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LRU holds commencement ceremony in Columbia, S.C.
LRU holds commencement ceremony in Columbia, S.C.

Students from Lenoir-Rhyne University's Center for Graduate Studies of Columbia and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS) celebrated commencement on Saturday, May 20 during a joint ceremony. A total of 22 new graduates received master's degrees.

Dr. Frederick Whitt, President of LRU, shared opening and closing remarks, and the Rev. Dr. Matthew W. Bonner, Director of Clinical Education at Loyola University Maryland, was the keynote speaker. The University bestowed upon The Rev. Dr. April Ulring Larson the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.

The Rev. Dr. April Ulring Larson

Dr. Larson became the first female Lutheran bishop in North America when she was elected in 1992 as bishop of the ELCA's La Crosse Area Synod. Her 16 years as bishop were spent strengthening pastors and congregations, and her priorities were personal visitation of pastors and congregations, evangelism, youth, prayer, stewardship, global mission, and a vision of the wider church.

The Rev. Dr. Matthew W. Bonner

From 2014 to 2016 Dr. Bonner was assistant professor, founding faculty member, and program coordinator for the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at Lenoir-Rhyne University's Center for Graduate Studies in Columbia, South Carolina. Dr. Bonner is a scholar, teacher, counselor, and preacher. As a clergy person, he has been a pastor and minister in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia in the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church.

Other award recipients during the ceremony included:

Dr. Ira Brent Driggers, Professor of New Testament at LTSS, received the Herman W. and Elizabeth P. Cauble Faculty Distinguished Service Award presented annually to a member of the faculty of LTSS in recognition of the significant influence the professor's life and teaching has had on students as they are formed for ministry, and in gratitude for devotion to theological education and service to the whole of Christ's church.

The Rev. Dr. Scott Hendrix, Emeritus Professor of Reformation History and Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, received the J. Luther Mauney Leadership Award presented annually to a graduate of LTSS to honor the memory and ministry of the revered pastor of the Lutheran Church, former president of the seminary Board of Trustees, and former President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Virginia Synod.

LRU's Center for Graduate Studies of Columbia opened in the fall of 2014, bringing the University's clinical Mental Health Counseling program to a third location and adding an additional fully online Human Services program to the list of degree options. Last year an Occupational Therapy (OT) program was also added, which will be housed in a new 24,000 square-foot building expected to be completed later this summer. The OT building will include a state-of-the-art laboratory, classrooms, student work space, as well as faculty and administrative offices.

The Center shares space with LTSS, which was founded 184 years ago and merged with LRU in 2012. The mission of LTSS is to teach, form, and nurture women and men for public ministry in a context that is Christ-centered, faithfully Lutheran, and ecumenically committed.