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Lenoir-Rhyne University students earn degrees, graduation honors
Lenoir-Rhyne University students earn degrees, graduation honors

Lenoir-Rhyne University awarded more than 225 bachelor's degrees and more than 150 master's degrees at two commencement ceremonies held Friday, May 11.

In addition, two prominent leaders were also recognized. The University bestowed upon the Rev. Dr. William Trexler an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, and Sherry Reinhardt Erikson, 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 distinctions, and/or have rendered conspicuous service in a particular field. Trustee Awards are bestowed on persons who have rendered noteworthy service to LR.

Trexler has enjoyed a distinctive career over many years as a Lutheran pastor. Ordained in 1970, Trexler served with distinction as the pastor of congregations in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia and was elected as the Bishop of the Florida-Bahamas Synod in 1995. He also served as chair of the advisory council of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS) of LR. Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Trexler is a graduate of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina; and LTSS, Columbia, South Carolina. He earned a Master of Divinity in 1970 and Doctor of Ministry in 1991 from LTSS. Trexler and his wife, Karla, are the parents of two sons and a daughter.

An LR alumnae, Erikson graduated in 1972 with a bachelor's degree in business education. She worked at LR for 33 years in the president's office, where she served under four presidents, one interim president, and the board of trustees until her retirement in February 2018. She is the recipient of the Jeff Norris Non-Teaching Employee of the Year Award and the Student Government Association President's Award. In 2016, Erikson became a member of LR's inaugural Servus Universitas Society as a notable way of honoring LR employees who have provided 25 years of continuous, full-time service. Erikson and her former husband, Steve '73, have two sons Greg and Ryan '02, and a granddaughter, Emma.

SIDEBAR: LR students selected to speak at graduation

Two accomplished students were selected to speak at LR's undergraduate commencement ceremony. Graduating seniors Stephen Bryant and Katelyn Vause shared their experiences at LR and aspirations for the future. In addition, Jennifer Dellinger and Kierra Peak spoke at the graduate commencement ceremony and shared insights with their peers.

Bryant is from Gainesville, Florida and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in religious development and minors in history and ethics and professional values. While at LR, he served in various leadership roles as treasurer for the Lutheran Student Movement, treasurer of the Campus Activities Board, vice president of the debate team, vice president of Mortar Board, a resident assistant, an orientation coordinator, a member of Theta Kappa Alpha, and this year's student body president. Although accepted into American University's ethics, peace, and international affairs master's program, Bryant has deferred his acceptance for a year. Instead of attending graduate school in the fall, he will provide a year of service in Rwanda for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Young Adults in Global Mission program.

Vause, a native from Richlands, North Carolina, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in biology and creative writing. As an undergraduate, Vause fulfilled roles as head representative for Residence Area Council and treasurer for the Student Government Association. She has also been a Lineberger Fellow, editor of Cantos literary magazine, and a member of the Mortar Board, Chi Beta Phi, Sigma Tau Delta, and Alpha Lamba Delta honor societies. She was a member of the Honors Academy and the debate team all four years of college, and this past year she served as the president of both organizations. In the fall, she plans to attend North Carolina State University to pursue her master's degree in English.

An alumnae of LR, Dellinger returned to LR to earn her Master of Business Administration after joining the commercial finance team at Corning Inc. A resident of Taylorsville, North Carolina, Dellinger currently works as a commercial financial analyst at Corning, where she is responsible for managing and forecasting commercial discretionary funds. Additionally, she assists in forecasting monthly sales. She is a member of the Hickory American Legion Auxiliary, which provides support to active military, veterans, and their families. Dellinger, a descendant of a military family, has a grandfather who was a 30-year Marine, serving in three wars – World War II, Korea, and Vietnam twice – as well as her father, a Marine who served in Vietnam. Her husband, Mark, is a Major in the Air Force Reserve who served in Afghanistan.

A native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Peak received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in anthropology with a minor in history. After she graduates from LR with her Master of Science in occupational therapy, she will return to UNC-Chapel Hill, where she has earned the Royster Society of Fellows to pursue a doctorate in occupational science. She hopes to promote quality care for all through her work. When she is not focused on school, Peak enjoys visiting dance companies, experiencing comedy, and actively listening to inspirational speakers.