The Lenoir-Rhyne University Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville celebrated commencement on Saturday, May 14. The 51 graduates of the Class of 2016 processed through downtown Asheville, beginning at the Vance Monument, to share the celebratory event with business leaders and community members. The ceremony took place at The Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club, located at 101 Biltmore Ave. in Asheville.
Dr. Wayne Powell, President of LRU, shared opening and closing remarks and the Dean and Director of the Center, Dr. Michael Dempsey, presided over the ceremony.
The Center presented its first Honorary doctorate degree in Asheville to William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil, Jr., President and CEO of The Biltmore Company. Honorary doctorate degrees are awarded to persons of outstanding character and personality who have distinguished themselves for achievement, earned professional or other distinction, or rendered conspicuous service in a particular field. LRU Board of Trustees member and Asheville attorney Joe McGuire presented the Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Cecil.
"As part of our commitment to our local communities, Lenoir-Rhyne tries to recognize distinguished individuals who have dedicated their lives to enhancing those communities," Powell said. "Mr. Cecil exemplifies the kind of spirit and dedication that is championed by Lenoir-Rhyne."
The Biltmore Company owns and operates the Biltmore House, a National Historical Landmark and private estate of the late George W. Vanderbilt, Cecil's great-grandfather. The estate, which is completely self-sufficient and receives no outside funding, is open to the public and welcomes over 1,200,000 guests annually.
"The Biltmore Estate is a global destination that is synonymous with Asheville," Dempsey said. "This family-owned business is essential to the economy and cultural richness of Western North Carolina, and it is our hope that Mr. Cecil's hard work and dedication will be an inspiration to our graduates."
Cecil has served in many capacities across the estate, including work as project coordinator for the construction of Biltmore's winery; eventually becoming winery manager, then president of the Biltmore Wine Company. He has also served as assistant vice president of operations, vice president and senior vice president of The Biltmore Company. He is a member of The Biltmore Company Executive Committee and its Board of Directors.
A graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Cecil earned a degree in environmental conservation. He also successfully completed Harvard Business School/Young Presidents' annual weeklong intensive program (2009-2014) and Leadership Asheville 8. Cecil and his wife have three children and reside in Asheville.
LRU's Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville offers master-level programs in business administration, community college administration, clinical mental health and school counseling, leadership, nursing, public health, teaching, writing, dietetic internship, and sustainability studies.