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Lenoir-Rhyne University to host four commencement ceremonies; University confers more than 550 undergraduate and graduate degrees
Lenoir-Rhyne University to host four commencement ceremonies; University confers more than 550 undergraduate and graduate degrees

This week, Lenoir-Rhyne University will celebrate student achievement and success at commencement activities on its three campuses in Hickory and Asheville, North Carolina, and Columbia, South Carolina. University President Dr. Fred Whitt and University Provost Dr. Gary Johnson, among other faculty and staff, will celebrate the graduates' accomplishments and confer more than 550 degrees for bachelor's and master's candidates.

The University will hold its traditional undergraduate ceremony at Moretz Stadium in Hickory, North Carolina, at 7 p.m., Friday, May 10. A total of 286 traditional undergraduate students will be awarded bachelor's degrees at this event.

In addition, the University's graduate-level programs will host three commencement and hooding ceremonies: 4 p.m., Thursday, May 9, at Columbia, South Carolina; 3 p.m., Friday, May 10, at Hickory, North Carolina; and 10 a.m., Saturday, May 11, at Asheville, North Carolina. All told, 273 candidates will be hooded.

Two honorary doctorates will be awarded this year. The doctor of humane letters will be awarded to Jerome W. Bolick at the Hickory undergraduate ceremony and William "Bill" Horne II, who will be honored at the Columbia graduate hooding.

Bolick served on the board of trustees at LR from 2000 to 2018 as vice chair and chair of the Building and Grounds Committee. He resides in Conover, North Carolina, and is the chief executive officer of Southern Furniture Company. He joined his family's business in the 1950s after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and serving two years in the U.S. Navy. Bolick is a member of Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church, a charter member of LR President's Society, and founded an LR scholarship. In 2000, Bolick was recognized as LR Business Council's Business Leader of the Year. He is foundation manager and trustee of Bolick Foundation, which is a charitable organization whose purpose is to support health, children and youth, arts and culture, higher education, social and human services, and Lutheran organizations.

Horne served on LR's Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary advisory council before taking his appointment as vice president at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Horne has served as congregational president in two ELCA congregations in Florida and is a member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Clearwater, Florida. He also served as a member of the Florida-Bahamas Synod Council and later as synod vice president. Previously, Horne was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. His post-military retirement career has been in public management, and in 2001, the city council appointed him as city manager. Horne earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Tulsa, and master's degrees in human resource management from Pepperdine University and political science from Auburn University in Montgomery.

Several accomplished students will speak at each commencement ceremony. The complete 2019 Commencement ceremony schedule is:

Thursday, May 9

  • 4 p.m. – Columbia Graduate Hooding and Commencement, Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center Ballroom, Columbia, South Carolina

Student Speakers: Evelyn Grace Johnson, Megan Kovach, and Adam Christian Schultz

Friday, May 10

  • 3 p.m. – Hickory Graduate Hooding and Commencement, P.E. Monroe Auditorium, Hickory, North Carolina

Student Speakers: David Lowry, Tirrany Osborne, and Justin Strickland

  • 7 p.m. – Hickory Undergraduate Commencement, Moretz Stadium, Hickory, North Carolina

Student Speakers: Claire Neibergall and Kristina Staudt

Saturday, May 11

  • 10 a.m.. – Asheville Graduate Hooding and Commencement, Orange Peel, Asheville, North Carolina

Student Speakers: Calvin Gardner and Carole E. Howell

Calvin Gardner will earn an MBA with a concentration in health care administration. A New York City native, Gardner has lived in the Southern United States for more than 24 years with eight of those years in Asheville. With more than 19 years of experience in health care, he is the director of the Neuroscience Service Line at Mission Health, where he supervises cross-functional medical teams.

A native of Asheville, Carole E. Howell will receive her master's degree in clinical mental health counseling. She is also employed at Mission Health as population health coach with the Chronic Condition Management Program. After graduation, Howell plans to continue in her role at Mission Health but has a long-term interest in pre-adoption and post-adoption counseling.

Evelyn Grace Johnson, originally from Dublin, Ohio, is a member of the inaugural class of occupational therapy students at the LR Columbia Center, where she served as a representative of the Student Occupational Therapy Association Assembly of Student Delegates. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association and represented the Columbia OT program at the AOTA's national conference in Salt Lake City in 2018.

A resident of Columbia, South Carolina, Megan Kovach will complete her master's degree in clinical mental health counseling. She has obtained more than 750 internship hours working with children and adults who have experienced trauma from abuse and neglect. She has also done animal-assisted therapy on a farm. Kovach has presented for three years at the South Carolina Counseling Association Conference, where she was recently awarded the Graduate Student of the Year.

David Lowry of Hickory is candidate for December 2019 graduation. He received his medical degree fromVanderbilt University and then served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years as a physician before moving to Hickory. In 2017, he assumed the role of chief medical officer at Caldwell UNC Healthcare, which prompted him to return to school to complete an MBA with a concentration in health care.

Claire Neibergall of Springfield, Illinois, will graduate with a bachelor's degree in computer science. While at LR, she was in several organizations including Mortar Board, Chi Alpha Sigma, and Broyhill Leadership Academy. In addition, she was a four-year varsity letter winner on the women's soccer team with 49 career starts. In 2018, she was named to the South Atlantic Conference First Team All-Conference and selected as the SAC Scholar Athlete of the Year.

A native of Mobile, Alabama, Tirrany Osborne, will earn her master's degree in physician assistant studies.During her time at LR, she served as diversity chair of the Powell-Pasour Student Society for the PA Class of 2019.

Adam Christian Schultz hails from Knoxville, Tennessee, where he is a member of St. John's Lutheran Church. He will earn his master of divinity and served on the Student Government Association at LTSS. While in seminary, he received awards for superior achievement in Greek and in sermon content and delivery. Schultz completed his internship at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Durham, North Carolina.

A candidate for her bachelor's degree in nursing, Kristina Staudt is originally from Ocoee, Florida. She has been inducted into multiple honor societies, including Mortar Board and Sigma Tau Theta. During her undergraduate experience, she participated in the debate team and Sigma Kappa Sorority.

Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Justin Strickland will earn his master's degree in physician assistant studies. Prior to starting his studies at LR, he worked as a middle and high school teacher and as a medical assistant. After graduation, he will begin working as a physician assistant in psychiatry in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Photo Credit: 2019 Spring Honors Convocation, Monday, April 29; photos by Mikeala Skelton, Lenoir-Rhyne University