Grad photos with Wily

Senior class starts countdown to graduation

A new tradition is showing seniors that their connection to Lees-McRae College doesn’t conclude after graduation.

In past years, the only recognition of the transition from student to alumnus happened the day before commencement with a brunch at the Alumni House. The Alumni Relations and Career and Life Planning offices decided to change that. 

Seniors were invited to attend “100 Days Until Graduation,” where they could celebrate the end of their college career and the beginning of their professional life with help from Lees-McRae staff.

“It was an incredible night being able to safely celebrate with seniors who attended in person and virtually,” Director of Alumni Relations Katie Talbert said. “We were able to collaborate and bring awareness to our Give Me Five senior philanthropy campaign as well as offer professional headshots to support the future alumni. Thanks to all who were able to attend and to those who made this inaugural event come to fruition.”

Attendees were given a checklist to help them explore the event by visiting different booths with information on help for job seekers, the different giving campaigns for the college, and alumni networking. Students heard from Talia Freeman ’07, Alumni Board President and adjunct professor, and were informed of the many ways they could connect with their alma mater even after graduating. 

There was a spirit of celebration throughout the room as seniors visited the booths, took “grad”itude pictures with the Lees-McRae mascot Wily, and received free gifts. Every student who attended received a Lees-McRae tablet holder and could pose for a professional headshot.

Students were also invited to contribute to the college’s mission of providing opportunity by giving back, particularly through the new “Give me Five” senior campaign. The goal of the campaign is to achieve 100% participation from the senior class, even if the donation is just a few dollars, and nearly two-thirds of the attendees chose to give.

For students, the event was also a chance to connect with others about to graduate, especially during a time when in-person events have been less common.

“This was the first interactive thing we got to do because of COVID,” said Gabrielle Wilson, a student in the elementary education online degree program. The online students were planning to visit campus for several events during the year, but campus restrictions due to the global pandemic made that impossible. While Wilson was able to attend in person, other online students who couldn’t make it to campus as well as distance learning students from Surry Community College and students in quarantine could participate via livestream.

“It’s nice to be involved in campus and nice getting to see how you can be involved even after the educational part is over,” Wilson said.

After visiting all the booths, the seniors could turn in their checklist for a chance to win a Lees-McRae spirit pack.


Although the event had to be limited in scope because of health and safety concerns, the Alumni Relations and Career and Life Planning offices wanted to make sure seniors felt appreciated.

“We’re respecting the needs of the pandemic, but also showing that seniors deserve an event,” said Talbert.

And new traditions have to start somewhere. Future, unrestricted 100 Days Until Graduation events will include booths from local businesses showing job opportunities and more involvement from campus organizations like The Exchange Bookstore.

The event showed seniors the value of staying involved with Lees-McRae even after graduation, but it was also a chance to reflect on the last few years and the many positive experiences the students had while attending college. 

“I’m grateful I got to connect with the faculty and everybody here at Lees-McRae,” said Olivia Howard, an exercise science major. “I’m really going to miss it.”

By Emily WebbFebruary 08, 2021
Campus Life