COVID-19 has ignited a new creative movement, especially among families of high school and college graduates.
The novel coronavirus forced UNC Pembroke to postpone Spring Commencement. However, Meggan Hollis refused to let her father’s milestone go unrecognized. On May 9–the original commencement date–Hollis transformed her front porch into a makeshift stage outfitted with a black and gold backdrop and promotional banners she borrowed from the UNCP music department where she works on staff.
A marching band mannequin served as a stand-in for Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings.
Hollis gave a short welcome, then presented her mother, Glenna, with an honorary degree for her unwavering support of her husband, Eugene Kaplan. Kaplan took to the “stage” to the traditional sounds of a pre-recording of Pomp and Circumstance performed by Kaplan’s son, Julian. The latter happens to be the principal trumpet for the Kansas City Symphony.
Kaplan, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology, was humbled by the unique ceremony. A substance abuse counselor in Wilmington, he also completed a substance abuse minor, graduating with magna cum laude honors.
“We had a lot of fun celebrating with my dad in a creative way,” Hollis said. “I think he will come back to walk in August so that he can have his official commencement experience, but this was something special for our family.”
Kaplan spoke highly of his UNCP experience, which he says will allow him to keep abreast with changes within the addiction counseling field.
By earning his degree, the 65-year-old Ohio native joins his daughter, Meggan, a 2012 graduate of UNCP’s Master of Arts in Music Education program.
Additionally, he kept a promise he made to Bettie Dibrell–his mentor and longtime chair of the Substance Abuse Program at Central Piedmont Community, where Kaplan earned an associate degree.
“She passed away a few weeks after I graduated from CPCC in 2008,” he said. “That took a lot of wind out of my sail, but I challenged myself and stuck with it.
“I love the UNCP and its traditions with the Lumbee Nation. I actually took several American Indian Studies courses. I’m very proud of that school.”