ACP Confers Doctor of Pharmacy Degrees on 59 Members of the Class of 2021

OAKWOOD, VA (May 1, 2021) –  Fifty-nine members of the Class of 2021 earned their Doctor of Pharmacy degrees, Saturday, May 1 from the Appalachian College of Pharmacy (ACP).

An in-person graduation ceremony was held on the lawn in front of McGlothlin Hall on the ACP campus. The ceremony was open to graduates and three guests in order to comply with current governor’s order restrictions on gathering sizes due to COVID-19. It was also live streamed at to enable additional family and friends to attend virtually.

Dr. John Rockovich, chairman of the Harvey W. Peters Research Foundation and founder and chairman of the board of directors of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Blacksburg, VA was the commencement speaker.

ACP President Mickey McGlothlin welcomed students and their guests, faculty and staff to Saturday’s ceremony, speaking about the history of ACP and its status as Virginia’s only three-year Doctor of Pharmacy program.

Since the ACP program started, McGlothlin noted ACP has graduated 863, who are now practicing pharmacists throughout the United States, many of them in the Appalachian region.

McGlothlin challenged members of the Class of 2021 to meet and exceed past NAPLEX pass rates achieved by ACP graduates which have seen ACP ranked with the highest pass rate in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the second highest pass rate in the United States. The NAPLEX – the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination — is a standardized national exam required for all practicing pharmacists in the United States.

McGlothlin recognized members of the board of trustees and faculty in attendance and concluded his remarks addressing members of the graduating class noting, “each of you have worked hard to obtain your degree. Continue to work hard, be students of pharmacy and you will be well-positioned to contribute to your community and to the profession of pharmacy.

“My hope is that each of you will apply yourselves and make valuable contributions to your profession and mankind and that you will return often to you alma mater — the Appalachian College of Pharmacy,” he concluded.

ACP Dean Susan Mayhew introduced Rockovich, noting Rockovich has been a prominent figure in higher education in Virginia. Through the partnership between ACP, the Harvey Peters Foundation and VCOM, Mayhew said she had found Rockovich to be “a man with laser focus, tremendous vision, unwavering determination and persistence.”

She noted he has a sincere commitment to building a health alliance to produce physicians, pharmacists, nurses and other providers to address rural healthcare needs here and in other medically underserved  communities throughout the nation.

Rockovich noted he was pleased to be a part of ACP’s first graduation since ACP became a part of the VCOM family. He spoke of plans being pursued to develop a doctor of public health degree though which ACP students will find their doctor of pharmacy degrees acting as a springboard to complete the doctor of public health degree once it is established and approved by the necessary accrediting body.

He urged members of the graduating class to begin a lifelong learning process and to enter into the process of being intellectually curious and to set a goal of learning new things every day, to be interested not just in their careers, but in world around them.

“Intellectual curiosity, love of learning and a thirst for knowledge are the hallmarks of those people with truly great accomplishments,” Rockovich said. “Live a life that matters. Don’t settle for average.”

He noted he had practiced law for almost 54 years and during that time, he said he had learned three secrets he would share with graduates, the first being that their graduation from ACP with a doctor of pharmacy degree placed them among the educational elite in the country.

“You will always be someone of consequence and highly respected in your community,” Rockovich said. “People will seek you out for leadership positions. In short, you are prepared for what you have long dreamed of — a life of meaning, purpose and significance.”

Second, he said, there is no linear relationship between effort and success. Instead, he said, it is an exponential relationship.

“The difference between moderate success and great success is a small difference in effort,” Rockovich noted. “Most get ahead in the time that others waste. If you put forth the effort, the world will reward you greatly for it.”

He continued, “winning is a habit. Continue the habit you started here for a lifetime. Pay the price, exert the effort, make the extra push, because if you do, the world will reward you greatly in terms of benefits.”

The final point he said he wanted to make was to point out that “there is a tendency in every time and age to believe that the golden era has passed. We have a hard time believing that the great inventions have not already been made, the great public service has not already been provided and that the great leadership has not already come to the country and served it to completion,” he said.

“Every generation believes that and every generation is wrong,” he added. “There are people in college in America today — perhaps in this very setting — who will find cures for cancer and AIDS … who will start companies that are bigger, more profitable and more important than Google. My message to you is go full speed ahead all the way to the end. Have a joyful, satisfying, fulfilled life that really matters.”

Bryna Marla Addair, of Avondale, WV, who was elected by her fellow class members to be the speaker for the Class of 2021 also delivered remarks during Saturday’s ceremony.

