Fall 2016 commencement celebrates graduates, 125th anniversary of Lipscomb

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According to a new study, 6.7 percent of the world’s population has a college degree; and on Saturday, Dec. 17, nearly 400 Lipscomb University graduates were added to that number as part of Lipscomb’s fall 2016 commencement ceremony.

In honor of Lipscomb’s 125th year anniversary, President L. Randolph Lowry, the university’s 17th president, invited David Lipscomb himself, as portrayed by alumnus Henry O. Arnold III, to the stage to discuss how far the university has come since 1891. 

Arnold (as Lipscomb) compared the growth of the university to the parable of the mustard seed stating that although it has seen tremendous expansion over the past century, it has held tight to its commitment of faith.

“Just as the mustard seed grew and became a large tree in the garden, Lipscomb has too and attracts more and more people to it,” said Lipscomb’s founder. “Our students come here to learn and be prepared for their professions but to also be prepared to serve the Lord in their communities where they are. And then when they go out, they are embracing the world as the Kingdom of Heaven.”

During the ceremony, nearly 400 graduates received doctoral, education specialist, master’s and bachelor’s degrees.

Rhonda Lowry, faculty member of the College of Bible & Ministry and wife of President Lowry, encouraged graduates by reading Acts 17:27; David Scobey, chair of Lipscomb’s Board of Trustees, gave the invocation; and Deby Samuels, senior vice president of communication and marketing led the professional charge.

2016Commencement_SideDebySamuels shared four lessons she has learned about life through her hobby of kayaking, including: don’t fight the river but instead enjoy where it takes you; when life turns you upside down, don’t panic, but rather assess your situation and take the best option; look ahead to where you are going and keep your eyes on your goals and not your obstacles; and continue to feed your spirit and the eternal life source will always feed you and never get old.

Stacia Watkins, associate professor of English, recognized this year’s SALT Scholars, students whose investment in service learning reflects a significant level of engagement through a student-designed and student-directed capstone project in service learning.

This year’s SALT Scholars are:

  • Megan Batista, a law, justice and society major from Nashville, who is seeking racial justice through drug courts;
  • Elizabeth Donlon, a law, justice and society major from Nashville, who is advocating for teenage pregnancy prevention;
  • Lorena Djuknic, a corporate marketing and marketing entrepreneurship major from Zagreb, Croatia, who is deepening spiritual formation through international missions;
  • Sarah Messer, a strategic communications and Spanish major from Canton, Michigan, who is working with nonprofit volunteer recruitment and retention strategy;
  • Caleb Tannehill, a law, justice and society major from Nashville, who is advocating for healthy food education for elementary-aged children; and
  • Brianna Woods, a law, justice and society major from Nolensville, Tennessee, is fighting against the effects of mass incarceration on childhood inequality.

After all degrees were awarded, Lowry returned to the stage for his president’s charge and shared testimonies of five graduates who represent the spirit and accomplishments of Lipscomb University’s overall student body.

Paul Allen Shrum began his collegiate career at Lipscomb in the fall of 1996, playing baseball for the Bisons and majoring in business. In the fall of 1998, he decided to put his education on hold to pursue a professional career in baseball. Shrum joined the Minnesota Twins in July 1998 and played as a catcher, before signing a contract to play with the San Francisco. In spring of 2016, Shrum returned to Lipscomb to complete his undergraduate degree in the College of Professional Studies that awards degree credit for real-life work experience. In a one-day assessment through the CORE Assessment Center, Shrum earned 27 credits toward his degree. Within one semester, Shrum was able to complete a degree he had started 20 years before.

2016Commencement_SideGroupGloria Grace Woods has a similar story. In 1998, Woods was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder around the same time she came to Lipscomb as a freshman. She decided to leave Lipscomb to seek healing and returned 14 years later at the age of 33 to pursue a career that could help others who have had similar challenges. Woods graduated with a bachelor’s degree in integrated studies of English and psychology. She will continue her career at Centerstone, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit providers of community-based behavioral health care.

“Grace, you represent all of us who have struggled, and all of us, who because of that struggle, have been made more strong and courageous,” said Lowry.

Jefferson Marc Negus is one representative of 250 others at Lipscomb, the military veteran population. A sergeant first class, Negus retired from the U.S. Army after being deployed to Iraq twice and Afghanistan once. Negus realized that without a master’s degree, finding a job might be a little more difficult. One day, while working at a car dealership, he was helping a customer when that customer began telling Negus about their experience at Lipscomb University as a Yellow Ribbon student, veterans who meet the U.S. G.I. Bill requirements. Due to that conversation, Negus decided to further his education at Lipscomb and graduated this past weekend with his MBA.

Mary Kathryn Charlton is another student who represents a special group of students at Lipscomb University–the “Lipscomb Lifers.” Charlton competed every year of school at Lipscomb Academy from pre-K to 12th grade, was valedictorian of the high school and earned her bachelor’s from Lipscomb earlier this year. This past week, she successfully passed all four parts of her CPA exam and ended her career at Lipscomb with her master’s in accounting.

Angad Madra, who grew up in India and came to the U.S. on a soccer scholarship, found his way to Lipscomb in 2012. Through a series of circumstances with his student VISA, Madra was threatened with deportation, and sought help from an international lawyer. He discovered that in order to remain a student at Lipscomb, he would need to leave the country and re-enter, and the best way he found to do that was through a Christian mission trip to Mexico. Through this experience and a series of others, Madra found a life of faith, got married and received a bachelor’s degree in business. He is looking forward to being an entrepreneur in a missional way where he can combine his faith, work and Indian culture. Madra represents the 57 nations that are a part of our student body, Lowry said.

“You each have a story, and the story we all have in common is that we are here and a part of this community, and now you will leave as our product and we are absolutely confident that you will go out and change the world,” said Lowry.

“But as you go, I want you to know you will always be a part of the Bison herd and will always have a home in this community. We seek to be a community of faith, and whenever you can come—we will always welcome you back.”

Lowry closed his charge by speaking the words of the Apostle Paul, on behalf of the faculty, over the graduates participating in the ceremony.

2016Commencement_SideSarah“The lessons we have taught you, the traditions we have passed on to you, and all that you have heard us say, and seen us do–put it to practice, and the God of peace will be with you,” said Lowry.

The ceremony ended with Sarah Wood, a member of the senior class, leading the Alma Mater; and with alumnus Henry O. Arnold III, giving the Benediction.