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More than 450 degrees conferred at December commencement

Allen Arena was filled with a buzz of excitement on Saturday as Lipscomb University celebrated its December graduates at commencement, during which more than 450 degrees were conferred.

Kim Chaudoin  | 

Dr. Candice McQueen handing a graduate her diploma.

Watch December commencement

The ceremony marked the first commencement presided over by new Lipscomb president Candice McQueen, who began her tenure as the institution’s 18th president in September. It also marked the first graduation of students in the College of Education’s graduate program in gifted and advanced academics and in the College of Leadership & Public Service’s regional scholars program. 

McQueen offered a charge to the newly minted graduates in which she asked if they were, “ready to begin again?” as they celebrate the completion of a degree. It is a question, she said, she was asked earlier this year when considering the presidency at Lipscomb — and is a question she has considered before a number of other significant personal and professional moments in her life. 

“The question is, are you ready to begin, again?,” she asked. “I was asked this question when I started my first year in college. And then again, when I began my second graduate degree, when I had a second child and when I moved across the country to another state? I was asked, ‘Are you ready to begin again?’ the day after I was sitting right where you are, when I was beginning a new job. So today, I ask you, ‘are you ready to begin again?’” 

McQueen said that question was likely one that was considered as the graduates began pursuing the degrees that they received Saturday, and is a question to be considered often. 

Students in line to receive diplomas

“I would propose to you that this question is not just a question for these significant moments, but rather one that we should be asking often, in fact, every day,” McQueen explained. “First, let's simply consider the word beginning. One of the best things about beginning is the anticipation of new and unknown. But one of the worst things about a new beginning is the anxiety of the unknown. One of the best things about experiencing something new is that it challenges you. And one of the worst things about experiencing something new, is that it's challenging. So we're doing things to be a bit of a conundrum. While they offer great anticipation and hope, they can be filled with challenges.”

I suggest to you that tomorrow will be a new beginning for you … post degree and next-step driven. But this beginning is not a test. It is a beautiful life of beginnings that we have been gifted to us for God's purposes,” she continued. “Well, tomorrow is a new beginning for you. Don't forget that you have been given grace to begin new every day and should be filled with hope each and every day. This draws out the anxiety that you may be feeling and the darkness that can creep in each and every day. His mercies are new every morning. That's his promise, and that’s what we need to remember about beginning again.”  

McQueen suggested to the graduates they are ready to begin again because of the resiliency they have shown over the past few years that has prepared them well for change that is inevitably a part of life. 

“You fought with unprecedented challenges in the last few years. And you have completed what may have seemed at times like an unending journey of twists and turns into the unknown as COVID raged … and the delivery of courses changed and internships were interrupted ... and you had to constantly regroup. So if anyone is ready to take on what tomorrow brings, you are ready. You're ready in your discipline. You're ready in your vocation, and you're ready to take on all the inevitable changes that life can give us. I hope they will not be as dramatic as some of the changes we've had the last few years. But change will come and it will come in different forms in a different moment. But you're ready.”

Dr. Willie Steele gives a faculty charge to students.

Dr. William Steele gives a faculty charge to students.

“So, when someone asks you, ‘Are you ready to begin again?’ They are asking you, ‘Are you ready to start anew every single day, do you have the confidence to take on new challenges and are you prepared for the new adventures and opportunities that will now come your way? Your answers as a new Lipscomb graduate should be a resounding ‘yes.’ You're enough. You got this and you are ready.”

Students also received a charge from William Steele, professor of English and author of Going the Distance: The Life and Works of W.P. Kinsella, on behalf of the faculty. Steele shared words of advice from the iconic baseball film Field of Dreams, based on Kinsella’s book, Shoeless Joe.

The words he drew upon were from voices heard by the film’s main character, Ray Kinsella. The first, “if you build it he will come.” 

“My first charge is to listen to those voices you may hear … when you feel called to do something that is much bigger than yourself, and the world was going to tell you that it's a stupid idea,” said Steele. “Don't listen to them. Pursue your passions with everything that you have.”

Steele’s second challenge came from the voice’s admonition to “ease his pain.” “The second part of the charge today, students, is that you will look for ways to ease the pain of the world around you,” explained Steele. “We live in a world that is increasingly divided and is increasingly hostile towards one another. I hope and pray that you will find ways to not be those people, you will find ways to be people who are easing the pain in this world. Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman Jackie Robinson once said, ‘A life is not important except for the impact that it has in other lives.’ We want you to have a positive impact in this world and to actively see for ways in which you can do that.”

The final challenge Steele shared was from the voice’s encouragement to “go the distance.” 

“There are going to be times in the coming years where you are dealing with all sorts of difficult financial, physical health issues, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs. I hope and pray, graduates, that you will go the distance,” Steele challenged. “One of my favorite movies is A League of Their Own with Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. At one point, she's telling him that this is a really hard thing that we're doing. He says it's supposed to be hard. If it weren't hard, everybody would be doing it. The hard is what makes it great.” 

“Graduates,” he continued, “I want you to listen to those voices. I want you to ease the pain of the world around you and I want you to go the distance. Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability with the talents with which God has so richly blessed you. Graduates, we are happy for you. We are proud of you and we love you. We wish you all the best.”

December commencement in Allen Arena