Judson College holds 182nd Commencement | Judson College
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Judson College holds 182nd Commencement

Judson College held its 182nd commencement on June 27, 2020. Due to social distancing measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, families and friends of graduates gathered for the college’s first outdoor commencement ceremony on the front lawn of Jewett Hall. Sixty-one degrees were conferred upon fifty-seven graduates who had successfully completed requirements for Associate Degrees in Nursing and Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Social Work degrees.

Graduates on Jewett Hall front lawn 2020

2020 Graduates on the front lawn of historic Jewett Hall. Photo by Sarah Fowler.

The graduates’ procession began with the ringing of the College’s cherished Triangle, a symbol whose history dates back to the 19th century when students were called to begin a new day with its unmistakable sound. Senior Class President Ashlee Kendrick of Mobile, Ala., led the procession with the Triangle. This new tradition was initiated at the 2019 Commencement to signify the new beginnings ahead of each graduate.

Senior Class President Ashlee Kendrick leads Commencement procession

Photo by Tracy Riggs, The Alabama Baptist (TAB)

Dr. Billie Jean Young, Associate Professor of Fine and Performing Arts and Artist-in-Residence, opened the ceremony with an invocation, asking God to unify the assembly with a “spirit of reconciliation” and to bless the Class of 2020.

Young, a member of Judson’s Class of 1974, prayed especially for graduates: “May they find value and grow from [Judson], savoring the memories that can propel and guide them on the road of life…Even as we send our new graduates into the world, help them to value a kind, meaningful, and uplifting spirit.”

“Even as we grow and experience life,” Young concluded, “help us continue to stand firm and tall like a tree, ever-flowering–like our mighty Senior Oak, ever growing, ever becoming the Judson women we are capable of becoming.”

W. Mark Tew installed as 23rd President

Commencement began with a brief ceremony of investiture to officially install W. Mark Tew as Judson College President. Though an official presidential inauguration event was originally scheduled for April 2020, the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic led College leadership to plan June 27th’s investiture ceremony in lieu of an inauguration.

Chair of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Joan V. Newman, conferred the President’s Medallion and delivered charges from the Board of Trustees to both Dr. and Mrs. Tew.

Presidential investiture ceremony

Photo by Tracy Riggs, TAB

Newman, who served on the Presidential Search Committee from 2018 until Tew’s arrival at Judson in March 2019, said that the search for Judson’s 23rd President was a “tremendous responsibility” and a “heavenly task”. Newman charged Tew to “nurture our students’ education, lead the faculty in pursuing and conveying all truth, guard the College’s finances, and uphold Judson’s identity as an institution dedicated to distinctive Christian higher education for women.”

Noting the symbols of the President’s Medallion, Tew responded: “In upholding the duties you have assigned to me, I will place God first in all that we do. I will work diligently and acknowledge that the authority is in the office, that the responsibility is paramount, and that the accountability is, in various ways and in varying degrees, to everyone who believes there should always be a Judson.”

Tew then addressed the Class of 2020, whose procession onto the front lawn of Jewett Hall led them through a gate given by the Judson College Class of 1920. “There is a tremendous legacy that you follow,” Tew told graduates, “and you will want to set the curve for others to follow you…You are limited only by the extent of your imagination, your ambition, your creativity, and most importantly, your dependence upon the leadership of God and the Holy Spirit that is willing to work daily in your lives.”

Jennifer Davis Rash addresses graduates

The commencement speaker was Jennifer Davis Rash, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Alabama Baptist newspaper. Rash was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Judson “in recognition of her service to the community of Baptists in Alabama, and throughout the world, and in honor of her being named the first female president and editor-in-chief of a major Baptist newspaper.”

Jennifer Rash, Judson College 2020 Commencement speaker

Rash addresses 2020 graduates. Photo by Mary Amelia Taylor

Rash exhorted graduates to cherish every moment of their time at Judson, because “all your memories–the sweet and the sad ones–mesh together to make you who you are today.” She said that the Class of 2020 is a “class of all classes”, who would be remembered for their perseverance through a final semester overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “You’re going to change the world,” Rash told graduates. “You’ve proven you have what it takes. See, you learned in only a few months what most of us had the luxury of several decades to learn: How to adapt and flourish even when plans don’t work out.”

Rash said that maintaining “a spirit of teachability” and a strong foundation in loving God and others are the keys to thriving in a world of change and unexpected pressures.

“Scripture teaches our greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves [Matthew 22:36-40],” said Rash. “As you leave the college nest today and prepare to tackle the world, cling tightly to those commandments, and recognize that, to achieve both, you must also love yourself…Each of us is created in the image of our Father, the Almighty God, so humbly loving ourselves reflects our love for Him and teaches us how to love others.”

“We need you,” Rash told graduates. “We need your light. We need your kindness. We need your smarts. We need your energy. We need your teachability…We need you–the very best version of you God has in store.”

Watch the Judson College 2020 Commencement Ceremony here.

Commencement Awards and Degrees

Dr. Jessica Spafford, Assistant Professor of Music and Head of the Music Department, received the Lula and Alton Holley Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching, an annual faculty award determined by vote of graduating seniors. The award was established in 1982 by Howard and Martha Holley and Mildred and Annie Ruby Holley to recognize excellence in classroom teaching at Judson.

Several special student awards were presented to the following:

Hannah Woods, social work major from Sylvan Springs, Ala., received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award, in recognition for her “nobility of character as expressed through spiritual qualities in daily living”.

Cassidy Padgett, religious studies and psychology major from Henagar, Ala., received the J.C. Faulkner Award, given to honor an “outstanding student and…enthusiastic supporter of Judson College.”

