St. Andrews University, a branch of Webber International University, celebrated its 122nd Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11, on the DeTamble Library Terrace, as 116 graduates were joined by their families and friends.
Piper and instructor William Caudill ’89 and the St. Andrews Pipe Band led the Class of 2019 and faculty across the cause walk to the platform set next to Lake Ansley Moore.
This year’s class came from 17 countries and 17 states. Degrees included Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Science and Master in Business.
Music was provided by Sean Moore, music instructor and staff accompanist, and the St. Andrews Singers, under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Elizabeth Blair.
Dr. David Herr, Associate Professor of American History and University Marshal, declared the opening of Commencement.
St. Andrews University President Paul Baldasare Jr. ’77 welcomed all and reminded the seniors that their journey began with Convocation four years earlier, and today was the successful conclusion of their efforts. He was joined by Trustee Mr. Joe Stricker, chair of the board of trustees. Dr. Keith Wade, Webber International University President, was part of the platform group.
Dr. Edna Ann Loftus, Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs, announced the Class of 1991 Distinguished Faculty award went to Science professor, Dr. Bonnie Draper.
President Baldasare presented the prestigious Algernon Sydney and Mary Mildred Sullivan Awards that “recognizes the spiritual qualities of the recipients as reflected in their selfless gift of their time and energy in the service of others … The Society further specifies that the Sullivan Awards are intended to recognize nobility of character in those people who, in their daily life, habitually go “outside the narrow circle of self-interest” and expend their energies in the service of others.
The student award went to senior Gabriella Rhodes (Texas), and the community award to Laurinburg’s Jerry Riggins, owner of Jerry’s Deli and Grill and Pine Acres, for his contributions to St. Andrews for volunteering electrical contracting and expertise after the hurricane and additional contributions of service to St Andrews.
Kayla Carter (St. Andrews at Sandhills) and Eduardo Andrade, student government president for the past two years, were the selected senior class speakers.
The commencement speaker was the Honorable Robert S. Brewbaker, a 1969 St. Andrews graduate. After St. Andrews, he graduated from Union Theological Seminary and later the University of Virginia School of Law. Beginning in 1986, Mr. Brewbaker served for more than 25 years on the St. Andrews Board of Trustees.
He is a former trial lawyer who for 27 years represented both plaintiffs and defendants in disputes including personal injury and medical malpractice. Following his tenure as a trial lawyer, he served as a juvenile and domestic relations judge in Virginia for a decade, during which time he helped families through the difficult and emotional issues of juvenile crime, child abuse, child custody and visitation. He continues to serve that court on a part-time basis and as a mediator of legal disputes.
His speech began reminiscing about where he started at St. Andrews and recalling the lake: “A quick 53 years and 8 months ago, I sat exactly where you sit this morning. It was September 1965. The occasion was St. Andrews opening convocation. I was a freshman. Our speaker was St. Andrews president, Dr. Ansley Moore, after whom this beautiful and destructive lake is named. That’s a bit odd because Dr. Moore was neither beautiful nor destructive. During his speech Dr. Moore said the following, word for word. “Here at St. Andrews, we will not teach you how to make a living. We think you will find that making a living is relatively easy.”
His remarks centered on seniors and their last year on campus having to deal with the devastating impact of Hurricane Florence that changed much of their lives on campus throughout the academic year. His theme of making a life continued: “The secret to making a life. You see, the secret is not about strategies to avoid pain, or toil, or hard times, but rather overcoming adversity when adversity comes your way—just like you have done. My dear and fellow St. Androids. You have dealt with adversity correctly. Your ticket has been punched and you will go places you could not have gotten to otherwise. Hear this also as your call—a call for you to serve others by building community in all the places you go and with all the people you touch when you leave this special place. Continue to show us how to make a life. “
Following the speech, Dr. Lotus announced all graduates’ names, and President Baldasare with the assistance of Registrar Lyndsey Moss ’13, handed out individual diplomas.
Campus events for seniors and families began on Friday afternoon with the Baccalaureate service, held this year in Avinger Auditorium. Led by graduating seniors Kiah Cheatham, Lee Anne Hanke, Matthew Fletcher, Lydia Randell and the St. Andrews Singers, the guest preacher was the Rev. Dr. John Cleghorn, pastor of Caldwell Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. Caldwell is an urban, diverse and missional faith community of about 325 that intersects a wide range of people in worship, formation and service in the community. Prior to entering ministry in 2008, Dr. Cleghorn worked in the private sector. For 18 years, he held various communications and public policy roles with Bank of America, retiring early as a senior vice president. Prior to that, he was a reporter for the Charlotte Observer. He holds degrees from Washington and Lee University, Union Presbyterian Seminary and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
His sermon, based on two scriptural texts about water, concentrated on the idea of storms and how they interrupt lives. “You took the best Florence could deliver and here you are. You’ve learned lessons most other schools did not offer this academic year. Other storms by other names will come calling – in your careers, in your personal relationships, in your family life, in your own physical and mental and spiritual health. As with the disciples in the boat on the Sea of Galilee, there will be times when you wonder whether there really is a sovereign God. My advice is, as the disciples did, to stay in the boat and know that the storm will pass.”
Following Commencement, a reception was held in The Grove. Baccalaureate and Commencement for 2020 are planned for May 2-3.
The Baccalaureate sermon and Commencement speeches are available at the following links: