Charlotte’s first graduation ceremony since 2019 has all the pomp and circumstance
Jun. 23, 2022
Alistar Erickson-Ludwig finished her Doctor of Education program at Northeastern University – Charlotte back in December 2020, but she didn’t have the closure and celebration that comes with a graduation ceremony until earlier this month. And she says it was worth the wait.
Erickson-Ludwig was one of 21 graduates honored on June 11 at the Mint Museum in uptown Charlotte. Due to the pandemic, it was the first graduation ceremony since 2019 – and it celebrated the achievements of seven graduates from the Class of 2022, nine from the Class of 2021 and five from the Class of 2020.
“In my job, I plan graduation ceremonies, so this time I was able to experience the excitement and joy as a participant,” said Erickson-Ludwig, program director for four graduate programs in data analytics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “It reaffirms a few important things. You have to have the pomp and circumstance. Whether you are graduating with an associate degree, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, it’s a big deal. And you need the banners, the flowers, the special touches.”
One of those special touches was, of course, the traditional hooding of the doctoral graduates. Another featured so-called “graduate reflections” by Bridget Jones, a Doctor of Education from the Class of 2020. Later, Jones reflected on how surreal it was to defend her doctoral thesis over Zoom.
“I remember being alone in my office, thinking that that was the completion of three years of work and ‘oh well, congratulations,’” said Jones, director of client success for Scribbles Software, an education-technology company based in Charlotte. The 2022 graduation ceremony “was something I didn’t even realize how much I needed.”
Yet another special touch was commencement speaker April Whitlock, head of corporate citizenship for LendingTree and executive director of the LendingTree Foundation. Whitlock congratulated the graduates and urged them to be “disruptive philanthropists.”
“You too can be disruptive philanthropists as you embark on the next step of your career. Whether you are in education or finance, business or government or health care, you don’t need a multi-million-dollar foundation to have an impact,” she said. “Pay attention to the issues that are facing the community in which you live. Then look to see what organizations, especially the small, grassroots, community-embedded nonprofits, are doing to have an impact.”
Graduates also enjoyed being able to celebrate with their families who supported them throughout their programs. The special moment that Lachlan Hodge will always remember is his 2-year-old daughter, Ayla, thinking it was her graduation.
“She saw her cousin graduate preschool a month ago, so she thought it should have been her turn to graduate,” said Hodge, a 2022 graduate who earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy.
Hodge and his wife, Alicia, and daughter traveled to Charlotte from their home in Kingsport, Tennessee, for the graduation ceremony. “We could have just said that I already had my degree and just carried on with our lives, but I am glad I took the day off work and was part of it,” he said. “It was cool.”
Amy George is a writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She writes about health care, business and more.