Erskine College and Theological Seminary marked the end of the 2014-15 academic year with a joint commencement ceremony May 23 honoring both college and seminary graduates.
Dr. George W. Robertson, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Ga., and an adjunct professor at Erskine Theological Seminary, delivered the commencement address, entitled “Play Like You’re Loved.”
Robertson was introduced by the college senior with the highest grade point average, Rebekah Ann Bowen of Columbia, S.C., who completed a double major, studying English as well as Bible and Religion.
Robertson told the graduating seniors, “I want you to know God loves you as much as he can ever love you, and He will never stop.”
Knowing God’s love “will allow you to stand up in a depressed world,” he said, adding, “You are entering a depressive culture.”
Involvement in a gospel-centered church community will reinforce knowledge of the love of God. “If you go to church you will not be able to forget that God loves you,” Robertson said.
He also urged the graduating class to go out from the church to engage the world, encouraging “real engagement” that helps advance the gospel. Knowing the love of God can provide strength “to stand up to despots,” to stand for justice. Offering an example of such engagement, he told of a man in his congregation who had been pulled over by a policeman and falsely accused of drug possession, then released without explanation.
The young African American, rather than responding in anger, paid a visit to the police station the next day. “Your prejudice and profiling do not define me,” he told the officer. Then, instead of berating the man who had wronged him, he spoke about his life-defining faith in Jesus.
Several special college awards were announced during the commencement exercises, including the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Excellence in Teaching Award, given to Young Professor of Chemistry Dr. Howard Thomas; the Younts Excellence in Teaching Award, presented to Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Naoma Nelsen; the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given to Parker Reid Edison of Marietta, S.C., a magna cum laude graduate in Biology; the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award, given to Chelsea Lauren Ball of Spartanburg, a magna cum laude graduate in Chemistry; and the H.M. Young Ring, the highest honor for a member of the senior class, given to Christopher Ronald Funk of Spartanburg, a magna cum laude graduate who completed a double major in Biology and Chemistry.
Seminary awards announced at commencement included the Douglas Joel Culver Award in Hebrew, given to Eric Scott Wenger of Columbia; the Ray A. King Church History Award, given to Owen Douglas Payne of Seattle, Wash.; and the Bruce G. Pierce Award for Christian Leadership, given to Jeremiah Thomas of Fayetteville, Tenn.
Two honorary degrees were awarded during the commencement ceremony.
Eleanor Chesnut Richardson of Flat Rock, N.C., a veteran Erskine volunteer and professional fund-raiser who most recently served Bonclarken Conference Center, received the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Richardson, a former president of the Erskine Alumni Association, said she was “humbled, appreciative, and thrilled” to be honored by her alma mater.
The Rev. David Ralph Johnston, Jr., of Gibsonia, Penn., longtime Associate Reformed Presbyterian minister and mission developer who established a congregation built around the small-group ministry model, received the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. “All that I am, all that I own, all that I will ever be belongs to Jesus Christ,” Johnston said.
Serving as faculty marshals were Dr. Howard E. Thomas, crucifer, and Dr. Loyd D. Melton, mace bearer. The Rev. Paul Patrick, chaplain, offered the invocation and benediction.
W. Andrew Byrd, president of the Alumni Association, inducted the graduates into the association.
Jacob E. DeLuca of Flat Rock, N.C., president of the Erskine College Class of 2015, offered a response to Byrd and announced the class gift, a weeping cherry tree. DeLuca expressed his hope that as the tree grows, members of the class might return to campus and reflect on their lives and their time at Erskine.
Jeremiah A. Thomas of Fayetteville, Tenn., president of the Erskine Seminary Class of 2015, also responded to Byrd’s induction of the graduates and announced that the class gift will be a donation to assist a classmate with medical expenses.
The Erskine College Choraleers, directed by Dr. Mark A. Nabholz and accompanied by Erskine College Sinfonia, conducted by Dr. J. Brooks Kuykendall, provided music for the ceremony.
Erskine College graduates were:
Bachelor of Arts
Graduate, Jan. 26, 2015: Caitlin Monet Lejeune, cum laude, White Stone, S.C.
