Faculty, staff, trustees, families, and friends came together to celebrate the 74 graduates receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees on Saturday, December 14, 2019.
University President Todd Williams opened the ceremony with prayer. He was then followed by Dr Benjamin Harding, dean of the School of Music, who played “How Great Thou Art” on piano, and Annie Brennan, who read Psalm 19.
The Fall 2019 graduating class reached substantial academic achievement. Of the 74 graduates, 41 students received master’s degrees, 44 received baccalaureate degrees, and 1 received an associate degree. 22 undergraduate/dual-level students received Latin honors for maintaining a GPA of 3.5 or higher. The title for 2nd Highest GPA was a three-way-tie between Gabrielle Leamer, Jordan Kozeman, and Aaron Delbury, who all held a 3.97 GPA. The student with the highest GPA was Hannah Edwards, who held a 3.99 GPA.
After all the degrees were awarded, Dr. Williams introduced this semester’s commencement speaker, Dr. Jonathan Master ’98, dean of the School of Divinity. In his introduction, Dr. Williams also announced that Dr. Master will be leaving the University this July to assume the presidency of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in South Carolina. While Dr. Master will be deeply missed by students, faculty, and staff, Dr Williams reminded the crowd that “the Kingdom is much larger than this University.” We are excited for the work that he will do in this new role.
Following his introduction, Dr. Master took the podium. An alumnus of the University himself, Dr. Master began his address by recalling his own graduation day, which took place in the same gymnasium just over 20 years ago.
He mentioned that out of all that he learned in his University experience, the things that influenced him most were “casual, off-handed, and unplanned.” He said he could list dozens of these moments over the course of his life, and he stated how these moments are the things that “really shape who we are and who we become.”
Dr. Master then directed the audience to a specific aside that Jesus made in a discussion he had with the Pharisees in John 10: “The Scripture cannot be broken.”
While this statement was not the crux of Jesus’ argument in this passage, its truth is a foundational doctrine that Jesus’ earthly ministry was built on. He was the one to say, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17, ESV). Jesus’ earthly ministry and the rest of the Bible point to the authority of Scripture and its unbreakable power in the life of the believer.
“Those of you graduating today have been blessed by an education centered on the Word of God—the unbreakable, inexhaustible, life-giving Bible,” Dr. Master said, directly addressing the graduates. “You have the opportunity to live with clarity and to live with real hope. . . . May Christ richly bless you, and may His unbreakable word give you eyes that are clear, hands that are ready, and hearts that are full of courage. Scripture cannot be broken.”
Congratulations, Class of 2019!