Seniors Celebrate 96th Spring Commencement
One hundred forty-six Bluefield College seniors accepted diplomas, Saturday, May 5, during the school’s 96th Annual Spring Commencement.

Seniors Celebrate 96th Spring Commencement

By Chris Shoemaker | May 17, 2018 | RSS

One hundred forty-six Bluefield College seniors accepted diplomas, Saturday, May 5, during the school’s 96th Annual Spring Commencement, which featured two speeches from distinguished graduates and a keynote address from The Honorable Ben Chafin, a Virginia state senator representing District 38, who also received an Honorary Doctorate degree.

In his Commencement address, Senator Chafin, a native of Russell County who was born and raised in southwest Virginia, spoke to the graduates about self-reflection. He applauded their choice for higher education in Bluefield College, a faith-based institution that he said places a significant value on giving serious thought to one’s character, motives and actions.

"Faith-based colleges,” he said, “make it possible for some of the most isolated areas in our nation, the most underserved districts in our country, and the most undereducated groups of young people to break out of poverty and shine as an example to their families, friends and communities.”


VIEW HUNDREDS OF PHOTOS FROM SPRING COMMENCEMENT IN THE PHOTO GALLERY BELOW.


A practicing attorney in Lebanon, Virginia, Senator Chafin also encouraged the graduates to “give back.” Giving back, he said, doesn’t require large sums of money. Sometimes, he added, it can be as simple as listening to someone who needs answers or positive reinforcement, and we all have that ability, he said.

“Each of you likely attended Bluefield College because of a desire to better yourself financially, professionally and spiritually. Being young and very busy, you may not have given much consideration as to what else you could achieve,” said Senator Chafin. “But there will come a time when the urgency of making ends meet and increasing your future prospects and achieving success are largely behind you, and the thoughts of giving back will start to seep into your life and your consciousness. As you celebrate this day and enter into your next phase of life, try not to forget to give back. From mentoring a child to working with the elderly, you can always make a difference. That’s the lesson I hope you’ll take from my remarks. Your future and the future of your school depends on you giving back.”

And for his tireless efforts in giving back to southwest Virginia and for the ways in which he supports the mission and goals of Bluefield College, the college presented an Honorary Doctor of Law degree to Senator Chafin.

“This Honorary Doctorate degree provides us the opportunity to express our appreciation to Senator Chafin for the ways in which he has contributed to the Commonwealth of Virginia and in particular to southwest Virginia,” said BC president Dr. David Olive. In addition to his influence in politics and law, Senator Chafin is the owner and operator of a cow-calf cattle operation with several farms in Russell County. He is also chair of the Board of Directors of The First Bank and Trust Company, a leading community bank with branches throughout Virginia and Tennessee.”

The college also presented two Algernon Sydney Sullivan Service Awards: one to an outstanding graduating senior and one to an alumna and community leader. Established by the New York Southern Society in 1925 in memory of Algernon Sullivan, a southerner who became a prominent lawyer, businessman and philanthropist in New York in the late nineteenth century, the awards seek to perpetuate the excellence of character and humanitarian service of Sullivan by recognizing and honoring such qualities in others.

Ellen Johnson, a psychology, criminal justice and forensic science triple major from Little River, South Carolina, received the graduating senior Sullivan Award. An Honors Program graduate and a member Alpha Delta sorority and the Lady Rams volleyball team, she was recognized for her “exemplary character,” “humility,” and “consistent habit of putting others before herself.”

Connie Mayberry Saunders, a tireless community servant, received the community Sullivan Award for her “selflessness,” “exemplary character,” and “constant desire to help others, particularly those less fortunate.” She is the director of Women in Search of Empowerment (WISE), president of the Advisory Council for BC’s New Opportunity School for Women, and president of Saunders Staffing in Bluefield.

Johnson and her classmate Shawn Howell also shared student addresses as part of the Commencement program: Johnson as a representative of traditional graduates and Howell as a graduate student representing online scholars. Johnson encouraged her fellow graduates to learn to “laugh at yourself” and “make the most of each stage of life.” Using a wave analogy from a devotion she recently read, she also challenged her classmates to allow God to continue to transform them.

“There are three ways you can react to a wave,” said Johnson. “You can run, you can stand against it, or you can fall into it. For those of you who have ever tried to swim away from a crashing wave, you know how unlikely it is that you’ll beat it. Instead, it’s likely to catch up with you and take you under. Similarly, standing against a wave as it crashes does not offer much success, either. Yet, there is a sense of peace and excitement that encompasses you as you allow a wave to carry you with it. You can take this analogy and apply it to life, too. When situations arise, you can run away in fear, you can boil up with pride, or you can surrender and allow yourself to take the form of Christ. As the signs hung on the light posts on campus say, ‘be transformed; transform your world.’ Continue to allow God to work through you so that you can be that change to minister to others.”