Graduates, May 23, 2015: Whitney Carol Adkins, Stuart’s Draft, Va.; Christian Edmond Beamguard, Clover, S.C.; Rebekah Ann Bowen, summa cum laude, Columbia, S.C.; Oreyale Alexandria Briggs-Williams, Hodges, S.C.; Derrick Miles Brown, cum laude, Anderson, S.C.; Patrick Thomas Crump, Rock Hill, S.C.; Jordan Matthew Durham, Williamston, S.C.; Mika Goyette, Montreal, Quebec; Nathan Robert Holben, Clover, S.C.; Edison J. Kang, Whitestone, N.Y.; Adrienne Haley Meredith, Swansea, S.C.; Joseph Ryan Porter, magna cum laude, Anderson, S.C.; Kyle Ryan Ritland, summa cum laude, Belton, S.C.; Trevor Erik Ritland, magna cum laude, Belton, S.C.; Rachel Lynn Talbot, summa cum laude, Rock Hill, S.C.; Caroline Sue Thomas, magna cum laude, Raleigh, N.C.; Samuel Jacob Weeks, Newport News, Va.; Melanie Locke Westhead, Summerville, S.C.; Kurt Christian Widenhouse, Clover, S.C.; Steven Jackson Woolbright, Greenwood, S.C.
Candidates, Aug. 15, 2015: Amy Joy Faulkner, Albany, Ohio; Jonathan Edmond Jacobs, Greenville, S.C.; Patrick Thomas McCaul, Cowpens, S.C.
Bachelor of Science
Graduates, Jan. 26, 2015: Mary Margaret Brown, Alcolu, S.C.; Evan Thomas Gursky, Kissimmee, Fla.; Warren T. Ramsey, Edgemoor, S.C.; Angela Morgan Alexandra Wood, Belton, S.C.
Graduates, May 23, 2015: Michelle Bradley Addy, Batesburg, S.C.; Chelsea Lauren Ball, magna cum laude, Spartanburg, S.C.; Daniel Edward Beaty, cum laude, Lexington, S.C.; Amanda Eva Rachelle Behrens, Tampa, Fla.; Leonard Bassford Blanchard, Jr., summa cum laude, Orangeburg, S.C.; Marco Orfeo Borsetto, Freeport, Grand Bahama; Caitlin Paige Bullock, Lexington, S.C.; Micah Graham Burklin, Rock Hill, S.C.; Samantha Marie Burns, cum laude, Hilton Head, S.C.; Mekenzie Alexandra Carpenter, Anderson, S.C.; Austin Lever Castles, Anderson, S.C.; Robert Everette Clarke, Due West, S.C.; Olivia Ashley Clinkscales, Anderson, S.C.; Gabriel Thomas Clinton, cum laude, Columbia, S.C.; Justin Deron Cofer, Evans, Ga.; Jeron Devariá Crawford, Gastonia, N.C.; Jacob Edward DeLuca, Flat Rock, N.C.; Richard Timothy Dix, Jr., Clemson, S.C.; Charles Franklin Dysart, Greenwood, S.C.; Parker Reid Edison, magna cum laude, Marietta, S.C.; Heather McMillan Endicott, summa cum laude, Greenville, S.C.; Alanna Rachel Ennis, York, S.C.; Dillon Wilson Summerfield Everett, Lugoff, S.C.; Christopher Ronald Funk, magna cum laude, Spartanburg, S.C.; Jessie Marie Gaughan, Leland, N.C.; Matthew Christopher Going, Ware Shoals, S.C.; Martha Linn Hemphill, summa cum laude, Moreland, Ga.; Kaitlin Elizabeth Hoffman, magna cum laude, Gastonia, N.C.; Brooke Elise Hopkins, Anderson, S.C.; Chelsy Lé Ann Hunter, Anderson, S.C.; Houston Chase Ison, High Point, N.C.; Megan Elaine Johnson, Little River, S.C.; McCarley Addison Lewis, cum laude, Easley, S.C.; Hanlon Ignatius Maivelett, summa cum laude, Aiken, S.C.; Christopher Wilson Mathewes V, cum laude, Simpsonville, S.C.; Zachary David McAllister, Simpsonville, S.C.; Katherine Maurice McClure, Red Hill, Pa.; Samantha Taylor McCurry, Gastonia, N.C.; Janet Michelle McGill, Clover, S.C.; Jordan Christopher Mitchell, Anderson, S.C.; Rachel Olivia Mitchell, magna cum laude, Zebulon, Ga.; Rachel Mikaela Moore, magna cum laude, Lexington, S.C.; Trevor