WILSON, N.C. — April 30, 2021 —Kelly S. King, chairman and chief executive officer of Truist Financial Corporation, will be the featured speaker at first of two ceremonies for the 119th Commencement Exercises of Barton College scheduled for Saturday, May 8, on center campus at 10 a.m. The second ceremony for the Class of 2021 will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, with featured speaker Dr. Murali Ranganathan, professor of mathematics at Barton College, and the 118th Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2020 graduates will be held on Sunday morning at 10 a.m., with featured speaker, Dr. Rebecca Godwin, Elizabeth H. Jordan Endowed Chair of Southern Literature in the School of Humanities at Barton College.
Dr. Douglas N. Searcy will preside over his sixth commencement program as president of Barton College. Dr. Gary Daynes, provost and vice president for academic affairs, will present the 2021 Class of 253 undergraduate and graduate students.
On Sunday, the College expects more than half of the Class of 2020 to return to campus to walk across the stage as well. They missed that distinctive milestone opportunity last spring when the Covid-19 Pandemic prevented Commencement Exercises from being held in person. A virtual Commencement event was held in May 2020.
Participating in this year’s commencement ceremonies on Saturday will be students who completed their baccalaureate degree requirements in December 2020 and May 2021, as well as undergraduate candidates who expect to fulfill requirements over the summer. Also participating will be graduates of the Master of Business Administration in Strategic Leadership degree, Master of Science in Nursing degree, and Master of School Administration degree programs.
The three highest honors presented to Barton students: the Coggins Cup, the Hilley Cup, and the Hemby Leadership Cup, will be awarded. The Coggins Cup is presented annually to the student voted best all-around by the Barton faculty and staff. The Hilley Cup is presented annually to the graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average. The Hemby Leadership Cup is presented to the graduating senior, who in the estimation of the college community (including students, faculty and staff) has demonstrated outstanding leadership throughout a career at Barton College.
The Lincoln Financial Excellence in Teaching Fund Faculty Member of the Year awards will also be presented. The awards, given annually to two faculty members, include a cash stipend for international study.
Kathy Turner, Class of 2012, president of the Barton College Alumni Association and its Alumni Board, will bring greetings to graduating seniors on behalf of the Alumni Association.
Barton’s Commencement Weekend activities will begin with the baccalaureate service for students and their families on Friday evening, May 7, at 6:30 p.m. in Howard Chapel. The Reverend David Finnegan-Hosey, college chaplain and director of campus ministries, will officiate at the service.
Seating reservations are required.
About the Commencement Speakers —
Mr. Kelly S. King –
Mr. Kelly S. King is chairman and chief executive officer of Truist Financial Corporation. He began his career in 1972, joining the Management Development Program of Truist predecessor BB&T. His career at BB&T included leadership roles in commercial and retail banking, operations, insurance, corporate financial services, investment services, and capital markets. He served as chief operating officer of BB&T Corporation and Branch Banking and Trust Company from June 2004 to December 2008 and president of BB&T Corporation from 1996 to June 2004. He was named president and chief executive officer of BB&T Corporation and chairman and chief executive officer of Branch Banking & Trust Company in January 2009 and became chairman of BB&T in January 2010. In December 2019, he became chairman and chief executive officer of Truist Financial Corporation, created through the merger of equals between BB&T Corporation and SunTrust Banks, Inc.
He served on the Federal Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve System from 2013 to 2016 and as its president in 2016. He also served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond from 2009 to 2012. He is currently a board member for BEST NC, The Clearing House, Foundation For the Carolinas, Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, and the Bank Policy Institute (BPI), where he serves as chairman of BPI’s Nomination and Membership Committee. He is also a member of the National Leadership Advisory Council for High Point University.
King has served as chairman of the North Carolina Bankers Association Board, chairman of the North Carolina Rural Economic Center, chairman of the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center and chairman of the Forsyth County United Way Tocqueville Leadership Society. He has also served as chairman of East Carolina University’s Board of Visitors and is the former chairman of the Board of the Piedmont Triad Partnership and a former vice-chairman of the American Bankers Council.
A native of North Carolina, King earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in business administration from East Carolina University. He is a graduate of the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University.
