Governor addresses Erskine graduates at 2023 commencement
Gov. Henry McMaster was Erskine’s commencement speaker May 6 as graduating college and seminary students were recognized at a ceremony under the towers of the Erskine Building on the Due West campus. “It is really an honor to be here on this beautiful campus in this meaningful place,” the governor told his Erskine audience.
McMaster paid tribute to the fallen Revolutionary War combatants whose remains were recently discovered in Camden, South Carolina, describing them as “those who answered when duty called,” and he returned to the theme of duty throughout his address.
The governor spoke about the 1998 film “Saving Private Ryan,” in which a group of Army Rangers during World War II is given a mission of mercy—to find and remove from action a young soldier whose three brothers have been killed in combat. The Rangers succeed, but their search entails sacrifice, including the death of their commanding officer. McMaster said men and women willing to make sacrifices “built this country,” adding, “It was costly. Someone believed and invested in them just as others have believed and invested in you.”
As a result of the sacrifices of others, he said, “You have been given a magnificent country of liberty and freedom, and now in addition an excellent education with which you can open every door.”
He urged the graduates to remember the sacrifices made for them, to remain curious and continue learning, and to live honorably, saying, “May you often hear from yourself these words—’why,’ ‘how,’ ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘I love you,’ and ‘Amen.’”
The governor offered a warning and a challenge to members of the Class of 2023. “My young friends, please do not wander and stumble through your years with shallow embraces, but drink deeply and enter the arena of leadership with knowledge and faith,” he said.
“Remember, though others may not be reading books, they are reading you,” McMaster added, and returned to his opening theme. “Duty will call. Answer the call. May God bless you, and God bless America.”
College awards announced during the commencement exercises by Dean of the College D. Shane Bradley included the the Younts Excellence in Teaching Award, given to Associate Professor of Education Sandy Robinson.
Student awards announced were the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given to Dante Alexander Jose Garrido of North Charleston, S.C., a magna cum laude graduate who completed a major in Political Science with Departmental Honors and a minor in History; the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award, given to summa cum laude graduate Sadie Elisabeth Anne Bradley of Due West, S.C., who completed a major in English as well as a major in History, receiving Departmental honors in both; and the H.M. Young, the highest honor for a member of the senior class, given to Elena Rachel Gaston of Anderson, S.C., a magna cum laude graduate who completed a double major in Chemistry and Biology.
Seminary awards for students included the Ray A. King Church History Award, given to Jackson Bryant Gravitt of Dayton, Tenn., a Master of Arts in Theological Studies recipient, and the Bruce G. Pierce Award for Christian Leadership, given to Charles Joshua Starnes of Clover, S.C., a Master of Divinity degree recipient who also earned the Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Bible and Religion.
Erskine President Dr. Steve Adamson introduced the commencement speaker and, along with Erskine Board of Trustees Chairman Michael S. Whitehurst, presented the governor with the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service.
McMaster became South Carolina’s 117th governor in 2017, following Gov. Nikki Haley’s appointment as ambassador to the United Nations. He was elected to a full term in 2018 and was reelected in 2022. Born in Columbia, S.C., he received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of South Carolina in 1969. He attended the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he served on the editorial board of the South Carolina Law Review and graduated in 1973. He practiced law for more than 40 years, both as a federal and state prosecutor and in private practice in state and federal courts.
“Being a man of God, Governor McMaster exemplifies every aspect of Erskine’s vision of a life of service and leadership, building Christ’s church and influencing society for God’s glory,” Adamson said.
Serving as faculty marshals were Dr. Loyd D. Melton, crucifer, and Dr. Briana Van Scoy, mace bearer. The Rev. Joshua Chiles, chaplain, offered the invocation and Dean of the Seminary Dr. Seth Nelson gave the benediction.
The graduates were inducted into the Erskine Alumni Association by E. Phillip Cook ’92, president, who also announced the senior class gift of a white oak tree. He read Psalm 121—which in the Scots Presbyterian tradition is said or sung when someone is embarking on a journey—as a prayer for the graduates. The college senior with the highest average, Olivia Eleanor Browne of Vernon, British Columbia, Canada, responded to the induction on behalf of her class. She is a summa cum laude graduate with a major in Business Administration and a minor in Healthcare Management.
Near the end of the ceremony, Adamson introduced “a new tradition at Erskine”— the “Stole of Gratitude” worn by members of the graduating class and meant to be given by each student to a family member or other person as an expression of appreciation for the support and encouragement they have received.
