Keri Leann Arrington, of Marshall, N.C., receives her diploma from Mars Hill University President Dan Lunsford. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill University.

Press release from Mars Hill University, shared Jan. 7:

Keri Leann Arrington, of Marshall, N.C., receives her diploma from Mars Hill University President Dan Lunsford. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill University.
Keri Leann Arrington, of Marshall, N.C., receives her diploma from Mars Hill University President Dan Lunsford. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill University.

Mars Hill University’s historic first graduation since attaining university status took place on Friday evening, Dec. 20. The institution conferred bachelor’s degrees on 91 August and December graduates, and honorary doctorates on two long-time faculty members in a ceremony in Moore Auditorium on the campus. The most common majors for the graduates were education (elementary, middle, integrated, special), business (administration, management) and history.

Keynote speaker for the evening was David Smith, honorary trustee of Mars Hill University and pastor of First Baptist Church of Lenoir, NC. Using a text from Ecclesiastes, Smith reminded the graduates that “to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Graduation is a season of celebration, he said, but it also calls for thankfulness and for remembering those who have helped you along the way. While appreciating the season of celebration, Smith urged the graduates to never leave the season of dreaming.

“God never provides a detailed lifelong plan,” he said. “Direction is provided day by day to those who are open to dreams calling us forward.”

Smith told the students that they should also be aware of a season to change the world. “Don’t wait on Washington or Raleigh to change the world,” he said. “You are God’s appointed agent of change. It is really in the small, everyday acts that true change comes.”

Finally, he warned that every life will have seasons of winter. Those times are difficult, and yet it is easier to see in a bare landscape.

“We can see life clearer in the winter times of life,” Smith said. “Things such as: what is important; the discovery of the people that love us even when we are in the dark time of life; and the God who reveals himself in the difficult times. Accept the season of winter when it comes and give thanks that spring will eventually return.”

Rev. Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Mars Hill College and a doctorate of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a former missionary and a former trustee and campus minister at Mars Hill College. He lives in Lenoir with his wife, Janice.

The university bestowed honorary doctorates on Bob and Rachel Chapman, a husband and wife who, between them, gave 89 years of service to Mars Hill before their retirement in 1991. Rachel Chapman was a business professor for her entire 45-year career. Bob Chapman served as the assistant registrar from 1947 until 1957 and as the college registrar from 1957 until 1991. During those years, he was also a professor of business. In all, he gave 44 years of service to the college.

The Chapmans continue to be active in the life of the university and helped found the Retired Faculty/Staff Association. Bob served as the organization’s founding president. The Chapmans also maintain the Chapman Rose Garden near Pittman Dining Hall on the campus.

Three of the students who graduated on Friday — Chris Ammons, of Mars Hill, N.C.; Lacey Bradley, of Fletcher, N.C.; and Greg Lancaster, of Gastonia, N.C. — were recipients of the first bachelor of science in criminal justice degrees issued by Mars Hill. Until this academic year, the institution offered minors and concentrations in criminal justice, but it now offers a full major.

Student speakers for the graduation were J. Brady Adcock, a business administration major from Pfafftown, N.C., and Tabbatha Ayers Garland, a social work major in the Adult and Graduate Studies program from Burnsville, N.C. The invocation was given by Joo Kyung “Esther” Kim, a chemistry major from Thessaloniki, Greece.

Special music for the graduation was provided by Sarah Emily Richardson, a musical theater major from Apex, N.C.

August and December graduates, in order of hometown, were:

