"Basically, it's personal satisfaction to say that I did it," said Dunn, 27.
Many of the black-robed graduates who filled the Butcher Athletic Center advertised their joy with messages like "Finally" and "Thanks Dad" written on their caps. Rachel King, of Shepherdstown, spelled "Teacher for Hire" on her cap after seeing a classmate try the same gimmick a few years ago.
"She got a job right away, so I thought I'd give it a try," King said.
The commencement address was given by Stanley O. Ikenberry, who graduated from the college in 1956 and is the son of former Shepherd President Oliver S. Ikenberry.
Ikenberry, a former president of the University of Illinois and currently president of the American Council on Education, urged the graduates to achieve success not only in their careers, but also in their families and their communities.
"You single greatest challenge will be one of striking the right balance between the competing values of our society," Ikenberry said.
Gail McDowell said it has been something of a challenge just to make it to graduation. The Hagerstown resident and 1967 graduate of North Hagerstown High School said she returned to school about a decade ago at about the same time her daughter - a 1987 North High grad - was also enrolling at Shepherd.
"Fortunately, we were only in a couple of the same classes," she said, smiling.
But mother and daughter kept their eyes on the goal of receiving their bachelor's degrees. Gail McDowell said it was a lot tougher on her daughter, who also worked full time during those years.
"You knew eventually you were going to get there," she said.
Getting a degree together was also a family affair for Anthony and Angela Moore, a husband and wife who both graduated summa cum laude with bachelor's of science degrees.
"We did it together so that means a lot," Angela Moore said.
The Moores, who recently moved from Martinsburg to Manassas, Va., started at Shepherd four years ago when Anthony Moore left the Army and wanted to pursue his education. They joked that they were rarely seen apart during their years on campus.
"Everything we did in school was together," she said.
In fact, they both now work as programmers for AT&T.
"We still eat lunch together," he said.