During a livestreamed ceremony in Snidow Chapel on Wednesday afternoon, the University of Lynchburg celebrated its 2021 Baccalaureate service.
A few guests attended in person as President Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar delivered the welcome, followed by Associate Chaplain Nathan Albert’s invocation. Interfaith Chaplain Jer Bryant ’03, ’10 MA, and Assistant Chaplain Katrina Brooks read from Scripture, before longtime Chaplain and Associate Dean of Wellness Stephanie McLemore gave the keynote address.
“Some of you start your next chapter tomorrow, and some of you have not quite figured it out yet, but no matter what, you’re done,” McLemore said. “Happy Commencement eve! This is a day to celebrate and to give thanks.
“I am thankful for each of you, for the moments of joy, and the moments of tears. Thankful that you’ve had enough patience and motivation, enough grit and energy, enough dreams, and enough hope. … I hope you’re thankful as well.”
However, she added, the Class of 2021’s departure also made her sad because Lynchburg had become their home.
Referring to the Biblical story of Joshua leading the Israelites to Canaan and telling them, “You will know the way to go, even if you have not been this way before,” McLemore encouraged students to “go forth” with courage — and all of the values and knowledge they’ve learned at Lynchburg.
When they pack their bags, she cautioned, “leave the extra baggage behind. Leave regrets and grudges.” Instead, she added, “pack knowledge,” as well as a “sense of history and ethics and science.
“We expect big things,” she told the graduates. That’s not to say everyone will end up as secretary of state, she clarified, but “we do expect you to change your part of the world. We expect leadership by example and authenticity.”
Lately, McLemore has coined a new term, she said: “Hornet Humans — even though change is uncomfortable, you have to do it sometimes to get to a new place. Hornet Humans value wisdom, not just book facts — although we know how to use the library and analyze data. We know that true wisdom lies in the liberal arts.”
Hornet Humans, she added, are compassionate servant leaders who value diversity, justice, and community.
“In times of sadness and grief, unity is our greatest achievement,” McLemore added, referring to the candlelight vigil held in the wake of a student’s passing yesterday.
“So, as you go forth, I challenge you to be a Hornet Human,” she closed. “To value your education and everything you have learned here. To take that forth and change your part of the world with it.”
Afterward, Jonathan Barnes, director of higher education and communications in Higher Education and Leadership Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), presented the T.A. Abbott Award for Academic Excellence. The award went to Dr. Nina Vest Salmon ’93 MEd, associate professor of English.
Finally, the University conferred several honorary degrees. Two of the recipients, former President Dr. Kenneth R. Garren and his wife, Sheila, accepted their Doctor of Education degrees in person.
While not everyone could be there to receive their degrees, the Garrens were in good company.
Other recipients in the honorary Class of 2020 included Robert Bolling Lambeth Jr., president of the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (Doctor of Laws); lifelong advocate and leader for the PA profession Dr. David E. Mittman (Doctor of Science); faith-based community organizer Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea (Doctor of Divinity); and U.S. Senator Mark Warner (Doctor of Laws).
You can watch the full ceremony here.