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‘You want to be a fire and wish for the wind,’ speaker tells Erskine College graduates

College 14-MarchingMembers of the Erskine College Class of 2014 were recognized May 24 at the school’s 169th commencement.

The Hon. Jean H. Toal, Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, brought greetings from the state. She highlighted Erskine’s early role as a Christian college and in the education of women, acknowledging as her mentor the late Jean Galloway Bissell, an Erskine graduate with a “lively mind” who upheld Christian values.

“Just seeing you march across the quad gives me so much hope for the future,” she told the graduating class.

Erskine will be celebrating its 175th anniversary this fall.

College 14-Five Top
Top graduates at podium, from left, Carly McCalla, Amanda Reed, Laura Beth Jobe, Rachel Whitmire, Cate Cardinale

Five members of the Class of 2014 tied for the highest grade point average.

The five co-valedictorians were Cate Elizabeth Cardinale of Rock Hill; Laura Elizabeth Jobe of Fort Mill; Gwendolyn Carly McCalla of Greenwood; Amanda Brooke Reed of Anderson; and Rachel Whitmire of Anderson. Each of the five students was given a brief opportunity to speak about her time at Erskine.

“Let us not forget that many of our opportunities were made possible by others,” Whitmire said.

Jobe said that in the end, what’s important is “how well we love, care for, and extend grace to other people.”

McCalla told her classmates that at Erskine, she has learned that “we can do really great things in small ways.”

“Remember the times that Erskine helped you grow,” Reed urged her classmates. “Remember how important it is to grow.”

“We are more than a college, more than a class, we are truly a family,” Cardinale said. Jobe and Whitmire shared in the introduction of the speaker.

Commencement speaker James M. Seneff Jr., founder and executive chairman of CNL Financial Group, a private investment management firm, is a recipient of the Horatio Alger Award, given to individuals who have succeeded despite adversity and are committed to supporting young people in pursuit of opportunities through higher education.

Noting that the top members of the Class of 2014 were women, Seneff told the graduates, “Salvation is by grace, but graduation is by works. So men, you need to work a little harder.”

College 14-Speaker at podium
At podium, James M. Seneff Jr.; from left, Alumni Association President Steve Southwell, Acting President Dr. N. Bradley Christie, Chief Justice Toal, Chaplain Paul Patrick

A key emphasis of Seneff’s address was the importance of reliance on God. “You can trust the providence of God,” he told the graduates, adding, “Watch and acknowledge His providence.”

Speaking of the challenges that graduates face, Seneff said we are moving out of the information age and entering the conceptual age, characterizing this change as “a seismic shift.”

As more and more facts become easily available, each fact becomes less valuable, he explained, so that placing facts in context is essential—“We want to be climatologists, not weathermen.”

Stressing that there is “no life without adversity,” Seneff urged students to avoid fragility, not simply by becoming sturdy, but by becoming “anti-fragile.”

A fragile object will break if mishandled. The anti-fragile person can say, “Mishandle me and I will grow stronger.”

“Wind extinguishes a candle, but energizes a fire,” Seneff said. “You want to be a fire and wish for the wind.”

During the commencement ceremony, the speaker was praised for his leadership in support of Christian educational enterprises and was presented with the Chairman’s Award by Board of Trustees Chairman W. David Conner.

Several special awards were announced during the commencement exercises, including the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Excellence in Teaching Award, given to McDonald-Boswell Professor of History Dr. David Grier; the Younts Excellence in Teaching Award, given to Assistant Professor of English Dr. Christine Schott; the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given to Daniel John Prohaska of Moncks Corner; the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award, given to Laura Elizabeth Jobe of Fort Mill; and the H.M. Young Ring, the highest honor for a member of the senior class, given to Holly Kathleen Anderson of Henderson, N.C.

Serving as faculty marshals were Dr. Howard E. Thomas, crucifer, and Dr. Ashley Woodiwiss, mace bearer. The Rev. Paul Patrick, chaplain, offered the invocation and benediction.

Steve Southwell, president of the Alumni Association, inducted the graduates into the association.

Senior Class President W. Christopher Caldwell of Anderson announced the class gift, a time capsule to be buried during Erskine’s 175th anniversary festivities this fall and retrieved in 50 years.

The Erskine College Choraleers, directed by Dr. Mark A. Nabholz and accompanied by Dr. Bradley P. Parker, provided music for the event, along with Jean-Pierre Wersinger, piper. Erskine College graduates were:


Bachelor of Arts


Graduates, Jan. 25, 2014: Ashley Danielle Chandarana, Greenville; James Warren Curtis, Lawrenceville, Ga.; Robert James Duran, magna cum laude, Kings Mountain, N.C.; Rebecca Jane Hornby, cum laude, Grayson, Ga.; SháNiqua Mercedes Whitley, Augusta, Ga.  

