Lenoir-Rhyne University graduated 50 students from its Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville on Saturday, May 13. Prior to commencement, 50 members of the Class of 2017 processed from Vance Monument downtown to The Orange Peel on Biltmore Avenue where the commencement ceremony was held.
Dr. Frederick Whitt, 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 an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Terry Bellamy, a former two-term mayor of Asheville. 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 Joe McGuire presented the honorary degree to Bellamy.
"It is a very big honor for us to recognize Terry in this way, because this is something she richly deserves." Dempsey said. "Terry's story is one of profound triumph. She has worked tirelessly to help disadvantaged people in this community succeed, promote equality for minorities, and provide aid for people with disabilities."
Bellamy has achieved great professional success in the public sector, beginning with her election to Asheville City Council in 1999 at the age of 26. In 2005, she was elected mayor, becoming the first African-American to hold the city's top office, in addition to being North Carolina's youngest mayor at the time of her swearing-in. She won re-election to a second term in 2009. Among her many accomplishments as mayor were efforts to draw new businesses through economic development, reduce homelessness, provide affordable housing, and create job training. Also during her tenure, Asheville improved community centers and the River Arts District, implemented Youth Leadership programs, improved the municipal water system, and was designated a United States Justice Department's "Weed and Seed" site, which furthered job training and neighborhood revitalization.
In addition to her achievements as an elected official, Bellamy currently serves as Communications Director for the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville (HACA). She previously served as executive director for The Arc of Buncombe County, a nonprofit serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Bellamy is also passionate about learning and is pursuing a doctorate degree in educational leadership from Western Carolina University, where she also received her master's degree. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
About the Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville
LRU's Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville was launched in 2012 to expand the University's mission and serve the specific needs of Western North Carolina and beyond. The Center offers master-level programs designed to allow students to balance life, work, and learning, with online and distance options available.
The Center is now enrolling students for the fall semester. All programs provide full-time, qualified faculty and staff who are readily available to answer questions and provide guidance to students as they plan for the future.
For more information, visit lr.edu/Asheville.