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. Sadie Bradley , a summa cum laude graduate, president of the Erskine Choraleers, and winner of the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award, led the singing of the alma mater.
At top, Olivia Browne, the college senior with the highest grade point average, stands as she is recognized during the ceremony.
This year’s graduates are listed below:
Bachelor of Arts
Graduates, Jan. 12, 2023: Joel Aiden Cotton, Rock Hill, S.C.; Patrick Tucker Curfman, Rock Hill, S.C.; Austin Halon Duckett, Gaffney, S.C.; Raisa Maria Real Pagieva, Dallas, Ga.
Graduates, May 6, 2023: Brooklynn Nasjée Belton-Boseman, Anderson, S.C.; Matthias Benoit, Paris France; Calvin Victor Boykin III, Camden, S.C.; Kennedy Hayden Bradley, Duncan, S.C.; Sadie Elisabeth Anne Bradley, summa cum laude, Due West, S.C.; Alexis Morgan Bruce, cum laude, Pelzer, S.C.; Rebecca Jane Claxton, summa cum laude, Albemarle, N.C.; Tomé Filkov II, Lackawanna, N.Y.; Madyson Connie Marie Fischer, Lady Lake, Fla.; Dante Alexander Jose Garrido, magna cum laude, North Charleston, S.C.; Hannah Grace Gibbons, Chester, S.C.; Ryan Lawrence Gladden, York, S.C.; Vanessa Charlene Harshaw, magna cum laude, Newberry, S.C.; Emma Grace Hegler, magna cum laude, Anderson, S.C.; Meredith Grace Hollinger, magna cum laude, Belton, S.C.; Jonathan Baylor Horne, summa cum laude, Abbeville, S.C.; Bryce Nathan Jeffcoat, Camden, S.C.; Christian Parker Jefferson, Locust Grove, Ga.; Timothy Andrew LeGrand, Greenwood, S.C.; Marcelous Benjamin Livingston, Long, S.C.; Elliot William Mattix, Suffolk, Va.; Joshua Mark Meadows, Anderson, S.C.; Marissa Lucille Possenriede, summa cum laude, Fountain Inn, S.C.; Christopher Lee Reckner, Spring Hill, Fla.; Abigail Grace Rickman, Loganville, Ga.; Jason Frank Sall, New Lenox, Ill.; Ashby Ryne Smith, Gaffney, S.C.; Charles Joshua Starnes, Clover, S.C.; Zion Dennis Walker, Rock Hill, S.C.
Candidates, Aug. 18, 2023: Colbe Xavier Crim, Paducah, Ky.; Vernon Andrew Gaines, Honea Path, S.C.
Bachelor of Science
Graduates, Jan. 12, 2023: X’Avier J. Allen, Tyler, Texas; Sophia Grace Attaway, Fort Worth, Texas; Dennis Ebu Cole, Freetown, Sierra Leone; Santiago Garzón Sánchez, Bogata, Columbia; Gregory Thomas Hazelhurst, Jr., Greenville, S.C.; Dillon Hunter Humes, Lexington, S.C.; Blake Matthew Johnson, Beaverdam, Va.; Camden Edward Lee, Inman, S.C.; Salvatore LoPiccolo IV, summa cum laude, Centerburg, Ohio; Christopher James Miller, Spartanburg, S.C.; Lauren Mullen, magna cum laude, Brooksville, Fla.; Tyler Russell Nichols, North Augusta, S.C.; Elijah Clemson Rowland, West Union, S.C.; Peniel Josue Sabino Rodriguez, San Pedro, Dominican Republic; Az-Zahir Smith, Summerville, S.C.; Jamari John-Michael Smith, Florence, S.C.; Abraham Temoney III, Sumter, S.C.