Graduates, May 24, 2014: Michael Maguire Assey, Mount Pleasant; Sydney Lynn Amelia Battersby, Anderson; Brandon Charles Bjerre, Columbia, Md.; Kaleigh Salmon Bolin, summa cum laude, Chandler, Ariz.; Julie Marie Boyce, Hickory Tavern; William Christopher Caldwell, Anderson; Cate Elizabeth Cardinale, summa cum laude, Anderson; Hannah Louise Collins, Fountain Inn; Alex Nicole Davenport, Iva; Cory Michael Deaton, Fountain Inn; Ray Atkinson Moore Dillingham, Rock Hill; Jana Nakiea Dixon, magna cum laude, Conyers, Ga.; Christine Renée Dumouchel, summa cum laude, Charleston; Daniel Alexander Goebel, Greenville; Paris Alexis Hanvey, Anderson; Sarah Ellenne Austin Jacks, Mountville; Tiffany Ruth Mills, Charleston; Rebecca Suzanne Pearson, Laurens; Claire Morgana Penning, magna cum laude, Valley Center, Kan.; Daniel John Prohaska, Moncks Corner; Amanda Holly Richmond, Clover; Hannah Elyssa Timms, magna cum laude, Belton; Jonathan David Valentine, Gastonia, N.C.; Kevin Velasquez, Greenville; Laura Emily Walenceus, summa cum laude, Greenwood

Candidates, Aug. 15, 2014: Robert Evan Howard, Thomson, Ga.; Joshua Grant Madsen, Rock Hill

Bachelor of Science


Graduates, Jan. 25, 2014: Amanda Leigh Faris, Richburg; April Marie Horne, cum laude, West Columbia; Lauren Davis Stewart, Hartwell, Ga.; Bailey Nicole Thornton, Pauline  

Graduates, May 24, 2014: Michelle Elizabeth Aiken, summa cum laude, Waterloo; Holly Kathleen Anderson, summa cum laude, Henderson, N.C.; Jonathan Weir Ashworth, Columbia; Hannah Jane Bedwell, Honea Path; Bryson Anthony Bottini, Clover; Joseph Lamar Brown, cum laude, Whitmire; Roberson Evan Brown, Dillon; Whitney Alexandra Brown, West Columbia; Katherine Victoria Busbee, magna cum laude, Columbia; Anna Elizabeth Butrym, summa cum laude, West Columbia; Ann-Marie Carlisle, Newberry; Jeremy Ryan Carrell, magna cum laude, Prince George, Va.; Julia Layne Clanton, Williamston; Kendall Layne Cole, Williamston; Stephen Chase Corn, Travelers Rest; Kelly Rose Dalziel, Ocean, N.J.; Roberto De La Vina, summa cum laude, Oviedo, Spain; Sarah Michelle DeVos, Spartanburg; James Langston Evans, Stone Mountain, Ga.; John Herbert Fisher IV, Starr; Isabelle Marie Forbes, Columbia; Michael James Gabbard, Erlanger, Ky.; Tyler David Geer, summa cum laude, Clemson; Christopher Charles Gore, Myrtle Beach; Corin Burrell Hallman, cum laude, Mount Pleasant; Virginia Thomas Harmon, Taylors; Edward Louis Heiser Jr., Lincolnshire, Ill.; Christopher Andrew Henry, magna cum laude, Lexington; Patrick Charles Henry, Myrtle Beach; Ashlyn Tate Hicks, cum laude, Cayce; William Herschel Huff, Sugar Hill, Ga.; Casey Elizabeth Regina Hughes, Prosperity; Laura Elizabeth Jobe, summa cum laude, Fort Mill; Anna Katherine Johnson, cum laude, Rock Hill; Elizabeth Hanahan Joye, Columbia; Darko Kankaras, Niksic, Montenegro; Krista A. Keesey, Due West; Christopher Arthur Kennelly, Rock Hill; Adison Edward Lawrence, Greenville; Ross Matthew Lisee, Rock Hill; Carl Jerome Long IV, Gastonia, N.C.; Sami Maree, Haifa, Israel; Gwendolyn Carly McCalla, summa cum laude, Greenwood; Leslie Anne McGill, Clover; Katherine Ann Mulzer, Donalds; Alexandria Danielle Oakes, Martinsville, Va.; Hannah Dianne Oates, Gastonia, N.C.; Kailagh Patrice Powell, cum laude, Fort Mill; Rosa Elise Powell, Lilburn, Ga.; Katie Elizabeth Putnam, Rock Hill; Amanda Brooke Reed, summa cum laude, Anderson; Timothy Blake Robinson, Simpsonville; Nathaniel Sean Rush, Columbia; Jonathan James Rutter, Sutton Coldfield, England; Nicole Jennifer Shannon, summa cum laude, Belton; Dustin Todd Sherbert, Mayo; Brock McMeekin Sherrod, Winnsboro; Casey Thomas Sorrell, Walton, Ky.; Jacqueline Ruth Strowd, summa cum laude, North Charleston; Sarah Catherine Tibbits, Marietta, Ga.; Abby Michelle Waters, Anderson; Lindsey Rae Weidenaar, Evans, Ga.; John Taliaferro West V, magna cum laude, Belton; Nicholas Shawn Westhead, Anderson; Rachel Alyssa Whitmire, summa cum laude, Anderson; Ashlee Elizabeth Williams, Martinez, Ga.; Nathan Wade Williamson, Walhalla; Cameron Paul Yost, Simpsonville  

Candidates, Aug. 15, 2014: Jake Thomas Haslam, Lithia, Fla.; Graham Smith Martin, Belton; Chase Thomas Norman, Blacksburg; Johnny Uy, Inman


See college commencement photos here.

More college commencement photos here.

Erskine and Due West Skyline

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Erskine College admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.

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