Methodist University Announces Spring Commencement

MAY 2, 2014

FAYETTEVILLE, NC—Methodist University will celebrate its 51st annual Spring Commencement Ceremony Saturday, May 10, at 2 p.m. in the March F. Riddle Center on the university's campus. There are currently 238 candidates for graduation, which is a record number of graduates.

The 2014 Spring Commencement Distinguished Graduate is Cassidy Conley. She was among the top students in the graduating class and was chosen for this honor by her fellow graduates. She is receiving his Bachelor of Science in biology and will give remarks at the Commencement Ceremony.

Six flags will be presented to the University from graduates who are the first to graduate Methodist University from their country. Students from Jordan, Rwanda, Zambia, Botswana, Cambodia, and Tonga will present flags from their country which will be on display at Commencement and will hang permanently in the Berns Student Center.

The first graduating class, the Class of 1964, will be honored at Commencement. Several members of the Class of 1964 will return on their 50th Anniversary to lead the graduation procession and to be hooded for the first time, compliments of the MU Alumni Association.

Major Dan Rooney, a retired F-16 fighter pilot and founder of Folds of Honor, will deliver the commencement address. During the ceremony, the University will present Maj. Rooney with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

The University will also present the University Medallion to Dr. Christopher Aul, chief medical officer of Cape Fear Valley Health System and medical director of the university's Physician Assistant Program.

Prior to the commencement ceremony, Dr. James Howell, senior pastor at Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, will deliver the baccalaureate sermon at 10:30 a.m. in Huff Concert Hall.

Commencement Ceremony

"We are pleased to welcome Maj. Rooney as our commencement speaker," said President Ben Hancock. "He is an inspirational example of service, patriotism and dedication. Our students PGA Golf Management have a history of supporting his Folds of Honor foundation through the annual Patriot's Golf Day."

Major Rooney served three combat tours in Iraq. It was after returning from his second tour that he witnessed the return of a flag-draped casket to a fallen soldier's family and was inspired to found Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that has raised more than $35 million dollars and awarded more than 5,500 educational scholarships to the family members of soldiers who were killed or disabled in combat.

Major Rooney, who is also a member of the Professional Golf Association, founded The Patriot, a Robert Trent Jones, Junior-designed course in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and home to the Folds of Honor Foundation headquarters. He has been recognized as one of People Magazine's Heroes of the Year, Money Magazine's Hero of the Year, and one of ABC World News Tonight's Persons of the Year.

University Medallion

During the ceremony, the University Medallion will be presented to Dr. Christopher Aul.

"Dr. Aul has touched the lives of countless patients and students over the years," said Hancock.

Dr. Aul opened Hope Mills Family Medical Center in 1980, where he practiced family medicine for many years. In 1995, he joined Methodist University as the first Medical Director of the Physician Assistant Program, a position he still holds. In 2006 he closed his practice and shifted his focus to urgent care.

Starting at Cape Fear Valley's Health Pavilion North Express Care in 2006, Dr. Aul would go on to become the Medical Director for all of Cape Fear Valley's Express Care practices, as well as starting the Transition of Care Clinic for Congestive Heart Failure, which opened in 2010. That experience led him to get more involved with issues surrounding quality and patient safety, and in 2011 he became the Associate Chief Medical Officer for Quality and Patient Safety for the entire health system, stepping into the Chief Medical Officer position after the previous occupant retired last year.

Baccalaureate Service

Prior to graduation, a Baccalaureate Service will take place at 10:30 a.m. in Huff Concert Hall. Dr. James Howell will deliver the baccalaureate sermon.

Dr. Howell has been senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte since 2003, and has served churches in the Charlotte area for 25 years. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and Duke Divinity School, and has a Ph.D. from Duke. He has published 15 books.

Methodist University is an independent four-year institution of higher education with over 2,400 students from 41 states and 53 countries. Methodist University offers over 80 majors and concentrations, 100 clubs and organizations, four master's degree programs, and 20 NCAA III intercollegiate sports. To learn more about Methodist University, please visit or For more information, please contact Pam McEvoy, director of public affairs, at 910.630.7043 or e-mail

Media Contact Information

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