Graduates, May 6, 2023: Maylene Sabreena-Anne Aguilar, San Jose, Calif.; Emily Kate Alanis, Indian Land, S.C.; Chad Justin Allen, Pompano Beach, Fla.; Tillman Graham Allen, Abbeville, S.C.; Daelyn Grace Ashley, summa cum laude, Belton, S.C.; Taylor Shay Atkinson, Scranton, S.C.; Tariq Antwan Bacon, Fort Pierce, Fla.; Torri Ellise Bagwell, summa cum laude, Belton, S.C.; Alexis Marie Blackmon, summa cum laude, Lancaster, S.C.; Dalton J. Boyd, Winter Haven, Fla.; Andrew James Brisbane, magna cum laude, Hamilton, Scotland; Jessica Dawn Brock, Liberty, S.C.; Olivia Eleanor Browne, summa cum laude, Vernon, British Columbia; Jensen Thomas Button, North Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Jalen Marquis Canada, West Columbia, S.C.; Juan Jose Cardoza-Paz, Greenacres, Fla.; Allison Elizabeth Carter, summa cum laude, Blythewood, S.C.; Parker Raines Cassell, Easley, S.C.; Toddson Kevon Catoe, Columbia, S.C.; Julia Lynn Cesta, Tarpon Springs, Fla.; Victoria Lynn Cooley, cum laude, Williamston, S.C.; Jonathan Alexander Cooper, magna cum laude, Woodruff, S.C.; Mariah Brooke Corry, Gaffney, S.C.; Jaron Cordell Cortese, Dunnellon, Fla.; Jurden Christopher d’Arnault, Willemstad, Curacao; Tor Forgard Davis, Evje, Norway; Roman Gabriel De Leon, cum laude, Frisco, Texas; Joseph Landon Dennis, Indian Trail, N.C.; Claudia Eve Donald, magna cum laude, Pickens, S.C.; Darius Jamal Dotson, Anderson, S.C.; Zachary Thomas Drake, Landrum, S.C.; Julian Natsumi Eaton, Arkansas City, Kan.; Carly Anne Egan, Kissee Mills, Mo.; Thomas John Farrell, Brooklyn N.Y.; Jonathan Xavier Fuller, Albany, N.Y.; Maisy Jo Garner, Chapin, S.C.; Elena Rachel Gaston, magna cum laude, Anderson, S.C.; William Trevor Gerard, Hartsville, S.C.; Jeremy Kevin Geyer, Jr., Commerce, Ga. Emily S. Gilbert, magna cum laude, Buford, Ga.; Reillly John Gobin, Summerville, S.C.; Gabriel Alan Golden, magna cum laude, Easley, S.C.; Amber Gray, Lithonia, Ga.; Jason Chase Hadwin, Walterboro, S.C.; Connor Dean Harrison, magna cum laude, Canyon Country, Calif.; Kitara Arquette Henry, Simpsonville, S.C.; Hailey Malynn Holcomb, Lancaster, S.C.; Holly Blair Huffstetler, Tega Cay, S.C.; Johnathon James Hummel, Matthews, N.C.; Catherine Elizabeth Hunter, Gastonia, N.C.; Quinten Kamandah Jabeth, Fort Pierce, Fla.; Parker Reid Jackson, Williamston, S.C.; Shmael Deveze Antoine Jacques, Orlando, Fla.; Olivia Denise Jans, Lynchburg, S.C.; Benjamin Reid Jansen, Phelps, N.Y.; Canaan Seth Houston Kemfort, Lexington, S.C.; Calvin Rece Kryska, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Luke Thomas Martin, Winnsboro, S.C.; Christopher Marshall McCune, Simpsonville, S.C.; Camilo Moreno Vasquez, cum laude, Managua, Nicaragua; Carson Stanley Morton, Fort Mill, S.C.; Michael Dominick Moscatelli, Brookline, N.H.; Sara Elizabeth Naval, cum laude, Summerville, S.C.; Catelyn Noelle Neves, Honea Path, S.C.; Tyler Marshall Owen, Balsam Grove, N.C.; Alyssa Annette Pagán, Pembroke Pines, Fla; Emma Marie Parris, Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Jonathan Nils Penter, Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Karina Brooks Petrovich, cum laude, Rock Hill, S.C.; Jaisen Jacob Randolph II, Tampa, Fla.; Christian Samuel Ressalam, Fort Mill, S.C.; Amaya Danae Richardson, Boiling Springs, S.C.; Julia Carolyn Richey, Belton, S.C.; Christian Jesus Rivera, Winter Haven, Fla.; James Davis Robertson, Powdersville, S.C.; Andres Esteban Rojas Garbanzo, San Jose, Costa Rica; William Lorenz Ross, cum laude; Fort Mill, S.C.; Tarrah Gayle Semones, magna cum laude, Easley, S.C.; Mia Nicole Settle, magna cum laude, Simpsonville, S.C.; Gordon Joseph Soffel, Waxhaw, N.C.; Katherine Carrington Spires, summa cum laude, Iva, S.C.; Ryan Christopher Sutton, Weddington, N.C.; Cheyenne Danielle Szabo, Greenville, S.C.; Anna Faye Taylor, magna cum laude, Calhoun, Ga.; Taison Isaiah Thomas, Irmo, S.C.; Dylan Lee Truslow, Florence, S.C.; Kelsey Anna Tyson, summa cum laude, Summerville, S.C.; Caroline Margaret Van Deusen, Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; Jenna Reid Varner, Inman, S.C.; Carter Crenshaw Vest, cum laude, Powdersville, S.C.; Daniel Benjamin Vos, Amsterdam, Netherands; Michael Alan Whitesides, York, S.C.; Sierra Marie Wolter, Charleston, S.C.
