December commencement includes more than 400 students and one honorary doctorate

Lipscomb University celebrated the graduation of its December 2012 class on Saturday, Dec. 15, with one of its largest winter ceremonies ever and an honorary doctorate awarded to a longtime supporter.

December 2012 graduation

The largest group of graduates ever – 432—were expected to participate in the 2 p.m. commencement ceremony, and one participant was especially honored: former trustee Neika Brewer Stephens was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters during the ceremony.

The fall 2012 semester marked the first graduation of students in three new master’s programs:  civic leadership, health care informatics and information security, and the first doctoral students in education, four unique programs that fill in-demand job niches in Middle Tennessee.

The size of Lipscomb’s annual December commencement ceremony has more than doubled in the past five years. The growth follows consistent enrollment increases, by almost 70 percent since 2005.

About Neika Stephens

Stephens, a 1952 graduate of David Lipscomb High School, has a lifelong affiliation with Lipscomb that began with her great-grandfather, J. R. Ward. She has served the university and its campus school for decades. A three-term member of the Lipscomb Board of Trustees, Stephens has been an avid supporter of the Associated Women for Lipscomb among numerous other events, programs and initiatives at the institution.

Last year, Stephens and her husband, Bill, through the Stephens Christian Trust, pledged $10 million gift to Lipscomb Academy to support its facilities and programs. University officials named the Lipscomb Academy Elementary School campus the Brewer Campus in her honor.

“Neika is a tireless servant who is very passionate about Lipscomb and Christian education,” said L. Randolph Lowry, president of Lipscomb University. “She is a constant presence at most Lipscomb events and has devoted much of her life volunteering her time and expertise to the school. This is the highest honor the university bestows on an individual. It is a very fitting honor for one who means so much to this university.”

Stephens is the fifth recipient in university history to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Lipscomb. Past recipients include former Lipscomb University president Willard Collins; former board members John Johnston and Hilton Dean; and prominent civil rights attorney Fred Gray.

“Neika is a remarkable woman who is passionate about education,” Lipscomb Provost W. Craig Bledsoe said. “In fact, she still takes classes on a regular basis. I wouldn’t be surprised to find she has enough credits to have earned a doctorate already!”