In a welcome return to tradition, graduates and their families gathered under the towers of the Erskine Building May 8 for Erskine’s first in-person commencement celebration since 2019. Students from both the college and seminary were recognized during the outdoor celebration, in which an address was given by the Rev. Dr. Neil C. Stewart, pastor of Christ Covenant Church, Greensboro, N.C. A native of Northern Ireland, Stewart formerly served as a pediatrician in Belfast.
Outlining some of the views gaining ground in today’s society, Stewart noted that “Many in our culture are saying that you are a biological accident…that began as a fluke and ends up as fertilizer.”
This vision of human identity can be bleak, but some of its adherents would say that “You can have a lot of fun going from nothing to nothing,” finding pleasure in the moment, Stewart said.
The speaker told the graduates he wanted them to avoid coming to the end of life and realizing “you’ve spent your life, your precious earthly life, pursuing all of the things that don’t matter.” People fall into this trap through self-deception, and he warned students against accepting four “lies about life.”
First, some people believe “the lie of more,” that life is about building prosperity. Second, some think life is about security, especially about securing prosperity, and this belief “can blind you to the fundamental insecurity of life”—one death for every person. People who focus on securing prosperity might believe a third lie, that life is “about to go on for a very long time,” when death could claim them at any moment. Finally, many believe “life is about me.”
All these lies about life are embraced by the rich man of whom Jesus speaks in Luke 12:16-21. This man, called a “fool” by God, builds bigger barns in order to hoard his great wealth, not realizing he is about to die. Introducing this parable, Jesus says plainly that life does not consist of the abundance of one’s possessions.
“We gain our life by giving it away—serving God, serving others,” Stewart said. “That’s the strange logic of the gospel.”
Expressing the hope for eternity that Christians share, Stewart offered advice for the Erskine graduates. “As you lean into life, my young brothers and sisters, build your life upon truth, build your life upon the gospel, build your life upon serving God and others, and you will get to the end of your life and find it only just beginning.”
In his welcoming remarks, Erskine President Dr. Robert E. Gustafson gave thanks for God’s protection of the Erskine community during the pandemic and told the graduates, “As the years unfold, it will be exciting for the faculty and administration to watch your academic, cultural, community, and spiritual accomplishments.”
The Rev. Clint H. Davis, chair of the Erskine Board of Trustees, brought greetings from the board, telling the graduates to enjoy the day, express their gratitude, and learn to laugh at themselves.
The commencement speaker was introduced by the college senior with the highest grade point average, Rachel Bishop of Greenwood.
College awards announced during the commencement exercises by Provost of the College Dr. J. Thomas Hellams included two faculty awards—the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Excellence in Teaching Award, given to Assistant Professor of Business Administration Tracy McCurry, and the Younts Excellence in Teaching Award, given to Assistant Professor of History Dr. Alessandra Brivio.
Young Professor of Chemistry Dr. Howard Thomas, who has taught at Erskine since 1976 and is retiring this year, was named Professor of Chemistry Emeritus. Funds are being raised for a scholarship honoring Thomas and his late wife Penny, who was an Erskine staff member for many years.
Acting Dean of the Seminary Dr. R.J. Gore, who is leaving his administrative role to serve full-time as Professor of Systematic Theology and Ministry, received the designation Dean of the Seminary Emeritus.
Student awards announced were the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given to Grayson Reames, a Business Administration major from Mauldin, S.C.; the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award, given to Kara Rabon of Lexington, S.C., a summa cum laude graduate who completed a major in English as well as in Bible and Religion; and the H.M. Young Ring, the highest honor for a member of the senior class, given to Rachel Bishop of Greenwood, a summa cum laude graduate who majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry, English, and History.
Seminary awards for students included the Ray A. King Church History Award, given to Everard Reed of Asheville, N.C.; the Bruce G. Pierce Award for Christian Leadership, given to Rodney Johnson of Madison, Wis.; and the D. James Kennedy Institute Award for Missions, given to Neel Skelton of Greenville, S.C.
Serving as faculty marshals were Dr. Howard Thomas, crucifer, and Dr. Loyd Melton, mace bearer. The Rev. Joshua Chiles, chaplain, offered the invocation and the Rev. Clint Davis, chair of the Board of Trustees, gave the benediction.
The graduates were inducted into the Erskine Alumni Association by Herb Jordan, president.
Paul Lawing of Maiden, N.C., president of the Erskine College Class of 2021, thanked Jordan on behalf of the class and announced that the class gift, a depiction of the college seal, can be viewed on the wall in the center stairwell of Belk Hall on the Erskine campus.
Andrew John DiIulio of Greenville, S.C., senior class representative of the Erskine Seminary Class of 2021, responded to Jordan on behalf of the seminary graduates.