Howell, who earned a bachelor’s degree in church music from BC in 2012 before returning online to earn his master’s in education, congratulated his fellow graduates and encouraged them to relish the moment.

“We are celebrating our graduation day. Take a moment and let that sink in,” said Howell. “All those long weekends of studying, the time we spent on homework instead of spending it with friends and family, and all the other sacrifices we made are over. We have made it, and let me tell you, it was worth it. Your degree is something no one can ever take away. No matter where we go in life or what we do, we’ll always know we rose to the challenge and overcame.”

The 96th Annual Spring Commencement also included scripture reading by Dr. Bob Boozer, retiring professor of psychology; special music from BC’s select voice ensemble Variations, directed by Dr. John Moir, assistant professor of music; the singing of hymns and the BC alma mater, led by Dr. Charles Priest, associate professor of music; the graduates’ induction into the BC Alumni Association, led by Alumni Council president Brandon Caldwell; greetings from the BC Board of Trustees, offered by trustee Sid Lanier; and remarks from President David Olive, who like Johnson spoke to the graduates about being a “transformational leader.”

“Today, a new chapter in your life’s story begins," said Dr. Olive. "Our hope is that you have been prepared for more than just success in your career, but that you also have been prepared for a meaningful life – one grounded in faith, adaptable to the changing global environment, and given to the caring for and serving of others. I pray that you leave here with a sense of calling to vocation that will direct your life with a purpose. Much has been entrusted to you and much is expected of you.”

Candidates for graduation were presented by Dr. Marshall Flowers, vice president for academic affairs, and Rebecca McCoy-Reese, president of the faculty, and Dr. Olive completed the conferring of degrees. Spring 2018 candidates for graduation included:

Kayla Anderson, Austinville, Virginia

Lauren Anderson, Lynch Station, Virginia

Laura Arrington, Barren Springs, Virginia

Megan Arrington, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Alexis Austin, Yorktown, Virginia

Abigail Bartlett, Appleton, Maine

Joshua Beckett, Bluefield, West Virginia

Tina Berkley, Meherrin, Virginia

Virginia Bird, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Michael Bonanno, Tazewell, Virginia

Noah Botley, Linconville, Maine

Richard Botley, Lincolnville, Maine

Christopher Brennan, Orange, Virginia

Trayvond Brooks, Waco, Texas

Ashley Broughman, Roanoke, Virginia

Emily Butcher, Tazewell, Virginia

Lisa Calfee, Pulaski, Virginia

Allison Campbell, Madison Heights, Virginia

Savannah Carabin, King George, Virginia

Victoria Chapman, Fullerton, California

Jacquelyn Chick, Roanoke, Virginia

David Cizmadia, Ocala, Florida

Weldon Claiborne, Mechanicsville, Virginia

Brian Clemons, Covington, Virginia

Caitlyn Clontz, Concord, North Carolina

Stephen Collier, Tazewell, Virginia

Katie Collins, Christiansburg, Virginia

Elva Cox, Chesterfield, Virginia

Amanda Crews, Callands, Virginia

Andrea Dales, Grundy , Virginia

Lea Dalton, Cana, Virginia

João Delgado, Riachos, Portugal

Kena Denton, Chesapeake, Virginia

Emma Donohoe, Dublin, Ireland

Tatiana Dronsick, Wytheville, Virginia

Joshua Dye, Swords Creek, Virginia

Erick English, Rock Hill, South Carolina

Matthew Epperson, Newport News, Virginia

Ernest Farrar, Crewe, Virginia

Victoria Ferguson, Salisbury, Maryland

Kyle Findlay, Reading, England

Taylor Flick, Suffolk, Virginia

Derek French, Bland County, Virginia

Gerald Gardner, Fishersville, Virginia

Adrianne Goodlet, Richmond, Virginia

Lauren Gourley, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Kierra Gray, Caret, Virginia

Alexander Haas, San Diego, California

Johnteasha Haines, Triangle, Virginia

Eryn Haley, Suffolk, Virgina

Nicole Hamby, Stafford, Virginia

Robert Hamilton, St. Augustine, Florida

Robert Hamilton, St. Augustine, Florida

MarQuell Hart, Suffolk, Virginia

Autumn Hash, Tazewell, Virginia

Kendall Haynes, Carcoll County

Freddy Herrera, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Allison Higgins, Roanoke, Virginia

