Anderson University celebrates more than 600 graduates in commencement ceremonies

One journey ended and an exciting new one began May 3 and 4 as more than 600 new graduates turned their tassels and marked a turning point in their lives as Anderson University graduates.

During the Friday morning ceremony, held on the historic Alumni Lawn, graduates from Anderson University’s College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, Center for Cybersecurity and the South Carolina School of the Arts received their degrees. During the Saturday morning ceremony, held at NewSpring Church, graduates from Anderson University’s College of Christian Studies, College of Health Professions, Center for Leadership and Organizations, College of Education, College of Engineering, School of Interior Design, and School of Public Service and Administration received their degrees.

Longtime professor of English Bob Hanley opened each ceremony with the ringing of the University Bell. Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn officially opened the Friday morning ceremony, and Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts opened the Saturday morning ceremony. Giving the invocation at both ceremonies was Anderson University Board of Trust Chair Mary Anne Bunton.

Commencement Address 

The commencement speaker at both ceremonies was South Carolina Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Tony Wolfe.

Wolfe’s message to the graduates focused on four words: Commence, Forward, Depth and Change.

Commence: “Here today, right now, you are beginning something. This is not an end, this is a start. Something here right now in you and through you is being commenced,” Wolfe said.

Forward: “A quick glance in the rearview hopefully will remind you of some very meaningful and sweet moments, and for some a quick glance in that rearview is going to remind you of some very painful moments and some very challenging days — but good or bad, there is nothing behind you worth holding on to at the expense of what God has ahead of you. So lean in, live forward,” Wolfe said.

Depth: “Knowledge and talent will get you a good paycheck, but depth of biblical faith and character and purpose will afford you treasure no ledger can count,” Wolfe said.

Change: “If you’re to leverage your life for something that matters,  if you’re going to rise to your time and make a difference in your world, don’t just do change, be change. Be the change the world desperately needs to see,” Wolfe said.

Honoring Achievement

During the Friday ceremony, President Evans Whitaker recognized recipients of the President’s Award, which is given to members of the graduating class who are examples of balance between campus leadership, citizenship, scholastic accomplishment, Christian commitment and concern for fellow students. The recipients were Isaiah Custodio and Hudson Taylor.

University Provost Ryan Neal presented the Michael Boles Excellence in Teaching Award to Associate Professor of History Lynneth Miller Renberg. The award is given to a faculty member whose character, teaching skills and devotion to his or her students and his or her academic discipline are judged to be exemplary.

An honorary degree was presented during the Friday ceremony to Chris Brown of Charlotte, N.C. Brown, who is a worship leader at Elevation Church, is also a songwriter and founding member of Elevation Worship, which is led by Pastor Steven Furtick. Elevation Worship’s music is sung in churches across America and has been recognized with Billboard Music Awards, GMA Dove Awards and a Grammy Award.

Accepting the honorary doctorate, Brown recalled how he and his wife met and fell in love at Anderson. He praised his music professors and others for the impact they had on his life and ministry.

“I really am incredibly grateful for my time here and the investment that was made in me. … I feel like I got such a great sense of what it means to have dedication and commitment to your craft and your gift, and also even deeper than that what it means to steward well what God’s placed inside of us, and so I just want to say ‘thank you,’” Brown said.

During the Saturday ceremony, an honorary degree was presented to artist Sandy Scott. Scott has worked as an animation background artist for the motion picture industry and also as a commercial artist. She is a fellow of the National Sculpture Society and member of the National Arts Club. Her work can be found in many important collections and museums across the nation. In South Carolina, Scott’s nature-inspired sculpture can be found at Brookgreen Gardens; also, she created the sculpture for the Peace Fountain, located on the Anderson University campus. Scott sculpted the bronze Trojan head that will sit on a black granite pedestal prominently located at the entrance to the AU football fieldhouse — a sight that will greet fans on game-day weekends.

Outgoing Student Government Association President Jack Cummings presented the Senior Class Gift, a check which will fund the pedestal. Funds for the sculpture were provided by the Class of 2022.

An honorary degree was also presented posthumously to late area business leader Irvin Cauthen. Cauthen began his career as an engineer for NASA, working at Cape Canaveral. Cauthen had grown up in his family’s general store and decided to return to his roots, so he entered the convenience store business. In the Carolinas, he started Plez U, a chain of convenience stores located across Upstate South Carolina. Cauthen started a charitable fund through the Foothills Community Foundation to support charities and educational institutions. Accepting the degree on Cauthen’s behalf was his grandson, Ryan Cauthen, who serves on the Anderson University Board of Regents.

“I would attribute a lot of my grandfather’s vision and legacy to the standard that he set for himself. That standard was done on a professional level for his businesses. It was done on a spiritual level, and it was done to make sure that his legacy going forward would be carried on,” Ryan Cauthen said. “With that in mind for the class of 2024, I would encourage you all to carry on the standard of excellence that you’ve learned through AU.”

In his closing remarks, President Whitaker said, “Do nothing less than raise the standards of our society. Show the world the best of what you have shown us. Show the world what it means to be a distinguished graduate of Anderson University. Hold the truth of what you have attained, then you will be ready for whatever life has in store for you — a joy to the Lord Jesus Christ who walks beside you, and … to God the Father who created you. And one final thing: Long live your dear alma mater. Long live Anderson.”

Music for the ceremonies was performed by faculty and students from the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University, including a song written by honorary doctorate recipient and alumnus Chris Brown. The commencement choir was conducted by Richard Williamson.

Giving the benediction for the Friday ceremony was Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity Kerry Elson, and during the Saturday ceremony Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Stephen Ojo.

There was also a baccalaureate service Friday afternoon, with Pastor Wes Church of First Baptist Church of Columbia speaking.

Videos of the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies can be viewed on the Anderson University YouTube page.

— Andrew Beckner is executive director of public relations for Anderson University. This story first appeared on Anderson University’s website.