Southwest Baptist University graduated 571 students at the spring commencement ceremonies held Thursday, May 14 and Saturday, May 16.
In addition to conferring degrees, various student and faculty honors were awarded.
Life Beautiful Awards
SBU faculty selected Renée Coleman and Taylor Qualls as the 2015 recipients of the Life Beautiful Awards.
Coleman was raised in Springfield, Mo., and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree, having double majored in computer science and mathematics. Among her various honors, she was recognized as a Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and received the James Frederick Hurst Memorial Mathematics Award. She was active on campus in many capacities, including serving as a Welcome Week small group leader and support staff chair and a tutor for mathematics, computer science and the writing center.
Coleman is the daughter of Dr. Kelly and Kristin Coleman. Dr. Coleman is an SBU faculty member in the department of physical therapy.
Qualls, son of Michael, a 1986 SBU graduate, and Rebecca Qualls, was raised in Lee’s Summit, Mo., and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts, having double majored in psychology and Christian studies. He served as vice president of Psi Chi, the international psychology honors society, and was a member of the Gordon and Judy Dutile Honors Program. He was recognized as a Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and was named the outstanding Christian ministry scholar.
Qualls has served on SBU mission trips to Spain and China with the Center for Global Connections, through which he will be leading an SBU mission trip to Georgia.
The award is given annually to an exceptional man and woman in SBU’s spring graduating class whose outstanding scholarship and character demonstrates that they live a “life beautiful.” SBU faculty selects the recipients, who are announced at commencement. The Life Beautiful Award was established in 1937 by Rosalee Mills Appleby, a career missionary to Brazil.
Orien B. Hendrex Award
The Orien B. Hendrex Award was presented to Dr. Craig Endres, chair of the department of biology and professor of biology. This honor is given annually to a faculty member who has been judged by the previous three years’ graduating classes to be outstanding in both teaching ability and personal guidance. The SBU Board of Trustees designated this award in memory of Hendrex, a former academic dean.
Senior speaker and music
Meagan R. Burns delivered the Bob R. Derryberry Senior Address, in which she encouraged students to strive to exceed the perceptions others have of their generation, as well as to approach challenges in their lives as opportunities to grow.
“Adversity teaches more lessons than the easy times ever can, and Scripture shows us this again and again,” she said, referencing Biblical figures like Job, who clung to the Lord’s faithfulness in spite of the suffering and trials that he was experiencing.
“History does not remember those who meet expectations,” she said. “Rather, it remembers those who surpass them.”
Violinist Elizabeth E. Caddy, who earned a bachelor of science in economics and finance, presented the senior music performance. Caddy performed “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,” composed by Franz Haydn and arranged by Ken Lynch.
Retiring faculty and staff
Six retiring faculty members were recognized at the commencement ceremonies, including:
- Pearlene Breshears, counselor and assistant professor of psychology;
- Dr. Kathy Brown, professor of music;
- Dr. William Brown, provost, professor of music and former dean of the Geneva Casebolt College of Music, Arts and Letters;
- Dr. Delta Cavner, associate professor of education;
- Dr. Dot Hash, professor of physical therapy and program director of the physical therapy department from 1994 to 2005; and
- Dr. Jim Frost, professor of intercultural studies.
One staff member was recognized: Ron Maupin, vice president for administration and the University’s chief financial officer, who will retire July 31.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt delivered the commencement address at the undergraduate ceremony. Prior to being elected to the United States Senate in 2010, Blunt served as Missouri’s Secretary of State, in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as president of SBU from 1993 to 1996.
He challenged students to cherish and protect the American right to religious freedom, as well as to build their lives on Gospel truth. “Southwest Baptist University is a place where you come and learn not just how to make a living, but where you can come and learn how to live a life, and particularly to live that life on the life framework of the Gospel,” he said.
He also encouraged students to embrace the exciting time in which they are living and to look forward to all of the possibilities, opportunities and advancements that the future holds.
“I think that we live in a very exciting time,” he said. “Part of the excitement is that we can’t predicting what the world will look like in the next few decades, but it is a world that has lots of potential opportunities for us.”
The graduate ceremony commencement address was given by Dr. J. David Taylor, who graduated from SBU with a master of physical therapy in 1998 and currently serves as associate professor of physical therapy at University of Central Arkansas. In June, he will be joining the department of physical therapy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Taylor encouraged students to resolve to serve the Lord with their lives, citing the Biblical story of Ananias, who was called by God to minister to the Apostle Paul shortly after his remarkable conversion on the road to Damascus. “I have a meaningful question to ask of you: Are you prepared to serve God, and will you make the choice to serve God?” Taylor asked. “Your decision to serve God is indeed your choice.”
“Do not allow the things of your past to stop you from serving God,” Taylor said. “Look ahead, not back.”