BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College classes of 2021 and 2020 were encouraged to maintain a thirst for knowledge and to seize learning opportunities as they go into the world, during a baccalaureate ceremony Friday.

Rev. Brian McVey Baccalaureate“Brothers and sisters, if you think your learning has ended tomorrow when you step off that stage and swing your little tassel to the other side, you’re sorely mistaken,” said the Rev. Brian McVey, rector of Church of the Advent Episcopal in Nashville. “You’re going to find out hazing begins again in the ‘real world.’ … So there’s going to need to be in you a constant need to grow, a constant need to hunger for knowledge.”

McVey, a Huntington, W.Va., native who began his ministry in East Liverpool, Ohio, is a leading advocate in the fight to abolish human trafficking. In 2014, he was among the 20 members of the ecumenical Consultation on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking at the Vatican.

He recalled a time when he witnessed the absolute worst of humanity. That same day, his group in Rome had a private tour of the Sistine Chapel scheduled. Instead, the Pope changed the plans and the group visited the recently unearthed Paul’s prison.

McVey compared the prison to a small, old dorm room. It features a fresco thought to be painted by the evangelist Luke for Paul to show what is written in the book of Acts and letters written on the walls. Paul wrote these letters, likely knowing his end was near, as a reminder to churches and individuals of what’s important, what they need to do, and what they need to stop.

Baccalaureate Class of 2021Graduation is also a time for such reflection, McVey said.

“Chances are … you’ve found at least one subject thanks to somebody that you just thirst for knowledge,” he said. “They stoked it in you, they encouraged it in you – maybe it was even in something you didn’t think you could possibly do – and that person invested their time, their energy, their effort, everything to seeing you grow. That’s one of the things I want to remind us about in this day and age, that we’re called to set an example of growth, educational growth.”

McVey also said that it’s important not to pay much attention to age, particularly in a time when people are desperately trying to return to the way things used to be.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because of your age. Because of your formation here at Bethany, because of your education, because of your spiritual life, because of your character, you have every bit a voice to shape the future as us old folks,” he said.

McVey encouraged graduates to take comfort in God’s presence as they embark on the next stage of their lives.
Several graduating seniors also took the stage during Bethany’s baccalaureate service.

Kaylie M. Allen offered the invocation, while classmates Jalen D. Best-Payton and Alexia Valenzuela read Scripture.

Olivia Archer gave the Class of 2021 address.

“Bethany has allowed me and allowed all of us to go outside of our comfort zones to explore who we are and who we can be. You don’t have to be the best at something but you do have to try and put in effort. The quote, ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,’ rings true in most aspects of life,” she said. “… I am thankful for memories, experiences, and friends that I have gained here, and I am sure my classmates will agree that because of this institution we have grown in ways that will benefit us in the future.”


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.