While at ACP, Addair represented her class as vice president, held numerous leadership positions in student organizations including ACCP, where she served as president; and Phi Lambda Sigma, where she served as secretary. She also served as the Kappa Psi fundraising chair and is a founding member of Carter’s Christmas Foundation. Mayhew noted Addair’s dedication to service has been evident while Addair has been a student at ACP and was represented by her more than 250 community service hours and through her service as a tutor to her peers.

“I am honored to stand here today, chosen to speak on behalf of the Class of 2021,” Addair said. “On behalf of the class and I, we would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts to every individual who has supported us in this journey to be where we are today.

“This past year has been particularly out of the ordinary, very serious, and sometimes scary,” Addair said. “That is why today I want to stick to the theme of being out of the ordinary, and trade in the serious for something more light-hearted and fun. One thing that holds true to the Class of 2021, we are outspoken. We are warriors for our own advocacy. It is my hope that we take that same grit when we go to bat for our patients and apply that advocacy to offering them the best care.”

ACP Assistant Dean Wade McGeorge presented the candidates for the awarding of degrees by McGlothlin and Dr. Lu Ellsworth, chairman of the ACP Board of Trustees. Mayhew administered the pharmacist’s oath to conclude the ceremony.

Members of the Class of 2021 who received their degrees Saturday included: Kissita Ingabou Achonduh, Upper Marlboro, MD; Bryna Marla Addair, Avondale, WV; Divya Ambu, Napa, CA; William Tyler Ball, Bluefield, VA; Glynn L. Behnken, Boalsburg, PA; Prudencia Mokia Bongmuyong, Frisco, TX; Monique Heather Bushay, Charleston, WV; Kaitlyn Nicole Calhoun, Garner, KY; Andrea Katherine Carter, Pikeville, KY; Kayley Beatrice Church, Wise, VA; Benjamin Thomas Clayton Del Toro, Crossville, TN; Erika N. Coleman, Canada, KY; Rachel Danielle Collins, Harlan, KY; Derek Lance Compton, Ransom, KY; Finicia Murray Compton, Pikeville, KY; Miguel Angel Contreras-Avila,  Falun, KS; Alexandria Pennington Cooper, Pearisburg, VA;  Braxton Tyler Cordill,  Bandy, VA;  Silvar Bekono Ngum Eddia,  Bethesda, MD; Ayatte Fathy Elkattan, Richmond, VA; Candace Dawn Fletcher, Vansant, VA;  Patrick Fonge, Atlanta, GA; Ethel Y. Forson,  Centreville, VA; Ray George, Sterling Heights, MI;  and C. Madison Gillespie, Cape Charles, VA.

Additional members of the Class of 2021 who received their degrees were Cecily Paige Groves, Mount Nebo, WV; Essence Leamber Hall, Houston, TX;  Maha Taha Hassan, Alexandria, VA; Jordan Taylor Haynes, Hazard, KY; Gunay Ibrahim Ismailoff, Venets, Bulgaria; Madison Taylor Johnson, Prince George, VA; Mariah June Johnson, Castlewood, VA; Taylor Danielle Johnson,  Big Rock, VA;  Hailey Marie Justus, Lebanon, VA;  Mathias Lakew, Springfield, VA; Mark Jacob Lacaria, Welch, WV; Richard Mawah, York, PA; James Brandon McCarty, Paintsville, KY; Trenton Lee Terrell McClanahan, Grethel, KY; Derek Lester McCowan, Haysi, VA;  Cydney Lauren McCoy, South Williamson, KY;  Josie Ann Medrano, Espanola, New Mexico; Ruth Obuobi Mensah,  Manassas, VA; Kefyalew Dagne Mitiku, Arlington, VA; Jeromy Tyrone Mullin, Pinehurst, TX; Saron Melaku Negusu, Lebanon, VA; and Lilian Eni Ngang, Beltsville, MD. 

Steven Wyatt O’Quinn, Grundy, VA; Batrina Dale Potter, Elkhorn City, KY; Sarah Beth Reitz, Greensboro, NC;  Justin Darrell Sansom, Phyllis, KY; George A. Sharobeem, Staten Island, NY; Sydney Nicole Smith, Canada, KY; Autumn Victoria Sperry, Grundy, VA;  Alissa Rene Surratt, Williamsburg, VA; Biru Seyoum Tadesse, Iowa City, IA; Wesley Ian Thacker, Pikeville, KY; John Patrick Wayne Toy, Owingsville, KY; and Jolin Tran, College Station, TX, also received their degrees.

The Appalachian College of Pharmacy is the only three-year Doctor of Pharmacy program in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Founded in 2003, the college accepted its first students in 2005. It is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Its mission is to cultivate a learning community committed to education, community outreach and the professional development of pharmacists. Its graduate pharmacists are now practicing throughout the United States.

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