Allen Moreland, cum laude, Columbia, S.C.; Joseph Banks Moss, cum laude, Richburg, S.C.; Tara Kailee Potter, Charlotte, N.C.; Ashley Conner Reeves, Zebulon, Ga.; Joseph Timothy Rehn, Taylors, S.C.; Marlee Ann Rhodes, Williamston, S.C.; Matthew Ryan Richardson, Walhalla, S.C.; Dallas Ann Roe, Taylors, S.C.; Andrew Michael Settlemire, Beaufort, S.C.; Molly Catherine Sexton, Williamston, Ga.; Angela Nicole Shaver, Townville, S.C.; Robert Allen Shaver, Vero Beach, Fla.; Christian Randall Sheets, Atlanta, Ga.; Zachary Steven Smith, Lexington, S.C.; Haleigh Gabrielle Spaulding, Ocala, Fla.; Cody Ryan Spence, Belton, S.C.; Bradford Charles Thorne, Moore, S.C.; William Bates Unthank, West Columbia, S.C.; Benny Uy, Inman, S.C.; Robert Nicholas Van Horn, Honea Path, S.C.; Kelly Nicole Walker, magna cum laude, Hendersonville, N.C.; Sarah Kathleen Watkins, magna cum laude, Greenwood, S.C.; Angela Marie Weatherly, Honea Path, S.C.; Richard Coleman Welch, cum laude, Belton, S.C.; Jonathan Isaac Williamson, Walhalla, S.C.; George Russell Wood, magna cum laude, Atlanta, Ga.; Michael Brandon Wooten, Taylors, S.C.
Candidates, Aug. 15, 2015: Adrienné Bannerman, Watha, N.C.; DeShaun Ahkeem Hall, Spartanburg, S.C.; Zackarey Chandler Jones, Anderson, S.C.; Nicholas James Levy, Hilton Head, S.C.
Erskine Theological Seminary graduates were:
Master of Arts in Theological Studies
Graduate, Jan. 1, 2015: Shay Brunson Godwin, Myrtle Beach, S.C
Graduates, May 23, 2015: Miriam Tucker Taylor, Seneca, S.C.; Eric Scott Wenger, Columbia, S.C
Candidate, Sept. 1, 2015: Owen Douglas Payne, Seattle, Wash.
Master of Divinity
Graduates, Jan. 1, 2015: Tyler Culbertson, Columbia, S.C.; Michael M. Driggers, Columbia, S.C.; Junyong Kim, Suwon, South Korea; James E. Rourk, Charleston, S.C.; Walker Randolph Suits, Irmo, S.C.
Graduates, May 23, 2015: Hugh Robert Brantley, Sr., Spartanburg, S.C.; Justin David Brickey, West Columbia, S.C.; Jason Colin Moore, Hebron, S.C.; Blair Meekins Smith, Dillon, S.C.; John Taylor, Hemingway, S.C.; Jeremiah Andrew Thomas, Fayetteville, Tenn.; Damon Rawn Thornhill, Summerville, S.C.
Candidates, Sept. 1, 2015: Berma Velencia Anderson, Marion, S.C.; Bernard Marvin Brown, Johns Island, S.C.; Robert I. Gordon, Johns Island, S.C.; Terrence L. Vandiver, Evans, Ga.
Master of Theology
Graduates, May 23, 2015: John Paul Marr, Wappingers Falls, N.Y.; Matthew Scott Miller, Greenville, S.C.
Candidate, Sept. 1, 2015: Paul Alan Rivard, Greenville, S.C.
Doctor of Ministry
Graduates, May 23, 2015: Howard Myles Bankston, Bogalusa, La.; William Alan Breckenridge, Houston, Texas; Raphael Ikechukwu Eke, San Antonio, Texas; William Howard Elder, Rock Hill, S.C.; Robert E. Gustafson, Jr., Greenville, S.C.; James P. Hall, Fayetteville, N.C.; Jamie Maurice Hudson, Sumter, S.C.; Jonathan Chung Gu Lee, Los Angeles, Calif.; Tersa M. McAnally, Sevierville, Tenn.; Brent Jeremy Mulder, Sheldon, Iowa; Robert Lloyd Olson, San Antonio, Texas; Lex Michael Reed, Henderson, Texas; Mario Anthony Russo, New York, N.Y.; Adam Daniel Tietje, Corning, N.Y.
Candidates, Sept. 1, 2015: Glen James Clary, Pflugerville, Texas; Shawna N. Counce, Rochester, N.Y.; Robert Ginsburg, Denver, Colo.