Audriania Thicklin, social work major from Hayneville, Ala., received the Bible Award, an annual award presented to the graduate exhibiting the most “outstanding Christian spirit” and rendering “Christian service to her college” during her tenure as a Judson student.

Five graduates received Scholarship Awards, presented to seniors with excellent academic records at Judson. Award recipients, who maintained 4.0 grade point averages throughout their time at Judson, were Brianna Arriaga of Huntsville, Cassidy Harrison of Headland, Allie Smith of Holly Pond, Tessa Thompson of Clanton, and Kate Wright of Lathrop, Mo.

Graduates by degrees and hometowns, including honors earned, are as follows:

Associate Degree in Nursing
Grand Bay, Ala. – Kaley Anne Patteson
Tuscaloosa, Ala. –  Valeria Yvette Dickson

Bachelor of Arts
Cullman, Ala. – Jordan Dean Hooks, cum laude
Decatur, Ala. – Karen Kay Hernandez
Henagar, Ala. – Cassidy Lynn Padgett, summa cum laude
Huntsville, Ala. – Brianna Celest Arriaga, summa cum laude, Degree with Distinction in Religious Studies, Thesis:The Prophets: A Call to Order and Recreation
Jefferson, Ala. – Ella L. Hall
Lathrop, Mo. – Katherine Elizabeth Wright, summa cum laude
Lawley, Ala. – Breanna Lucille Weaver, cum laude
Leakesville, Miss. – Karissa Brayann Bradley
Marion, Ala. – Tracie Lynn Harrison
Montgomery, Ala. – Chasely Kade Matmanivong
Montgomery, Ala. – Izzie Vazquez
Moody, Ala. – Lorna Wikle
Nashville, Tenn. – Sierra Driver
Odenville, Ala. – Toria Evelyn Mendow
Silverhill, Ala. – Kayla Marie Jones, magna cum laude
West Blocton, Ala. – Sarah Jessicca Dennis, magna cum laude

Bachelor of Science
Albertville, Ala. – Amber Nicole Igou
Alexander City, Ala. – Taylor Ann Hutto
Atmore, Ala. – Cheyenne Sue McGee
Bessemer, Ala. – Ashley Cruce Eaton
Bothell, Wa. – Hope Louise Langkow, summa cum laude, Degree with Distinction in Equine Science, Thesis: The Effects of Unmounted, Mounted, and Combined Equine-Assisted Therapy on Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety as Reported by Equine-Assisted Therapy Practitioners
Chatom, Ala. – Rebecca Alef O’Neal
Clanton, Ala. – Katherine Brenna Hunter
Clanton, Ala. – Tessa Noel Thompson, summa cum laude
Cullman, Ala. – Katie Erin Glover
Fort Payne, Ala. – Molly Ann Veal, cum laude
Fyffe, Ala. – Libby Nicole Whitten, summa cum laude
Greensboro, Ala. – Carmen Baty Hall
Greensboro, Ala. – Hanna Alexis Hughes, magna cum laude
Headland, Ala. – Cassidy Nicole Harrison, summa cum laude
Holly Pond, Ala. – Allie Mackenzie Smith, summa cum laude, Degree with Distinction in Biology, Thesis: The Effects of Nitrotyrosine on Dopaminergic SH-SY5Y Cells
Hoover, Ala. – Kirsten Elizabeth Britnell, cum laude
Huntsville, Ala. – Whitney Michelle Batt,summa cum laude
Jacksonville, Ala. – Hannah Louise Ulrich, magna cum laude, Degree with Distinction in Biology, Thesis: Evaluation of Follicle Cell Death During Drosophilia Oogenesis
Lathrop, Mo. – Katherine Elizabeth Wright, summa cum laude
Marion, Ala. – Lindsay Caroline Brady
Marion, Ala. – Melissa Faith Thurber
Marion, Ala. – Tanisha T. Johnson
McCalla, Ala. – Erin Lindsey Harrison
Midland City, Ala. – Kaylee Nicole Roth
Mobile, Ala. – Marissa N. McNamara, cum laude
Montevallo, Ala. – Hannah Kate Stallo
Moody, Ala. – Lorna Wikle
Nanakuli, Hawaii – Joyce Lolini Lavata’i
New Hope, Ala. – Kelsey Lynn O’Neal
Pensacola, Fla. – Lexy Small
Piedmont, Ala. – Casey Lynn Rodgers, cum laude
Prattville, Ala. – Ashtin Morris
Prattville, Ala. – Macie Diann Lee, cum laude
Rockledge, Fla. – Rhianne Elizabeth Green
Selma, Ala. – Sarah Combs
Silverhill, Ala. – Kayla Marie Jones, magna cum laude
Tuscaloosa, Ala. – Lauren Brianna Neary
Valley Grande, Ala. – Kimberly Paige Draime
Warrior, Ala. – Payton Marie Luker, summa cum laude

Bachelor of Social Work
Cullman, Ala. – Jordan Dean Hooks, cum laude, Degree with Distinction in Social Work, Thesis: Culturally Sensitive Practice: Language and Culture Training among Foster Care Workers
Hayneville, Ala. – Audriania Aliz’a Thicklin
Marbury, Ala. – Katelyn Michelle Lawrence, cum laude
Sylvan Springs, Ala. – Hannah Marie Woods, summa cum laude

To close the Commencement ceremony, graduates gathered under the Senior Oak on the front lawn of Jewett Hall to continue the time-honored tradition of singing the senior song “Tell Me Why” a final time together.

Congratulations, Class of 2020!