Dr. Murali K. Ranganathan –
Born and raised as a southerner in the world’s largest democracy, Murali Krishnan Ranganathan has taught for the past three-decades at Barton College. Growing up in the coastal city of Chennai, Indi, he attended St. Bede’s Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School and is a President (Eagle) Scout. Volunteering as a teenager with the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, he was inspired by serving others. A lover of nature and an avid mountaineer, he has participated in two expeditions in the Himalayas, while earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics with minors in Physics and Chemistry from Vivekananda College, Chennai. During his time in college, besides volunteering with numerous social service organizations, and leading the debating society, he organized Vistas 83 – a cultural festival for students from more than a dozen colleges and was recognized with the college’s top student award.
He earned his Master of Science degree in Mathematics in 1985 from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, one of India’s premier technological universities, and was top of his graduating class. He also met his soul mate Vandana Srivastava, a fellow mathematician and educator who presently teaches at Pitt Community College, Greenville, N.C. Earning his doctoral degree from Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, in 1991, under the guidance of Professor Jacques Lewin in non-commutative ring theory, Dr. Ranganathan was recognized with an Outstanding Teaching Assistant award by Syracuse University.
His passion for teaching and mission to save mathematical souls found a home at Barton College. He has served as a member of Barton faculty since 1991. Dr. Ranganathan is a recipient of the 1998 Jefferson-Pilot Faculty Member of the Year Award and the 2015 Lincoln Financial Excellence in Teaching Award at Barton College. He has served on several college committees and task forces. He is currently serving, for a second time, as the Faculty and Staff Representative to the Board of Trustees. He enjoys learning as much as he does teaching – now to the children of those whom he taught during his early years at Barton.
Dr. Ranganathan’s favorite activities are listening to classical music from around the world, hiking, and working in his garden. He has traveled to four of the seven continents, and having visited many crowded cities in the world, Venice, Italy, and Cairo, Egypt, are his top two picks after the Masai Mara, Kenya. Among the dozens of national parks he has visited, he loves the serenity of the Glacier National Park, Montana. His hobbies include drawing and birding. A person of deep faith and with love for the truth found in all religions, he enjoys listening to the words of the wise and finds eloquence in silence and stillness of the mind.
Dr. Rebecca L. Godwin –
Dr. Rebecca L. Godwin currently holds the Elizabeth H. Jordan Endowed Chair of Southern Literature in the School of Humanities at Barton College. Prior to this role, she served as Director of the Sam and Marjorie Ragan Writing Center as she also taught classes. She received the Jefferson-Pilot Faculty Member of the Year Award in 1999.
She is past president of The Thomas Wolfe Society, past president of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, past chair of the North Carolina Writers Conference, and member of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame Selection Committee. For the North Carolina Poetry Society, she served for fifteen years as coordinator of the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Student Poet Series for Eastern North Carolina, helping burgeoning poets to connect with literary mentors. Past president of the Friends of Wilson County Public Library, she continues to serve on that board as well as the Friends of Hackney Library board.
Dr. Godwin has enjoyed sharing her analyses of literature at twenty-three meetings of regional or national organizations. She returns often to gatherings of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association to present and to learn from her colleagues from across the globe who introduce her to new authors and fresh theories for interpreting the literary arts.
She serves on the editorial board of The Thomas Wolfe Review and periodically works as consulting editor for North Carolina Literary Review.
Her publications total over thirty-five essays or book reviews in critical anthologies or scholarly journals such as “Mississippi Quarterly,” “Southern Quarterly,” and “North Carolina Literary Review.” She focuses mostly on Southern writers, particularly those from our literary-rich Tar Heel state. Her most recent publication is an analysis of the work of David Joy, “Listening through the Violence,” appearing this year in “Twenty-First-Century Southern Writers: New Voices, New Perspectives” (University Press of Mississippi). International Scholars Press brought out her book “Gender Dynamics in the Fiction of Lee Smith,” and this summer, she finalizes revisions for her book on the work of Robert Morgan for West Virginia University Press.
Dr. Godwin completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Barton College (then Atlantic Christian College), a Master of Arts degree in English at North Carolina State University, and a Ph.D. in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, focusing on Twentieth-Century American and British Literature but adding a minor in Southern Literature.