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More than 900 students participate in series of four in-person graduation ceremonies

One of the most cherished traditions at Lipscomb is commencement. The community celebrated with a series of in-person ceremonies in May.

Kim Chaudoin  | 

Smiling student crosses the stage with diploma

With a year of coronavirus pandemic twists and turns, Lipscomb University graduates were able to physically walk across the stage of Allen Arena for the first time since December 2019 during spring commencement May 7-8.

More than 900 students participated in the series of four in-person graduation ceremonies that featured groupings of colleges at each one, limited family and friends in attendance and the traditional fanfare that includes a faculty processional led by bagpipes. It also marked the final commencement for Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry, who is retiring this summer after a 16-year tenure. 

Traditionally in May two commencements take place on the second Saturday of the month with one for graduate and doctoral students in the morning and one for undergraduate students in the afternoon. But offering four smaller ceremonies allowed organizers to adhere to the institution’s COVID-19 protocols and to allow a limited number of guests in the arena in addition to the graduates and faculty. 

Each ceremony featured a faculty charge, a message from the president and conferral of degrees among other activities. 

Ceremony highlights

On Friday, May 7, two commencements were held. The morning ceremony celebrated graduates from the George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts and College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. The faculty charge was given by Jeremy Townsend, assistant professor of kinesiology. He shared lessons learned from Matthew 10.

“While the context is different than what we are going through right now, the essence rings true,” he said. “For me college was hard, but life was harder. You have trained for years for your vocations. There is no doubt that you feel called to these vocations through which you’ll impact your professions, your community and many of you will have a profound influence on the global stage. Early in Matthew 10, Jesus not only called the 12 but He also gave them the power to carry out. The same principle holds true today. Whom God calls, God equips.”

“I believe you have been equipped with one of the strongest weapons against the many trials and challenges that you will face — your fellow graduates and classmates,” he continued. “My charge is to preserve these friendships and lean on them when times get hard. Community is extremely important, and you are part of a wonderful community at Lipscomb.”

View May 7, 10 a.m. Commencement

The afternoon ceremony celebrated graduates from the College of Business, College of Computing & Technology and Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering. Stephanie Weeden-Wright, professor of practice in engineering, presented the faculty charge. 

“Here at Lipscomb we believe that scholarship is in the pursuit of truth,” said Weeden-Wright. “We believe that scholarship is more than facts learned and the application of those facts. We believe that the purpose of scholarship is to use the gifts that God has given us to leave the world a little bit better than we found it. The pursuit of scholarship is no easy task. The journey that you have taken has likely been non-linear with many challenges and failures along the way. So the degree that you are earning today represents your grit and determination.” 

View May 7, 4 p.m. Commencement

Two commencements were also held on Saturday, May 8. The morning ceremony celebrated graduates from the College of Education, College of Leadership & Public Service and College of Professional Studies. The faculty charge was given by Kimberly McCall, assistant professor of law, justice and society. 

“Greatness is fleeting and folly when measured by the standards of this world,” she said. “But if you want to live a life that is enduring and meaningful, pour out your time, energy, attention and resources into serving your neighborhood, communities, this country and our world not because you are great or because you want to attain greatness, but as recipients of God’s lavish grace upon your life it is a natural response.” 

“Many of you have already chosen a field of service,” McCall continued. “You already recognize the beauty that comes from living a life poured out. So, I urge you to hold on to that calling. When others are quick to judge, be quick to listen and empathize. When others are chasing the spotlight, you cherish the quiet opportunities to serve when no one is watching. When others are setting their values and worth by the benchmarks set by this world, you find that inner peace that comes from the knowledge of being known and loved by a Father so that you can help remind others that they, too, are known and loved. You came here to learn, now leave here to serve.”

View May 8, 10 a.m. Commencement

The afternoon ceremony celebrated graduates from the College of Bible & Ministry and College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The faculty charge was given by Josh Strahan, associate professor in the College of Bible & Ministry. 

“Lipscomb is a good school where you received a good education,” Strahan told the graduates. “That will probably set you up for a good job that will earn maybe a good income so that someday you can live in a good house in a good neighborhood. But none of those things add up to a — with a capital ‘G’ — a good life.”

“If you want to pursue a truly good life … the good life with a capital ‘G,’ that is consistent with the eternal life with the age to come, then my charge to you is to love God with all your heart, which looks like loving things the right amount. Give the most love to that which is worthy of the most love … the Father who created you, the Son who gave His life for you, the Spirit who will pour God’s love upon us and to give little or no love to that which is not worthy of the love of a human heart, whether it be luxury or this fleeting pursuit of this ever extending view of beauty or to followers on social media. My charge to you is to love God with all your mind pursuing truth even when it’s not easy to find or easy to hear.”  

View May 8, 4 p.m. Commencement

Lowry addressed graduates at all four of the ceremonies. He shared a favorite quote by Max Dupree that has become a hallmark for him with those assembled.

“He said ‘you can’t be who you need to be if you remain where you are,’” quoted Lowry. “All of you several years ago answered that question because you were somewhere else and you came to this institution for this degree to become something else.”

“Now it’s time to think about that phrase in another way,” he continued. “Today, we also invited you to leave because we know that God has for you an even larger calling … that God has in mind for you to use this education … that your life is not over, that your achievements are not finalized. This is an opportunity to again think about that phrase and act upon it.”

At the ceremony, three faculty were recognized as the 2021 Outstanding Teachers. This year’s recipients are Brandon C. Banes, associate professor of mathematics; Donita M. Brown, instructor in health care management; and David M. Morgan, associate professor of psychology. The Stephen Lee Marsh Christian Example Award was given to Corey D. Shannon.