Greenville University Honors The Class of 2024

Members of the Greenville University class of 2024 started their college careers in a global pandemic. They were among the few freshmen classes nationwide to attend face-to-face classes, while most colleges were entirely online. GU conducted in-person classes because it secured a partnership with the University of Illinois-Champaign for COVID-19 testing throughout the pandemic. The class of ’24 endured saliva testing, quarantines, mask-wearing, and various color-coded alerts on campus to indicate the threat level of the virus.

The adaptable, resilient, persevering members of the Class of 2024 were honored last weekend at a Baccalaureate service Friday night and an outdoor Commencement ceremony Saturday morning. The commencement ceremony was moved to 9 a.m., an hour earlier this year, to help attendees avoid the harsh heat of the noonday sun. Sunny skies and cool temperatures surrounded the ceremony on Hogue Lawn on Saturday morning.

Two speakers inspired graduates during the weekend – Professor Bob Munshaw’s Baccalaureate message and John Inazu’s Commencement address.

Munshaw is a professor of theology at Greenville University, and Inazu is the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law & Religion at Washington University in St. Louis.

GU conferred diplomas to 253 graduates. The University also presented awards to several students  and announced its outstanding faculty member of the year.

Addison Brannon of Alhambra, Illinois received the President’s Citation Award. Addison graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology & Chemistry. Assistant Professor of Chemistry Scott Pattenaude remarked, “Many students view their education as a means to eventually make a difference in the world through their vocation, yet Addie recognizes that she can make a difference now by setting an example for others how to value educational opportunities by being a steward of her God-given talents.” Professor of Biology Gene Dunkley commented, “Addie is one of the brightest and most engaging students I have had the pleasure of teaching over the past 23 years. She is an excellent example of how we want our students to become when they graduate.”

GU President Suzanne Davis & Addison Brannon

Jordan Peebles of McCalla, Alabama, received the 2024 President’s Award for Character and Service.

Davis & Jordan Peebles

Jordan graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. The Reverend Keli Pennington, GU’s campus Chaplain, stated, “Jordan has been a spiritual leader on campus, leading a small group, and even her day-to-day demeanor and engagement with others. She seeks genuine relationships with others, asks intentional questions, listens well, and demonstrates the love and care of Christ.” Assistant Professor of Engineering Danie Raja remarked, “Jordan is the project manager of the current engineering senior design team. She encouraged and supported the team to complete tasks by leading by example – including working late for several hours and working toward a common goal rather than her personal ones.”

Also recognized was Lucas Motsinger, from Marion, Illinois, who the Lincoln Academy of Illinois selected as a Lincoln Laureate earlier this year. The award honors senior students from throughout the state for excellence in academic work and involvement in extracurricular activities. As Greenville University’s Student Laureate for 2023-2024, Lucas received a certificate, medallion, $1,000 stipend, and a challenge coin from the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Faculty nominate a deserving student who exemplifies leadership and service in pursuit of the betterment of humanity. Professor Nathan Jenkins nominated Lucas for the award. Jenkins stated, “Lucas was never satisfied with the simplest answers and always sought out a deeper meaning than what was presented in the textbook.”

Davis & Lucas Motsinger

Professor Gary Erickson received this year’s Outstanding Faculty Award, named for former president W. Richard Stephens. Gary has been with GU since 2007 and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Music, heading the Audio Engineering degree program. Students nominating Erickson said, “In addition to curriculum development, teaching, and advising, Gary oversees the equipment maintenance and improvements to the University’s recording studios, keyboard lab, recital hall sound systems, and Blackroom performance venue. Gary works tirelessly weekly to ensure the set-up of sound, stage, and lighting elements for TWE (The Wednesday Experience), the campus worship gathering, and many other campus performance events.”

Davis & Professor Gary Erickson

Professor Erickson received his MFA in Technical Theatre and master’s in music composition from Minnesota State University, with concentrations in Digital Audio Recording and Design, Sound Reinforcement, Curriculum Development, Web Design for Musicians, Lighting and Sound Design, and Arts Administration. Gary and his wife, Lisa, reside in Greenville and have three young adult children: Ben, Rylee, and Justin. Students nominating Erickson stated, “Gary is an amazing teacher who is not only invested in the education of his students but also in their physical and mental well-being. Gary works long hours outside his classes to make things like TWE, Blackroom Café, Midnight Breakfast, admissions events and SO MUCH MORE run! He never seeks recognition; he does it because he cares. We feel he needs to be acknowledged for it.”

Commencement Weekend activities began with a Friday concert by the Greenville University Choir. The traditional Ivy-Cutting ceremony followed – a bookend to the ivy-planting ceremony that occurred when the students were freshmen. Ivy cutting is a symbol that their time together in the community of Greenville University is ending, with the challenge to go out and individually fulfill the mission of character and service in the world.

Reverend Munshaw’s address to the students at the Baccalaureate Ceremony was entitled “A Life of Character and Service…Who Me?” Reverend Munshaw reminded the students that Christian character is different than character. Character is how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Christian character examines genuine faith, obedience, humility, selfless love, worship, forgiveness, and gratitude.

Reverend Bob Munshaw

If we want to follow Jesus, we will shape our lives to follow Christ and love others. One life well-lived may not change the whole world, but it makes a difference. One life of character lived in service will change the world around us.

Reverend Munshaw challenged the students to think about their stories and where they’ve come from or where they’ve been and the normal people in their lives who have been a light in their world. Now, think about the life you want to lead and how you want to bring light and hope into the lives of others. As you partner with the Holy Spirit, God will help you discover how you should bring light into the lives of others.”

Saturday’s Commencement ceremony on Hogue Lawn began at 9 a.m. The Greenville University concert band performed the processional as the Board of Trustees, Executive Cabinet, faculty, and candidates for graduation processed in. President Suzanne Allison Davis welcomed the crowd. Don Frazure, Director of Choral Activities, sang the National Anthem, and Clarence Javan Falls, III, ’20, offered a prayer of invocation. Student Thibaut A. Tignee led the reading of Ephesians 4:1-2, and the GU Choir and Pursuit Worship Band led the congregation in singing “Goodness of God.” Makenna L. Hintz, student body president, introduced the keynote speaker.

The commencement address entitled “Living Faithfully and Neighborly in a World of Difference” was given by John Inazu, Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law & Religion, at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. John Inazu

Inazu’s address challenged students to the call to live neighborly in this world. He suggested beginning with the ordinary and discovering shared interests and passions rather than focusing on differences.

“Remember the humanity of those who are different than you. Discover what you might learn from this person who bears the image of God.” Second, cultivate humility, patience, and tolerance. Pursue empathy across differences because, as Christians, we are motivated by hope and love. Lastly, don’t do it alone. Institutions provide focus on mission. If you choose wisely, your churches, neighborhoods, and workplaces will help inform you.

Following the commencement address, Greenville University’s academic leadership distributed diplomas to the master’s and bachelor’s degree candidates. Professor Richard Beans led the singing of the Greenville University “Alma Mater.” The ceremony concluded with a benediction given by President Davis that challenged students to go and live as students of salt and light in this world.

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