A rainy spring day couldn’t dampen spirits on the Lipscomb University campus Saturday, May 5, as more than 840 students celebrated the culmination of their educational journeys.
Degrees were conferred in two ceremonies, one for doctoral and graduate candidates and one for undergraduates. During the ceremonies 887 degrees — 520 undergraduate degrees and 367 graduate and doctoral degrees, which includes May and August graduates, were awarded.
At the morning commencement, a total of 81 doctoral degrees, including Doctor of Education, Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Pharmacy graduates; six Education Specialists; and 280 master’s degrees were awarded.
Marty Kittrell, member of the Lipscomb Board of Trustees and father of one of the morning’s graduates, opened the ceremony with an invocation. Charles Frasier, professor of accounting who is retiring after 45 years on faculty, gave students a professional charge.
“Don’t get discouraged thinking you can’t change the world. Begin by changing just one person,” said Frasier. “And remember that your credibility and reputation are priceless, but can be taken away in a moment.”
In his traditional charge to the graduate and doctoral students, Lipscomb president L. Randolph Lowry told those gathered that, “You will never, never be sorry that you invested the time and work that has gone into this moment, the celebration we are able to have today and the future that has been created for you.”
Lowry highlighted stories of several of the graduates:
Jarred Amato, Ed.D. Amato is an English teacher at Nashville’s Maplewood High School, who founded Project LIT Community. Its mission is to inspire all Nashville children to become lifelong readers by making books more accessible and creating excitement about reading, especially for those who live in “book deserts” — communities with limited access to books, especially once the local school library closes for the summer. Amato has gained national attention and is earning awards and honors both here in MNPS as a Blue-Ribbon teacher and among the nation’s top literacy professional organizations, publishers, and best-selling authors. Over the past year, more than 150 schools from 34 states have launched Project LIT chapters and joined the grassroots literacy movement. Project LIT students and teachers work together to increase access to diverse books and promote a love of reading in our schools and communities.
Cheryl D. Mayes, MBA. Before starting her own company, Mayes worked for Nissan North America as a financial analyst. She also was elected to public office as a member of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools’ Board of Education and served as the chairperson of the board for two years, and has served on numerous other community organization boards. On a global trip, Mayes decided leave her job at Nissan to start her own company, My Toolbox Consulting, where she assists businesses in developing and implementing educational programs through training, coaching and support. Her goal is to provide future leaders with specifically designed tools needed to reach their highest potential in high school, college and career.
Mark White, M.A. in conflict management. Tennessee State Representative Mark White has served the Memphis, Tennessee, community in public office since 2010. In addition, he has worked as a principal of Harding Academy in Memphis. As an elected state representative, White has promoted the value of early education, specifically pre-K.
Following the 10:30 a.m. ceremony for graduate and doctoral graduates was a reception for all graduates — undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students — their families and their friends in the Student Activities Center.
Undergraduate students were awarded Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Professional Studies, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Social Work degrees in the second commencement of the day, which began at 3 p.m.
Following the student processional at each ceremony, Lipscomb University faculty were led into a packed Allen Arena by Nashville Pipes and Drums, playing the traditional “Highland Cathedral.”
Bison men’s basketball head coach Casey Alexander gave the professional charge at the undergraduate ceremony. Alexander led the team to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time in university history in March. He gave the graduates a “pregame speech.”
“This really is like a pregame speech for me,” said Alexander, “because when you walk out of Allen Arena this afternoon you are headed straight for the championship game in your life. You should have absolutely no fear. You are so very well prepared.”
“Think about all of those days and nights that you dreamed about sitting in the chair that you’re sitting in right now. You’re here. I really hope that now you can look back and really appreciate the journey that has brought you to this place.”
Alexander encouraged the graduates to be thankful for those who helped them get to this milestone day in their lives.
“You see, you’ve always been part of a team, and you’ll always be part of a team,” he said. “God made you specifically to live in a community of people where you can discover who you are, what your role is and how you can best perform in that role so you might glorify Him.”
And when adversity comes, Alexander encouraged the graduates to face it head-on.
“I encourage you to look it right in the face,” he challenged. “Turn and face it. Don’t just face the wind, but turn and walk right into the wind. I promise you’ll make it through it and you’ll be better for it.”
Before the conferring of degrees, Provost W. Craig Bledsoe announced the 2018 Outstanding Teacher Award recipients. Leanne W. Smith, assistant professor of management; Walter Surdacki, associate professor of Bible; and Kate Watkins, assistant professor of professional studies; were voted on by faculty and the senior class, and were selected as this year’s honorees. Each spring, Outstanding Teacher Awards are given to three full-time faculty members.
Also, Elisabeth Conway, associate professor of biology, was recognized as the recipient of the John William Baker Award. This award is made possible by Alton and Mary Baker in appreciation for the quality of educational training the donor received as an undergraduate student at Lipscomb. The fund is used to support a summer fellowship program for university faculty.
Graduate Caleb Heronimus, a business major from Lebanon, Tennessee, was recognized as this year’s Stephen Lee Marsh Christian Example Award recipient. This award is presented to the senior student who plans to pursue a secular vocation and whose “Christ like spirit and behavior while a student at Lipscomb has demonstrated a propensity to continue throughout life to be a light to the world, a servant to humanity, a worker in the church, devoted to family and a herald of his or her faith.”
Lowry also presented undergraduates with a special message during the ceremony.
“The university is proud of you, and we expect great things of you,” said Lowry. “The reality is that you’ve done something substantial that only a small percentage of people in the world have done. You are surrounded by many people who helped make this day possible. You have a heart for service, and passion for people and dreams and aspirations that you will achieve.”
Lowry highlighted stories of several of the members of the Class of 2018:
Presley Russell, Bachelor of Science, fashion merchandising entrepreneurship. This past fall, Russell learned that a fellow business student, Joey Herren, needed hearing aids and did not have enough money to purchase them. So, she started a GoFundMe fund and raised more than $3,000, giving Herren the funds needed to purchase hearing aids and to improve his quality of life.
Tammie Brown, Bachelor of Science, dietetics. Brown retired after 20 years in the U.S. Army. Her career included two tours to Iraq and a tour to Afghanistan. Brown, who is married with two children and grandchildren, owns her own business in Huntsville, Alabama, where she resides and commuted one hour and forty-five minutes each way every day to attend Lipscomb University.
Jazgul Orozova, Bachelor of Science, exercise science. Orozova, a native of the Republic of Moldova, grew up in an orphanage there. She didn’t think she would be able to attain a college education, but several years ago a Lipscomb mission team came to Moldova through a nonprofit Justice and Mercy international that works with underprivileged children. They inspired Orozova to follow her dreams. She graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from a college in Moldova, then was accepted to Lipscomb to pursue a degree in exercise science. Orozova said Lipscomb became home to her, but she wants to go back to her homeland to invest in the people there and to inspire others to pursue their dreams.
Saturday’s ceremonies marked the official end of Lipscomb University’s 127th academic session.
—Photos by Kristi Jones
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