Music for the event was provided by the Erskine College Choraleers, directed by Dr. Keith Timms and accompanied by Prof. Sharalyn Hicks, pianist, and Erskine College Sinfonia, conducted by Dr. Deborah Caldwell. Senior Elizabeth C. Sims of Lancaster, S.C., a summa cum laude graduate, led the singing of the alma mater.
See more photos here.
College graduates were:
Bachelor of Arts
Graduates, Jan. 6, 2021: Susanna Blain Lingefelt, Pendleton, S.C.; Madison A. Plyn Lake City, Fla.; Cassandra Victoria Thompson, Due West, S.C.
Graduates, May 8, 2021: Rebecca Delaney Atkinson, magna cum laude, Clinton, S.C.; Nicholas Wylie Bolton, Edgemoor, S.C.; Connor Allan Burnett, Aiken, S.C.; Gregory Tanner Frye, Spartanburg, S.C.; Ashley Cheyenne Fuller, cum laude, Greenville, S.C.; Hugo Herrera, Madrid, Spain; Hannah Marie Houge, Boiling Springs, S.C.; Thomas Joseph McCarthy, Davidson, N.C.; Rachel Lynn Meyer, Aiken, S.C.; Hope Florence Peeler, magna cum laude, Due West, S.C.; Karson Amanda Powell, magna cum laude, Saluda, S.C.; Kara Suzanne Rabon, summa cum laude, Lexington, S.C.; Elizabeth Caroline Sims, Lancaster, S.C.; Cameron Massey Spires, summa cum laude, Iva, S.C.; Hunter David Tomlin, cum laude, Rock Hill, S.C.
Candidates, Aug. 23, 2021: Jordan Wynn Burnett, Aiken, S.C.; Rachel Michelle Dodge, Greenville, S.C.; Samuel Lewis Mullinax, Seneca, S.C.; Breanna Leigh Pendergrass, Columbia, S.C.; Jacob Maxwell Thomas, Waxhaw, N.C.
Bachelor of Science
Graduates, Jan. 6, 2021: Gabriella Brooke Arce Jacksonville, N.C.; Sarah Foster Atkinson, Orlando, Fla.; Nicole Marie Biles, Columbia, S.C.; Jenny Rose Boylston, Trenton, S.C.; Christian Joseph Flick, Camden, S.C.; Jazmin Aviles Gomez, Ware Shoals, S.C.; Lewis James Holt, Bristol, England; Eric Anthony Lisenby, Sumter, S.C.; Alejandro Pico Martin, Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Emma Catherine Pound, Florence, S.C.; Matthew Earl Rowland, Walhalla, S.C.; Luiza Silva Souza, Salvador, Bahia
Graduates, May 8, 2021: LaKayla Alexis Adams, North Augusta, S.C.; Bradley Brian Anderson, Lexington, S.C.; Taylor Olivia Antley, West Columbia, S.C.; Andrea Ann Bannister, summa cum laude, Honea Path, S.C.; Reilly Anne Bartlett, Lexington, S.C.; Mary Kathleen Beck, summa cum laude, Anderson, S.C.; Vicente Martinez Belloso, Valencia, Spain; Rachel Theresa Bishop, summa cum laude, Greenwood, S.C.; Tim Boeckstaens, Vorselaar, Antwerpen; Justin Taylor Brasher, magna cum laude, Boiling Springs, S.C.; Devyn Hunter Cabral, Land O’ Lakes, Fla.; Rhonda Haley Callaway, Anderson, S.C.; Kathryn Irina Cauble, Taylors, S.C.; Madeleine Shea Cole, Cape Coral, Fla.; Bryce Scott Comernisky, magna cum laude, Jacksonville, Fla.; Courtney Lynn Dale, Orrum, N.C.; Christy Anna Daly, summa cum laude, Lake Wales, Fla.; Ryan Christopher De Leon, Dallas, Texas; Raynieri De Los Santos Disla, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Matthew Christian Dodd, Mount Airy, N.C.; Sydney Renee Eaker, summa cum laude, Ringgold, Ga.; Heidi Louise Elliott, Greer, S.C.; Amanda Taylor Epstein, Fort Myers, Fla.; Raina Briana Hall, Greenville, S.C.; Chloe Nicole Hamilton, cum laude, Dallas, N.C.; Evan Lawrence Hughes, Abbeville, S.C.; Kaimyiah Nazjai Irby, Simpsonville, S.C.; Tyler William Jones, Duncan, S.C.; Taylor Olivia Lawhon, Hartsville, S.C.; Paul Lawrence Lawing, Maiden, N.C.; Paige Anna Ruth LeBlanc, Arundel, Maine; Cameron Alexis Lewis, Liberty, S.C.; Núria Llobet, Almenar, Lleida, Spain; Keely Olivia Marchant, North Augusta, S.C.; Nathan Joseph Martin, Clinton, S.C.; Rebecca Lee Massengill, cum laude, Thompson’s Station, Tenn.; Preston Scott Menke, Powdersville, S.C.; Ardry Mercado, New York, N.Y.; Mary Ashley Moore, Ninety Six, S.C.; Mackenzie Rose Myers, Chadds Ford, Pa.; Grayson Conrad Reames, Mauldin, S.C.; Caleb Daniel Shackleford, Lexington, S.C.; Seth Franklin Shearin, Raleigh, N.C.; Brittany Helena Smith, Gainesville, Ga.; Jauhna Shyrell Smith, Orange Park, Fla.; Joshua Daniel Smith, Pelion, S.C.; Ashton Elizabeth Van Deusen, cum laude, Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; Elizabeth Story Walker, Anderson, S.C.; Logan Taylor Weatherford, cum laude, Florence, S.C.; Victoria Brooke Anne Weathers, Abbeville, S.C.; Kaylee Elizabeth Whitfield, Homer, Ga.; Madelyn Renee Wilson, Lake Placid, Fla.; Drew Trevor Yniesta, North Charleston, S.C.
