Mariah Ingham commencement

Methodist University’s 61st annual Spring Commencement on Saturday included an entire day of celebration as graduates received degrees and are now prepared for the next chapter of their lives.

Methodist University’s 61st annual Spring Commencement on Saturday included an entire day of celebration as graduates received degrees and are now prepared for the next chapter of their lives.

The University hosted “Commencement Weekend,” which included two commemorative events at the Crown Coliseum for the Class of 2024 – first was Commencement 2024 for students receiving their bachelor’s degrees, and then a graduate commencement ceremony at the same location later that evening.

Methodist University commencement
Commencement 2024 at Crown Coliseum

Methodist University President Stanley T. Wearden congratulated the more than 380 graduate and undergraduate students who officially completed academic degrees from more than 80 areas of study that are offered on campus and online at MU.

“Congratulations, graduates. I am so very proud of your accomplishments,” said Wearden. “Now, you will embark on new adventures in your lives, equipped with a Methodist University education and supported not only by your families, faculty, and staff, but by your friends – fellow students you have met along the way who will join you as fellow alumni. Stay in touch with this network. Share your successes and challenges. Care for them and allow them to care for you.”

On Saturday afternoon, thousands of loved ones filled the Crown Coliseum for Commencement 2024. General Daniel K. McNeill served as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. McNeill served with the Special Forces, airborne infantry (including the 82nd Airborne Division), mechanized infantry, and aviation units for more than 40 years before retiring in 2008.

General Dan K. McNeill
General Dan K. McNeill

Before receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Methodist University for his contributions to society, McNeill addressed the graduates with a call for action in their post-graduation careers.

“Congratulations to all of you,” said McNeill. “As you move forward, you have the privilege to serve, and you must serve. Learn how to follow before you lead and when you’re ready, seek positions of leadership. Remember, leadership and trust are closely related terms. You now have the requisite skills to stride forth with confidence in the world.”

Methodist University presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to Jairus Brown ’24 for his noble character and outstanding commitment to service. Brown received a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

Individually, several other students were recognized for their time at Methodist University, including Emily Skowronski ’24, who majored in Accounting with a concentration in PGA Golf Management and was named this year’s Lucius Stacy Weaver Award winner. The award, as voted by the MU faculty, is given to the student who best exemplifies academic excellence, spiritual development, leadership, and service.

Lastly, Madison Brunson ’24 was selected as this year’s Distinguished Graduate. She was among the five students in her undergraduate class with the highest GPA and was chosen to speak at commencement by her peers. Hailing from St. Petersburg, Florida, Brunson is a Psychology major with dual concentrations in Human Performance Psychology and Counseling/Clinical Psychology and two minors in Cognitive Behavioral Neuropsychology and Management. She is also a member of the President’s List, Dean’s List, Leadership Fellows, and MU Honors Program.

students at methodist university commencement
Students at Commencement 2024

“The person you are today is not the person you have to be tomorrow,” said Brunson. “Life is about learning and growth. You have spent four years molding yourself into the person you want to be. This is not the time to stop – you should continue to acquire new skills and learn new things about yourself… Thank you to Methodist University for teaching me a lifetime’s worth of lessons and being my home for four years and beyond!”

For the first time, the ceremony included elements from Baccalaureate. “A Moment of Gratitude and Blessing” set aside a dedicated time for graduates and their supporters. Jamari Stroud ’24, an Environmental Occupational Management major, provided a scriptural reading before Rev. Dr. Kelli Taylor, vice president for Mission Integration & Student Well-Being and chaplain, provided a spiritual message directed towards graduates and their sponsors.

“Mentorship is a sacred responsibility, a passing of the mantle of knowledge, character, and wisdom,” said Taylor. “In a few moments, you will hear your name called, calling you forth in recognition of your achievement, and echoing God’s call on your life, your vocation. Your mentor will place the academic hood on your shoulders. This is the moment when the mantle passes to you.”

Before receiving their diploma on stage, each graduate participated in a hooding ceremony – a long-standing tradition at MU in which an individually-selected sponsor (often a parent, spouse, child, professor, or friend) hoods the graduate to mark their academic achievement. Afterwards, Wearden presented each graduate their diploma on stage.

Steve Downs, Hope Downs, Stanley Wearden
President Stanley T. Wearden hands a diploma to Hope Downs.

Later that evening, the graduate commencement ceremony once again welcomed family and friends to Crown Coliseum as more than 100 students received their master’s or doctoral degrees. Graduates came from one of MU’s graduate programs including Business Administration, Physician Assistant Studies, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and others.

The ceremony featured Dr. Franklin S. Clark III as the keynote speaker. Clark, a retired surgeon and businessman, is a longtime supporter of Methodist University with deep roots in the Fayetteville community. Clark is also well known for his dominance on the basketball court as a center for the University of North Carolina (1966-69).

Clark was also presented with Honorary Doctor of Human Letters for his extensive service to MU and the local community. He then provided a note of advice and encouragement to the graduates.

“You have worked and studied diligently for years to accomplish this level of academic achievement,” said Clark. “Your present status of a very newly degreed [graduate] does not mean your education stops here. Science is constantly changing, and knowledge is forever expanding. Continuous education is the permanent rule of the game… Congratulations, it’s time to cut down the nets.”

Dr. Franklin S. Clark III
Dr. Franklin S. Clark III

Following Clark’s speech, the graduates participated in the hooding ceremony and received their coveted degrees from Wearden. MU’s fifth president left graduates with a final declaration during the symbolic moving of the tassels, signifying the end of one journey and the beginning of the next.

“This is a significant achievement, and it will change your lives in many ways both tangible and intangible,” Wearden said. “You are now joining an elite group – the alumni of this great University. Your MU journey extends beyond today, beyond commencement. This is your University today, and it will always be your University. This is a great institution, and as we all work to make it even better, we will need your help.”

To access replays of both commencements, head to the Methodist University YouTube channel. Photos from both commencements will be available on the Methodist University Flickr page at a later date.

Graduate commencement at Methodist University
Graduate Commencement at Crown Coliseum