During Lenoir-Rhyne University's commencement ceremony held this past Friday (May 12), 225 students were presented with their bachelor's degrees. In addition, two prominent leaders were also recognized. The University bestowed upon Dr. Wayne B. Powell an honorary Doctor of Higher Education Administration degree and The Reverend Palmer D. Clemmer, the Trustee Award.
Each year, following a nomination process, the Lenoir-Rhyne Board of Trustees approves awards to be presented at Commencement. Honorary doctorate degrees are awarded to persons of outstanding character and personality who have distinguished themselves for scholarship or literary achievement, won professional or other distinction, and/or have rendered conspicuous service in a particular field. Trustee awards are bestowed on persons who have rendered noteworthy service to Lenoir-Rhyne University.
Dr. Powell, President Emeritus, served as President of Lenoir-Rhyne from December 2002 until January 2017. He first joined LR in June 2000 as Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs.
Previously, Dr. Powell served as associate dean and later dean of the Graduate College at Oklahoma State University, where he taught mathematics. He received his bachelor's degree from Texas Lutheran College, master's degree from Texas A&M University, and Ph.D. from Tulane University.
Dr. Powell has served as Chair of the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America Board, South Atlantic Conference Presidents Council (NCAA Division II), Presidents' organization of the Lutheran Colleges and Universities of the ELCA, and Frye Regional Medical Center Board. He has also served as advisory member of the ELCA Church Council and on various local boards including the Catawba Science Center, Innovate Catawba, Catawba Valley Executives Dinner Club, Chamber of Commerce, Champions of Education, Hickory Museum of Art, and Project Potential.
Upon his retirement from LRU, a number of honors were bestowed upon Dr. Powell in recognition of his 14 years of service. The renaming of the Physician Assistant Health Sciences Building to the Wayne B. Powell Health Sciences Complex, was just one of those honors.
Dr. Powell and his wife, Joyce, continue to reside in Hickory. They have three accomplished young adult children and two grandchildren.
Pastor Clemmer has served as an ELCA pastor for 39 years. A native of Gastonia, NC, he graduated from Lenoir Rhyne College in 1974 and received his Master of Divinity degree from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in 1978. He was ordained by the NC Synod in 1978 and has served seven parishes in four states with congregations ranging from 300 to 1200 members.
Pr. Clemmer served on LR's Board of Trustees a total of 12 years. As the first pastor to serve from outside the NC Synod, he participated in historic events such as LR's evolution to a university and LRU's merger with LTSS into a single institution. In addition, he has served on local ministerial associations and regional capital campaigns.
He and his wife Cindi ('73), who met as LR students, have been long-time donors through the President's Society, the Heritage Club, and the Bears Club. Pr. Clemmer is also a member of the basketball program's 6th Man Club. In 1996 the Clemmers created a general scholarship fund in memory of Cindi's parents, Wilbur and Mary Louise Long. They generously donated to various LR fundraising efforts over the years, including a naming gift to the Minges Science Center's renovation.
In 2008 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Pr. Clemmer retired from full-time pastoral ministry but stays active preaching and conducting weddings and other special functions. The Clemmers recently moved back to the Hickory area, where they are currently building a permanent home near the campus.
SIDEBAR: LR students selected to speak at graduation
Two accomplished students were selected to speak at LRU's undergraduate commencement ceremony. Graduating seniors and Lineberger Fellows Madison Makenzie Meyer and Thinh Truong shared their experiences at LRU and aspirations for the future.
Meyer is a native of Statesville, North Carolina and is graduating with honors from the Lenoir-Rhyne School of Nursing. Just before her senior year, she was selected as a member of Arktos Chapter of Mortar Board, a national senior honor society. During her time at LR, Meyer has been actively involved with the Delta Zeta Sorority, serving as chairman for academics, sisterhood, nominating, and philanthropy. She was inducted into Order of Omega Greek honors society for which she served as treasurer. During her freshman and sophomore years, she was also a member of the LR competitive cheerleading squad.
Meyer has accepted a position with Novant Health in the New Graduation Emergency Medicine Residency Program. She plans to continue her education by pursuing a master's degree in nursing education or emergency management.
A first-generation college student, Truong graduated from LR as a double major in physics and mathematics. Born and raised in Danang City, Vietnam, Truong moved to Hickory eight years ago with his family.
Truong was elected as the Student Government Association (SGA) President for the 2016-17 academic year. Prior to his role as president, he served as a Commuter Student Representative for SGA. He has remained very involved on campus, also serving as president of both Circle K International and the LR Broyhill Leaders, captain for the Homecoming Alumni Relations Committee, and as a new student orientation leader. Thinh's academic success has been recognized through membership to five honor societies: Lineberger Fellows, Honors Academy, Mortar Board, Chi Beta Phi, and Alpha Lambda Delta. He also found time to work in LR's Career and Professional Development Center and as a tutor in the math center and physics laboratory.
Recently, Truong became the first student in LR's 126-year history to be named a Fulbright Grantee for the 2017-18 academic year. He will begin his Fulbright Research and Study program with summer cultural courses in Finland, and then begin study at Lappeenranta University of Technology for the next two years towards a Master's Degree in Energy Systems, with a focus on nuclear energy. After returning from Finland, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. degree in Nuclear Engineering and serve as an ambassador for the United States and Finland.