ceremony.
The event will honor students completing one of the College’s transfer degree programs (Associate in Arts, Associate in Fine Arts in Visual Arts, Associate in Engineering or Associate in Science) and the Associate in General Education, as well as those eligible for specific program diplomas and certificates, and those who have completed high school equivalency or adult high school requirements.
Students will wear their caps, gowns and honorary regalia and may have family and friends join them in their cars as they drive through to receive their diplomas with safety precautions, including face masks, in place.
The ceremony will be projected on the Speedway’s Jumbotron video screen, which is 200 feet wide and 80 feet tall. Graduates and their guests will be able to tune their FM radio and hear the ceremony in their cars. While each graduate is limited to one car, family and friends may join in the celebration as the ceremony is streamed live at staging.rccc.edu/grad2021.
Dr. Darise “Dari” Caldwell, former president of Novant Health Rowan Regional Medical Center and a member of the Rowan-Cabarrus Board of Trustees, will deliver the keynote commencement address.
Dr. Caldwell received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned her master’s in nursing from Duke University. She received her doctorate in health care administration from Columbia Pacific University. During her career, Dr. Caldwell spent over 35 years in hospital administration, most recently serving as the president of Novant Health Rowan Regional Medical Center and then as vice president of the Novant Health Foundation. She serves as the Chair of the Rowan County Health Department Board of Directors, which has been a critical role during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her career includes receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award in 2016. One of the highest awards that the governor can present, the award was presented to Dr. Caldwell to recognize her service to the community.
Graduating Rowan-Cabarrus nursing student Damola Ogunyomi also will address the Class of 2021. Ogunyomi began at Rowan-Cabarrus as an Early College student and continued on to complete the Associate Degree in Nursing program.
While at Rowan-Cabarrus, Ogunyomi kept an active presence on campus, serving in many leadership roles, including Student Ambassador, Vice President of the Student Government Association, and President of the College’s Student Nurses Association. She was selected as a Student Excellence Award finalist both years at Rowan-Cabarrus and, this year, was named as the College’s nominee for the statewide Governor Robert W. Scott Student Leadership Award.
“Throughout the pandemic, the Class of 2021 remained dedicated to their educational and career goals without wavering. They have shown incredible resilience in the face of difficult circumstances, and I wish them the greatest success as they continue to navigate forward,” said Spalding.