Candidates, Aug. 18, 2023: Spencer Thomas Addley, Charleston, S.C.; Jared Nathan Aguirre, Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Luke Russell Archibald, Glassboro, N.J.; Shane Antonyo Kyshun Bell, Pendleton, S.C.; Morgan Hollie Browne, Vernon, British Columbia; Joshua Devin Collett, Dunedin, Fla.; Branden Scott Deans, Irmo, S.C.; Jacob Kade Fisher, Anderson, S.C.; Julio Antonio Illidge, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Kylie Brooke McKean, Easley, S.C.; Angie Munoz, Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Noah Aaron Panezich, Summerville, S.C.; Corban Eugene Strother, Charlotte, N.C.; Kajah Damiya Tisdale, Hampton, Va.; Collin Trevor Whitfield, Simpsonville, S.C.
Erskine Theological Seminary graduates were:
Master of Arts in Christian Counseling
Graduate, Jan. 1, 2023: Kala Collins Overholt, Due West, S.C.
Graduate, May 6, 2023: Rebecca Delaney Atkinson, Clinton, S.C.
Master of Arts in Practical Ministry
Graduate, Jan. 1, 2023: Cynthia Louise James Walters, Norway, S.C.
Graduates, May 6, 2023: Samuel Aaron Leonard, Smithfield, N.C.; Anna Holden Price, Columbia, S.C.; Dolores Ballenger Scott, Columbia, S.C.; Joe Allen Suddeth, Due West, S.C.
Master of Arts in Theological Studies
Graduate, Jan. 1, 2023: Jackson Bryant Gravitt, Dayton, Tenn.
Graduates, May 6, 2023: Kimberly Ann Guillams, Greenville, S.C.; Jordan Mallory Kirby, Timmonsville, S.C.; William Gregory Shepherd, Greenville, S.C.
Candidates, Sept. 1, 2023: Stephen Ray Bradshaw, Austin, Texas; Gregory A. Tournoux, Springfield, Ill.
Master of Divinity
Graduates, May 6, 2023: Lowis Edward Dorsey, Nesmith, S.C.; Ryan Lawrence Gladden, York, S.C.; Michael Ethan McConnell, Greenville, S.C.; Shane Miller, Lake Wales, Fla; Teresa Reed, Winnsboro, S.C.; Charles Joshua Starnes, Clover, S.C.
Candidate, Sept. 1, 2023: Christopher Jerome Nance, Simpsonville, S.C.
Master of Theology
Graduate, May 6, 2023: Timothy Adrian Rice, Anderson, S.C.
Candidates, Sept. 1, 2023: Justin David Brickey, West Columbia, S.C.; Lance Foster Collins, Greenville, S.C.
Doctor of Ministry
Graduates, Jan. 1, 2023: Keith Christopher Braddy, Newark, N.J.; Onerray Neal, Hampton, Ga.; Jonathan Speed, Denver, N.C.
Graduates, May 6, 2023: William Spencer Cain, Gastonia, N.C.; Benjamin Paul Glaser, Clover, S.C.; Sean A. Levine, San Antonio, Texas; Cynthia Wolfe Muncie, Columbia, S.C.; Linda Chizi Murtala, Port Harcourt, Nigeria; Philip David Rodgers, Havelock, N.C.
Candidates, Sept. 1, 2023: Jacob Alden Clement, Carmel, Maine; Jeremy James Coenen, Sumter, S.C.; Jerry David Hall, Jr., Bessemer City, N.C.; Donald Ray Hayes, Florence, S.C.; Angela Michelle Timpson, Dayton, Ohio
Doctor of Public Service
Graduate, May 6, 2023: Henry Dargan McMaster, Columbia, S.C.