Roadrunners Take Their Final Lap at LBCC CARmencement Ceremony

Waves of Faculty and Staff Cheer Classes of 2021 and 2020 on Albany Campus

an lbcc graduate inside a car smiles and waves at the camera

The smiles told at all. After a year of hard work, perseverance, and constant adaptation to new circumstances due to COVID-19, the class of 2021 celebrated the culmination of their educational achievements, along with the class of 2020, at Linn-Benton Community College’s ‘CARmencement’ ceremony Thursday and Friday night in Albany.

LBCC President Lisa Avery beamed as she referenced the graduates. “We are so proud of these Roadrunners! It's been a tough year. We struggled through it together without the benefits of being together, physically, as a community. We're excited to mark this as the beginning of a return this fall to the close, on-campus experience we all miss.”

Entering the Albany campus of Highway 99 amidst masses of balloons, cheering faculty and staff in regalia, 12-foot blue and yellow banners and homemade signs, carloads of graduates began their “final lap” at LBCC. Each was given car decorating kit prior to the celebration, and the vehicles were fully decked out for the event.

Upon entering campus, graduates were given a road map for a route which included “selfie-station” photo pit stops in front of a bright Wall of Wonder, and with the college mascot, Rocky Roadrunner. The online audio program featured graduation speeches, drive-time music provided by LBCC’s traditional bagpipers, and a bit of Pomp and Circumstance.

When each graduate exited their vehicle at the designated place to walk through a balloon arch and receive their diploma, they were greeted by thunderous applause from a crowd of faculty and staff.

As if each truly finished a race.

“It was important to us that this event relayed the pride that we feel toward these graduates,” said Jennifer Boehmer, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement and the creative coordinator behind carmencement. “We wanted a fun, energetic celebration to send them off to their bright futures!”

LBCC leadership made the decision to host an interactive, drive-through carmencement versus a traditional commencement ceremony to ensure the safety of its employees and students. Both classes of 2021 and 2020 were invited to attend, since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the college’s plans for the class of 2020 commencement ceremony.

Jim Merryman, Chair of the LBCC Board of Education, addressed the graduates, “And while this ceremony is unconventional, know that your graduation today places you in the middle of a great tradition… a long legacy of proud LBCC alums who have gone on to do great things.  Though this year we must do that in alternative ways, we are no less proud.”

LBCC carmencement seemed to serve as a point of renewed hope and a brighter future not just for the graduates, but also for LBCC faculty and staff. They showed up en masse to celebrate. Nearly 150 faculty and staff volunteered hours over the past month and this week to ensure a seamless experience.

"It was a really difficult year for so many students. They had so much to deal with — learning online, taking care of their kids who were also learning online at the same time. The graduates this year dug deep and pushed through," said Leslie Hammond, Dean of Academic Foundations.

Hammond described how LBCC helped as much as possible with those barriers, by offering more scholarships and emergency funding, more open educational resources to decrease textbook expenses, and by offering broad laptop and tablet loaner programs. 

"For some students, it was just what they needed to finish up their degree and move forward. Today is a great day; we're really excited to celebrate their achievement," said Hammond.

Take the case of Damaris Silva, who received an emergency grant from the college this spring. As a single mother of three with no other support, Silva described how an unexpected bill almost unraveled her spring term, just as she was entering the final stretch at LBCC.

“That money, it allowed me to breathe. I’ve felt underwater for a long time and that support – it meant one less thing I had to worry about so I could catch my breath and focus on my studies,” said Silva.

Count Silva among the graduates who celebrated on Wednesday night.

Silva’s certificate in medical billing and coding, and her associate’s degree in general studies, was conferred upon her by Ann Buchele, Vice President of Academic Affairs.

“Whether in person or virtually, we have enjoyed the privilege of teaching you in our classes and watching you grow in knowledge and character as you’ve earned your degree. We know you now have what it takes to go forward into the world and make a difference in your profession, and we couldn’t be prouder,” said Dr. Buchele.

LBCC graduates are now on their way to a host of different futures. Some are going directly to work in the Willamette Valley and beyond. Others plan to continue their education at four-year colleges or universities, both locally and across the country.

“The home of the Roadrunners is now also the home of tomorrow’s scientists, farmers, business owners, health care professionals, managers, teachers, machinists, writers, artists, social workers and so much more. Whatever path you are on, you should be proud that you put in the hard work to take command of your dreams,” said student Angie Geno, 2021 Class President.

This unusual carmencement ceremony was best summarized by President Avery.

“The fact that you persisted, despite one of the greatest challenges in modern history, only confirms what we have believed about you all along: that you are capable … that you have what it takes to succeed … and that you have within you the power to go out and change the world for the better.”

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View 2021 graduates and photos from the carmencement ceremony. Read about Linn-Benton Community College’s plan for fall term 2021

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