Imani Hill, Chesapeake, Virginia

Samantha Hill, Stuart, Virginia

Michael Hinkley, Shawsville, Virginia

Priscilla Holliday, Pulaski, Virginia

Brittni Holman, Oregonia, Ohio

Shawn Howell, Bluefield, Virginia

Shekinah Huggins, Newport News, Virginia

Adeline Hurley, Glade Springs, Virginia

Mikaela Hurst, Fort Worth, Texas

Aaron Ingram, Tazewell, Virginia

Tyra Jackson, Bluefield, West Virginia

Madyson Jarrell, Lawrence, Indiana

Donna Jennings, Brookneal, Virginia

Christopher Johnson, Tazewell, Virginia

Ellen Johnson, Little River, South Carolina

Rosa Johnson, Petersburg, Virginia

Marva Jones, South Hill, Virginia

Sharnice Judson, Woodbridge, Virginia

Don Keene, Tazewell, Virginia

Laura Kincer, Tazewell, Virginia

Christopher King, Christiansburg, Virginia

Ona King, Richlands, Virginia

Sharon Kinser, Tazewell, Virginia

Tammy Kinser, Bluefield, Virginia

Hannah Klopp, Culpeper, Virginia

April Lavelle, Christiansburg, Virginia

Sherica Law, Martinsville, Virginia

Molly Lawson, Blacksburg, Virginia

Lynsey Leagan, Galax, Virginia

Leonardo Leite, Macapa, Brazil

Stephanie Lomans, Chilhowie, Virginia

Kendall Lunsford, Lebanon, Virginia

Zachary Luttrell, Richlands, Virginia

Tonia Martinez, Richlands, Virginia

Kaytlin McCoy, Salem, Virginia

Andrew McFee, Christiansburg, Virginia

Chad McKnight, Culpeper, Virginia

Hunter Melvin, Tazewell, Virginia

Melissa Minnick, Salem, Virginia

Alexandra Mocarski, Scottsdale, Arizona

Megan Moore, Tazewell, Virginia

Aisha Muhammad, Meherrin, Virginia

Matthew Mullins, Tazewell, Virginia

Stanthony Nelms, Atlanta, Georgia

Temeka Nelson, Richmond, Virginia

Caleb Newman, Medford, Oregon

Summer Nolen, Cana, Virginia

Nicholas Norris, Raleigh, North Carolina

Megan Norton, Halltown, West Virginia

Michael Oaks, Nicholasville, Kentucky

Courtney Oxford, Tazewell, Virginia

Angela Paris, Richlands, Virginia

Tracey Parker, Smithfield, Virginia

Cameron Pearson, Winchester, Tennessee

Hayley Penley, Wytheville, Virginia

Kaitlyn Pennington, Marion, Virginia

Iman Peoples, Pulaski, Virginia

Virginia Pepe, Stafford, Virginia

Kathleen Phillips, Richlands, Virginia

Amanda Poston, Rural Retreat, Virginia

Loretta Powers, Dublin, Virginia

Hannah Preservati, Princeton, West Virginia

Jenae Price, Barboursville, Virginia

Sarah Price, Swords Creek, Virginia

Mallory Ratcliff, Axton, Virginia

Olivia Ray, Swords Creek, Virginia

Keion Robinson, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Morgan Sawyers, Huntington, West Virginia

John Sharpe, Tazewell, Virginia

Kaitlyn Shaver, Alderson, West Virginia

Sharon Shelburne, Radford, Virginia

James Shelton, Richlands, Virginia

Renae Sizemore, Galax, Virginia

Nora Skiba, Alexandria, Virginia

Joseph Smith, Placerville, California

Whitney Sprinkel, Roanoke, Virginia

Danielle Sprouse, Richmond, Virginia

Ashley Starkey, Madison, West Virginia

Andy Stata, Blue Ridge, Virginia

Hannah Strength, Big Stone Gap, Virginia

Dustin Sumner, Galax, Virginia

Brandy Tabor, Dublin, Virginia

Tyres Tatum, Mayodan, North Carolina

Olivia Thompson, Bluefield, Virginia

Karlene Tuininga, Orillia, Ontario, Canada

Meaghan Vaughan, Roanoke, Virginia

Robert Womble, Richmond, Virginia

Ricardo Yanez, La Ceiba, Honduras.

Robert Yesbeck, Richmond, Virginia.

Media Contact

Chris Shoemaker, Assistant Professor of Communication

276.326.4279