WILSON, N.C. – Blue skies and a warm breeze welcomed families of 220 graduating seniors at Barton College’s 106th annual commencement exercises on Sunday, May 18. Dr. Norval C. Kneten presided over his fifth commencement program as president of Barton College. Dr. Terrence L. Grimes, vice president for academic affairs, presented the graduating class.
Participating in this year’s commencement ceremony were students who completed their baccalaureate degree requirements in December 2007 and May 2008, as well as candidates who expect to fulfill requirements over the summer.
Dr. Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, delivered the commencement address. In his remarks, he reminded Barton’s graduating seniors of the benefits they had gained attending a small, private liberal arts college. “Barton College has, through its intense and caring atmosphere, helped you discover who you are, what your abilities are, and what is most important to you,” said Dr. Ekman. “I hope that connecting the skills and values that you discovered you have with something that you want to do in the wider world has been a very satisfying experience, and will continue to be as you make other decisions in life.”
He also emphasized to the graduating seniors that while they were now preparing to enter a “world dominated by large organizations in almost every aspect of our lives — as workers, consumers, users of health services, and as citizens,” they also had one significant advantage, thanks to their Barton experience. “You have the advantage of seeing how well at least one small, flexible, and responsive institution can function. The question you face today is whether you will be able to bring this understanding to the other institutions in which you will be involved after graduation so as to make them as effective as Barton College.”
He reminded them that they had learned the value of hard work, of diligence, and of collegiality, as well as the importance of honesty, integrity, and candor through their Barton experience — an experience that included class group projects, team sports, and daily interaction with fellow students and faculty members. Through examples in a series of predictions, Dr. Ekman further illustrated how these “life lessons” will help shape the graduating seniors’ personal and professional decisions. He concluded by telling them that personal integrity will “still be the best basis for decisive, well-informed judgment in the conduct of our lives.”
The commencement exercises included the presentation of the Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa, to K.D. Kennedy, Jr., of Raleigh. The citation, read by Dr. Kneten, described Kennedy as “a driving force over the last two decades, [whose] dedication and commitment to higher education have significantly enhanced the life of Barton College. [Kennedy] has distinguished himself as a leader and benefactor with vision.”
The three highest honors presented to Barton students during Sunday’s program included: the Coggins Cup, the Hilley Cup, and the Hemby Leadership Cup. The Coggins Cup, presented annually to the student voted best all-around by the Barton faculty and staff, was awarded to Hayley Elyse Stafford of Claremont, who graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. The Hilley Cup, presented annually to the graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average, was awarded to Joseph Thomas Hamer of Clayton, who graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. The Hemby Leadership Cup, 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, was awarded to Alexandra Renee Denton of Lucama, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management.
The Jefferson-Pilot Faculty Member of the Year awards, presented annually to two faculty members, were awarded to Patricia Burrus, assistant professor of business in the School of Business, and Dr. Kevin N. Pennington, assistant professor of biology in the Science and Mathematics Department in the School of Arts and Sciences. The awards include a cash stipend for international study in conjunction with Barton’s Global Focus international emphasis.
Lauren Prevatte, senior class president, shared memories of their Barton experience and encouraged her fellow classmates to excel in their future careers. Dr. Phillip H. Warren of Dunn, class of 1971, president of the Barton College Alumni Association and its Alumni Board, brought greetings to graduating seniors on behalf of the Alumni Association and emphasized the importance of staying connected to their alma mater through myriad opportunities available.
The Reverend Hollie Woodruff, chaplain of the college, delivered the baccalaureate sermon earlier Sunday morning. Other commencement festivities during the weekend included a luncheon for seniors and their parents on Saturday afternoon, hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Norval C. Kneten, at the Barton-Graves House. The pinning ceremony for the graduates of the School of Nursing followed on Saturday evening at First United Methodist Church.
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