Lees-McRae College held its opening Convocation ceremony on Thursday August 21 with speeches by Student Government Association President, Sydnie Taylor, and keynote speaker, Jon Driggers, as well as remarks by Lees-McRae College President, Dr. Barry M. Buxton. The ceremony also included a special honor for student Jessica Hattabaugh who was honored with the President’s Award. Opening Convocation, an important part of the academic tradition at Lees-McRae, celebrates the beginning of the academic year and welcomes new and returning students to campus.
Sydnie Taylor, a senior Communication Arts & Design major with a concentration in creative marketing, addressed the crowd of her peers, “I can’t help but reminisce about my own freshman year, sitting in this very auditorium four years ago, listening to this same type of speech, which is why today I wish to speak to the new students and give you a few pieces of advice that I wish I had been told.”
Taylor continued, “I could tell you who owns the two poodles that you see lounging around the Chaffee Annex classrooms… I could tell you about all the fun you can make during 10-hour snow storms. I could tell you about the boys of Kappa Nu Fraternity chanting around campus…I could tell you of a professor that will let you cry on her shoulder when something tragic happens. I could even tell you the Dean of Students’ current favorite YouTube video, but I won’t. I won’t tell you any of that today, because all of that and more will become part of your college experience if you allow it. I won’t tell you any of those things because this is your opportunity to get involved, create relationships and find your own list of things that define your college experience. The one thing I will tell you, the one piece of advice I will share, is to never miss an opportunity no matter how big or small it may be.”
Taylor’s speech was followed by Dustin Longstreet, president of Order of the Tower, a prestigious presidential society, leading his fellow Order of the Tower members in reciting the hallmarks of a Lees-McRae education. The hallmarks are aimed to show students what their education at Lees-McRae will prepare them to do after graduation. Those hallmarks include communicating effectively, developing a strong career plan, exercising leadership and embracing technology, just to name a few.
Then Ms. Caroline Hart, mistress of ceremonies and vice president of advancement, welcomed President Buxton to the stage to present the President’s Award to Jessica Hattabaugh for her selfless efforts to save an injured deer she found on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hattabaugh, a native of South Hampton, Mass., is a sophomore studying Wildlife Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Rehabilitation.
“In honor of her courage and compassion,” said President Buxton, “her determination to do the right thing, for rescuing an expectant female deer that had been struck by a car and trapped in a drain along the Blue Ridge Parkway…I hereby award, Jessica Hattabaugh, the President’s Award.”
After a standing ovation, Ms. Hart introduced this year’s keynote speaker, Mr. Jon Driggers, dean of students at Lees-McRae College.
“Mr. Jon Driggers is completing his first year as Dean of Students at Lees-McRae,” said Hart. “He came to Lees-McRae with more than sixteen years of experience working in higher education including previous appointments as Dean of Students at South University-Columbia and Coker College, Associate Dean for Campus Life & New Student Programs at Erskine College and Area Coordinator at Clemson University. Drawing on his past experience, Dean Driggers is committed to focusing his energy and experience on helping all members of the campus community flourish during their time at Lees-McRae.”
Driggers then took the stage to share his keynote address.
Driggers said, “Today we are gathered as students, faculty, staff and community to formally open the academic year…I have had the wonderful opportunity to either attend or work on a college campus for the past 20 years. Today I plan on taking a few moments to share tips and advice for you to have a successful year.”
He continued on to encourage students to “take advantage of your faculty members; commit yourself to becoming a student of excellence and integrity, and engaging in responsible campus citizenship; attend class, attend class, attend class; learn to manage your time; find what motivates you; try new things; don’t be afraid to fail; and breathe, relax and enjoy it!”
In closing, Driggers said, “Remember college is not a spectator sport! You must be engaged and active to get the most out of your experience. I am happy to be here and I am happy you are here. I promise to do everything I can to help you be successful and thrive during your time at Lees-McRae. Thank you for allowing me the honor of being part of your college experience and being a member of the Lees-McRae family. Have an incredible year!”
Driggers earned his bachelor of science in exercise science from Lander University and in 2014 he was named Young Alumnus of the Year at Lander. He continued on to receive his master’s degree in Student Development from Appalachian State University.
Additionally, Dean Driggers recently completed a three year position as Co-chair for Candidate Services at the Placement Exchange, a national partnership promoting job placement for professionals in higher education. He has held national student affairs leadership positions and served as President of the South Carolina Personnel Association. He has presented at the international, national, regional and state levels, created Student Success curriculum and taught classes in Career Planning, Student Success and Leadership. He and his wife, Susan, reside in Banner Elk with their 14 month old daughter, Lauren.
For more information, please contact Megan Hall, director of communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-898-8729.
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