Candidates, Aug. 22, 2021: Ethan Alexander Allen, Anderson, S.C.; Mitchell Leighton Barefield, Simpsonville, S.C.; Parker Grace Birch, Moore, S.C.; Lily Vancheva Cazel, Gaffney, S.C.; Shane Gregory Clark, Hilton Head Island, S.C.; Madeleine Shea Cole, Cape Coral, Fla.; Annie Rose Franklin, Bluffton, S.C.; Tyler Michael Gasque, Irmo, S.C.; Jacob Allen MacCallum, Lenoir, N.C.; Jordan Marie Peterson, Fruitland Park, Fla.; Adan A. Reinoso, Hazleton, Pa.; Cameron Janard Remalia, Waldorf, Md.; Andrew Tate Seagraves, Covington, Ga.; Griffin James Spence, Waukesha, Wis.; Sarah Elizabeth Taylor, Jonesville, Va.; Lebrone Zyree Woodbury-Fraser, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Seminary graduates were:
Master of Arts in Practical Ministry
Graduates, May 8, 2021: Lisa Laquetta Jackson, Taylors, S.C.; Lola Stradford Richey, Chester, S.C.
Master of Arts in Theological Studies
Graduate, Jan. 1, 2021: Willis John Bennet Adair, Wilmington, N.C.
Graduates, May 8, 2021: Godwin O. Agbo, Lagos, Nigeria; David Emery Bunn, Newberry, S.C.; Rodney Alan Johnson, Madison, Wis.; Everard Taylor Reed, Asheville, N.C.
Candidate, Sept. 1, 2021: Jordan Mallory Kirby, Timmonsville, S.C.
Master of Divinity
Graduate, Jan. 1, 2021: Bridger Leeland Bond, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Graduates, May 8, 2021: Joseph Hubert Bond, Gainesville, Ga.; James Andrew Brownlee, Hodges, S.C.; Samuel Francis Elsner, Due West, S.C.; Neel Thomas Skelton, Greenville, S.C.
Candidates, Sept. 1, 2021: Timothy Marcus Cooper, Sr., Hemingway, S.C.; LaShaun Raynel Flagg, Charleston, S.C.; Biner O. Lawyer-Green, Robertville, S.C.; David Michael Pendergrass, Greenville, S.C.; Michelle Lynn Vandross, Moncks Corner, S.C.
Master of Theology
Graduate, Jan. 1, 2021: Andrew John Di Iulio, Greenville, S.C.
Graduates, May 8, 2021: Eric M. Bradley Glenside, Pa.; Kyle J. Keesling, Jr., Greenville, S.C.; Joseph Edward Rolison, Waxhaw, N.C.
Doctor of Ministry
Graduates, Jan. 1, 2021: Christopher Scott Cauble, Salisbury, N.C.; Kevin Edward Nagy, Biloxi, Miss.
Graduates, May 8, 2021: Charles E. Blankenship IV, Greenville, S.C.; Harry Emerson Byrd, Jr., Durham, N.C.; Ariel Teofilo Castillo, Lawrence, Mass.; Stephen Cloer, Orlando, Fla.; B.S., James R. Fisher, Jr., Boone, N.C; Laurie Michelle Corley Gay, Blythewood, S.C.; Zackary R. Johnson, Sr., Greenville, S.C.; Rodney Anthony Lindsay, Columbia, S.C.; Charles Ivan Pollock, Columbia, S.C.
Candidates, Sept. 1, 2021: Wendy N. Childress, Beaumont, Calif.; Joshua Ahusimenre Ebhodaghe, Uromi, Edo State, Nigeria; Enrique Ray Wiggins, Havelock, N.C.; B.S., Norfolk State University; M.A., Norfolk State University; M.Div., Liberty University; Buster Lee Williams, Lodi, Calif.