BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College formally welcomed its class of 2024 with a socially distanced matriculation ceremony Saturday morning at Bison Stadium.

“We can be together, in person, on our beautiful campus, because we all recognize that protecting the herd benefits everyone,” President Tamara Nichols Rodenberg said. “Thank you all for what you are doing to keep each other, our campus, and our community safe.”

Matriculation traditionally opens the academic year at Bethany, but the ceremony was reformatted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addressing the uncertainty of 2020, Rodenberg referenced the biblical book of Esther. Esther was weighing decisions that could determine the future of a generation, and she questioned her abilities.

Esther 4:14 states: “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

That question, Rodenberg said, is one that many have asked during the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What is our role? What is the world to be in ‘such as time as this’?” Rodenberg asked. “Are we called to this time? … What is our purpose? Are we meant to do something special? Something new? Something different? And are we equipped to make that change?

“… When you ask that question, the answer must unquestionably be, ‘Yes, I am equipped ‘for such a time as this.’ You were meant to be at Bethany College, and you are prepared to make the change this world is seeking.”

Though she acknowledged that what to expect in 2020-2021 is difficult to predict, Rodenberg said Bethany College is committed to each member of the class by delivering academic excellence, mentoring from faculty and staff, creating connections with alumni, and showing up for extracurricular pursuits.

“This year in particular, a year of physical and political distancing, the world needs a place where people stand together, affirm one another, and lead toward healing and hope,” she said. “There are myriad things that are poised to divide us, yet divided we are weak; united we are strong. This year, let us commit ourselves to standing strong, united as one Bethany.”

The ceremony, which doubled as Bethany’s annual Fall Convocation, also featured the presentation of faculty, staff, and student awards.

Adam Fletcher, associate professor of mathematics, received the John R. Taylor Memorial Award in Liberal Arts.

Scott Brothers, associate professor of chemistry and director of First-Year Experience, received the Presidential Award of Excellence for Faculty.

Richard Miller, assistant dean of accreditation, assessment, and accountability, received the Presidential Award of Excellence for Staff.

Jerry Stebbins, vice president of student life and dean of students, recognized Phi Mu sorority with the Anna Ruth Borne Award and Beta Theta Pi fraternity with the W. Kirk Woolery Award. The two awards recognize the Greek organizations that achieve the highest academic standing for the academic year.

He also presented sophomores Natalia Chavez-Brown, of Frederick, Md., and Elizabeth Poletis, of La Plata, Md., with the Richard B. Kenney Freshman Leadership Award. The award recognizes the sophomores who have demonstrated outstanding scholarship, leadership, and character at Bethany during their freshman year.

The ceremony culminated in each freshman signing the Book of Matriculation – a Bethany tradition that dates back to the late 1800s.

View a recording of matriculation

View more photos from the event


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.