Paige Elizabeth West-Fisher, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Nicholas Joel Harp, Villa Rica, Ga.
Daniel  Applebaum, Oak Park, Ill.
Sarah Emily Richardson, Apex, N.C .
Joshua Franklin Linhart, Arden, N.C .
Autumn Hope McKinney, Arden, N.C.
Cynthea Patrice Allen, Asheville, N.C .
Jeffrey J. Armstrong, Asheville, N.C., summa cum laude
Liliya Raisovna Arrowood, Asheville, N.C.
Sandra M. Carringer, Asheville, N.C., summa cum laude
Sarah Kay Cook, Asheville, N.C.
Paul Elliotte Gilmore, Asheville, N.C.
Emma Claire Hoffman, Asheville, N.C.
Melody Lynn Hanshaw Isaacs, Asheville, N.C.
Laura Ann Tompkins, Asheville, N.C.
Andrew Holeman Greer, Battleboro, N.C.
Kristen Elizabeth Kelly, Bladenboro, N.C., cum laude
Tabbatha L. Garland, Burnsville, N.C., magna cum laude
Allyson Suzanne Rathburn, Burnsville, N.C.
Cody W. King, Candler, N.C.
Walter Shayne King, Canton, N.C., summa cum laude
Stephanie Weikle, Claremont, N.C.
Frederick Marquis Samuels, Cornelius, N.C.
Carissa M. Mathis, Dana, N.C.
Dinah B. Watkins, Dana, N.C., summa cum laude
Mary Jean Bolster, Deep Gap, N.C.
Rudy Joseph Cabral, Fairview, N.C.
Melissa Fay Fuller, Fairview, N.C., summa cum laude
Michael Deshun Robinson, Flat Rock, N.C.
Lacey Taylor Justice Bradley, Fletcher, N.C., cum laude
Austin Alexander Lane Patton, Fletcher, N.C.
Sherry B. Riddle, Fletcher, N.C., magna cum laude
Gregory Clay Lancaster, Gastonia, N.C.
Jann Gregory Haynes, Hendersonville, N.C., magna cum laude
Heidi Annette Hooker, Lawsonville, N.C.
Chelsey May Huey, Leicester, N.C., magna cum laude
Atlas King, Leicester, N.C., cum laude
Andrea Michelle Powell, Leicester, N.C.
Tina Webb Ramsey, Leicester, N.C., magna cum laude
Brooke Smith Rhodarmer, Leicester, N.C., magna cum laude
Christie B. Williams, Leicester, N.C., magna cum laude
Christopher Dalton Ammons, Mars Hill, N.C.
Lillian Athos, Mars Hill, N.C.
Olivia Ruth Buckner, Mars Hill, N.C., cum laude
Petr Vasilyevich Buzyan, Mars Hill, N.C.
Cody Alexander Clifton, Mars Hill, N.C.
Jonathan Robert Eatmon, Mars Hill, N.C., cum laude
Matthew Christopher Hamilton, Mars Hill, N.C.
Justin Clark McCray, Mars Hill, N.C.
Jessica Ann Shelton, Mars Hill, N.C.
Keri Leann Arrington, Marshall, N.C.
Lynn Annette Caraveo, Marshall, N.C.
Darlene Brown Colclasure, Marshall, N.C., summa cum laude
Cristy Anne Price, Marshall, N.C., summa cum laude
Kelsey Leora Sawyer, Marshall, N.C.
Mary Beth Wilde, Marshall, N.C.
Zachary Andrew Searcy, Mill Spring, N.C., cum laude
Victoria Lauren Wingler, North Wilkesboro, N.C.
Michelle Erin Payne, Newton, N.C.
Joshua Brady Adcock, Pfafftown, N.C., magna cum laude
Rachel Hannah Renfro, Spruce Pine, N.C.
Nicholas J. Seago, Spruce Pine, N.C.
Jason Eugene Rollins, Swannanoa, N.C., magna cum laude
Donte Lamar Bradshaw, Valdese, N.C.
Leah Hillman Garland, Weaverville, N.C.
Karen Gonzalez, Weaverville, N.C., magna cum laude
Bradley Ray Moore, Weaverville, N.C.
Mary Campbell Rice, Weaverville, N.C., summa cum laude
Joshua L. DeBerry, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Alyssa Marian Morris, Forked River, N.J., magna cum laude
Cornell D. Kelly, Jr., Smithtown, N.Y.
Ryan Alan Herrmann, Galena, Ohio
Tonya Jo Gruel-Wright, Marysville, Ohio
James F. Raezer, Downingtown. Pa.
John Thomas Timmerman, Aiken, S.C.
Jessica Tecora McEntyre, Landrum, S.C.
Heather Adrene Boyd, Moncks Corner, S.C.
Laken Coy Pilgrim, Six Mile, S.C.
Brooke Shands Foster, Taylors, S.C., summa cum laude
Asinia Knight, Trenton, S.C.
Robert Lester Green II, Chattanooga, Tenn., cum laude
Seth William Sayler, Greeneville , Tenn.
Jamie Delle Sprowles, Abingdon, Va.
Regis Paidamoyo Mawire, Harare, Zimbabwe Africa, magna cum laude
Felipe Rosanova Ferraro, Barueri, SP Brazil
Zachary  Tomkinson, Phelpston, Ontario, Canada
Jiabin  Xiao, Changchun, Jilin P.R. China, cum laude
Yun Xiu Wang, Zheng Zhou, He Nan, China
Sebastian Scherf, Mainz, Germany
Joo Kyung Kim, Thessaloniki, Greece, magna cum laude
Craig Nicholas Carwood, Glasgow, Scotland, cum laude

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Angie Newsome was the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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