Note: Thirty-three (33) of the one hundred thirty-eight (138) students awarded the Bachelor degrees at the 2013 commencement service were already admitted to graduate school. This represents twenty-five percent (25%) of the graduating class. We highly commend the Office of Career Services under the directorship of Mr. John Peaches for its untiring efforts in routing students into graduate programs. Students received graduate assistantships ranging from $2,000 to $11,000 annually.
Hundreds of parents, relatives, and friends filled the gymnasium at Rust College to celebrate the 147th Commencement Convocation and the Class of 2013. 154 seniors walked across the stage to receive their degrees in the areas of the Humanities, Education, Business, Science & Mathematics, Social Science and Social Work on Sunday, April 28.
The 2013 student marshals – the male and female students with the highest grade point average – were Ms. Portia Ellis of Starkville, Mississippi and Mr. Nigel Chimbetete of Maple Grove, Minnesota. Portia received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Nigel earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry.
The College welcomed Bishop James E. Swanson of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church as keynote speaker. Bishop Swanson delivered a stirring address that roused the audience, especially the graduates.
“This is but a mere phase in your life,” he said. “You have got to go out of there and you’ve got to do something with your life. Make plans beyond this day. Use Rust College as a launching pad for higher heights in your life.”
Bishop Swanson encouraged the graduates to find the value in their lives, and to look at what they can bring to the future.
“Look at yourself and know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Look at yourself and ask ‘what is it about me that uniquely qualifies me to go out and turn the world upside down?’ Quit talking about ‘what’s wrong with me’ and talk about ‘what’s good in me’. Inside you, are good and wonderful things.”
After the final graduate crossed the stage, Dr. Beckley bestowed another degree – an Honorary Doctor of Humanities was presented to Bishop Swanson.
“The Bishop didn’t know we were going to do this,” said Dr. Beckley. “You are now officially a Rustite,” he told Bishop Swanson who accepted his degree graciously.
Bishop Swanson is a native of Houston, Texas but has strong family ties in Mississippi. He is a graduate of Southern Bible College in Houston, with a Bachelor of Science in Christian Ministries; and C.H. Mason Seminary, ITC in Atlanta, Georgia, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree. He was elected as a Bishop in the United Methodist Church in July 2004. He was assigned as Resident Bishop of the Mississippi Area in 2012, and is currently serving as the President of the General Commission on United Methodist Men. He is also a member of the Connectional Table of the United Methodist Church.
Upon completion of the conferring of degrees, the graduates, including Bishop Swanson, recited the Rust College Alumni Oath, led by Rust College International Alumni Association President and United Methodist Minister Rev. Frederick Brown (St. James UMC, Columbus, Mississippi).
Other special presentations included the Tower of Leadership Awards to Dr. Vivian M. Presley, President of Coahoma Community College, and Dr. David C. Cole, President of Itawamba Community College. Drs. Presley and Cole were selected to receive this honor for their tireless and outstanding efforts in education and service.
Dr. Beckley also presented the Exemplary Teacher Award to Ms. Debra Butler, associate professor of Social Work. Ms. Butler was nominated by Rust College to receive this award because of her exemplary teaching, service to students beyond the classroom and a commitment to education. The presentation was made with Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson, Rust College Trustee and Assistant General Secretary of the Black College Fund of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM)/ The GBHEM leads and serves the United Methodist Church in educating and preparing leaders for the church and the world. Dr. Beckley also recognized Division of Social Science chairperson Dr. A.J. Stovall who was named Mississippi Humanities Council Faculty of the Year, and Dr. James Herod who was chosen for the Higher Education Appreciation Day – Working For Academic Excellence (HEADWAE) award.
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