Commencement Crowns Excellent Year

rev swanThe ultimate celebration for students at Central Methodist University occurred on Saturday, May 12, when 411 students graduated on the Fayette campus. Students earned master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in Fayette and the College of Graduate and Extended Studies across the state and online.

The day began with the traditional Baccalaureate ceremony in Linn Memorial United Methodist Church. Students filed down to the end of the southwest corner of campus, then stopped and clapped the faculty and staff through to Church Street, showing their respect and appreciation for the guidance they have been given. When the faculty and staff reached the steps of the church, they stopped and repeated the procedure in reverse for the students in congratulations for their success.

Baccalaureate was led by CMU President Roger Drake, Provost Rita Gulstad, and Linn pastor the Reverend David Hutchison. The speaker for the ceremony was the Reverend Sheila Bouie-Sledge, associate pastor of Community Outreach and Social Justice Ministries at Salem UMC in St. Louis, Mo.

rev bouie-sledgeBouie-Sledge worked for years in the business community, but in 2009 felt led by God to explore a call to pastoral ministry. In her area of work, she develops, coordinates, and implements programs and services designed to enhance intercultural competencies while transforming cultural differences. In addition to her ministry at Salem UMC, she is active in the St. Louis community in the areas of diversity training, racial reconciliation, and justice outreach.

During Baccalaureate, the Reverend Sarah Schofield-Wimberley, mother of CMU graduate Abby Wimberley, read the scripture. She is the pastor at Northern Boulevard UMC in Independence, Mo.

The CMU Chorale and the Brass Ensemble both performed during Baccalaureate.

In the afternoon, Commencement took place in the E.P. Puckett Field House. The students were led into the auditorium, followed by the faculty and staff, by the CMU Concert Band. The band later played “Ignition” by Tod Stalter and led the crowd out with a fanfare and recessional.

The Commencement speaker was the Reverend Dr. Terri Swan, who was awarded by CMU before delivering her speech with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

Swan is the senior pastor at Salem UMC in St. Louis. She earned her undergraduate degree in counseling from Texas A&M University-Commerce. While working in Marshall, Texas, she received the call to ministry; she graduated cum laude from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology. She was ordained by the North Texas Conference, served as associate pastor at Stonebridge UMC, and was founding pastor of The Bridge at Stonebridge.

In 2007, Swan was appointed associate pastor at Salem in St. Louis and became senior pastor shortly thereafter. In 2013, her work earned her the Religious Leadership Award in St. Louis. She is an active supporter of humanitarian causes, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Red Cross, and UMC’s Kingdom House. She has traveled to Russia to help establish a sister church, and to Honduras to dig clean water wells.

She has led her St. Louis church in partnerships with United Methodist Committee on Relief, Habitat for Humanity, Mozambique Initiative, and Epworth Children and Family Services.

Swan’s talk to CMU’s seniors was titled “It Matters.”

Following the address, academic honors were announced by Dr. Gulstad, honors in the majors by Dr. Richard Bradley, and honors in clinical counseling by Dr. Angela Schubert.

Dr. Drake conferred the degrees after which Ken Oliver, vice president for institutional growth and student engagement, recognized special achievements; and Laura Blair, president of the Central Methodist University Alumni Association, spoke to the new graduates.

One of the highly anticipated events of Commencement is the presentation of the highest awards given to graduates by the University -- the Victoria Award, the Human Relations Award, and the most prestigious Selecman Award.

The Victoria Award

Named after Victoria Beecroft Cutter, the Victoria Award is given annually to a graduate who, in the opinion of faculty and students, has best demonstrated dedication and principles of CMU.

This year’s awardee was Kiona Sinks, a sociology major from Kansas City, Mo. She is the founder and president of the 2017-formed African American Student Union (AASU), whose purpose is to promote positive images of African Americans and to stimulate the cultural, intellectual, and social growth of all CMU students, faculty, and staff. Sinks has also been an Orientation leader, an intern for Tyrone Flowers for High M-Pact, and a Student Ambassador of Mid-Missouri of Higher Education. In addition to leading the activities of AASU, Kiona has assisted CMU in the administration of a number of diversity and inclusion panels and forums, and was a member of the track team.

The Human Relations Prize

Established by Martha Smith Luck, the first female member of Central’s Board of Curators, The Human Relations Prize is given annually to the graduate who shows the most promise in human relations and human adjustment – one who “attempts to develop the ability to get along with others and work with others,” developing liaison techniques in the area of human relations and understanding.

The year’s awardee was Martha Bradley, a double-major in criminal justice and political science from Farmington, Mo., who graduated a year early. Bradley was president of the Student Government Association and editor-in-chief of The Collegian. She has been an orientation leader, a scholar athlete, and a member of Pi Gamma Mu social science honorary organization. She’s a member of the Dean’s List and assisted in the organization of the Lessons from Ferguson lecture and panel. She has served interns with Williams & Jensen Law Firm and the St. Francis County Prosecutor’s Office. She was also a member of the track team.

The Selecman Award

The most prestigious award given to a graduating senior is The Selecman Award, established in 1957 by Bishop Charles C. Selecman, a former Central student who became a Bishop in the United Methodist Church. He requested that the award be presented to the student who has displayed the following characteristics to an extraordinary degree: good citizenship on campus, scholarship, religious leadership, moral and spiritual qualities, and outstanding achievement.

The Selecman Award went to Kay Wilken Neas, a 4.0 GPA music education major, originally from Cole Camp, Mo. and currently from Fayette. Wilken Neas was a member of The Chorale, the Conservatory Singers, the Praise Band, and multiple opera workshops. She has been a music camp counselor, a tutor at The Writing Center, an assistant at the CMU Bookstore, and an after-school fellowship director. She belongs to Sigma Epsilon Pi Honorary Society, Sigma Alpha Iota women’s music fraternity, Student National Association of Teachers of Singing, and the National Association for Music Educators.

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