By Lindsay Starr Platt, The Belton Journal
Crusader Stadium was full of attendees clutching bouquets of flowers and cameras, on Friday. University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Fall Commencement 2015 was the largest winter commencement in the University’s history.
This was the University’s 159th graduating class. 398 students were awarded degrees. Of those, 306 students received baccalaureate degrees, 90 received master’s degrees, and 2 earned doctoral degrees.
Graduates included first generation graduates and were the first ones in their family to receive a diploma. Also, walking the stage were graduates that were current of former members of the military. Graduates ranged in age from the youngest being twenty to the oldest at age sixty-six. Many graduates were traditional students that went from high school to college and others were adults with work and families and found the time to study and earn their degree.
“I am really excited for my mom because she got to graduate. I helped her by making sure she rested and went to school,” said Andrea Torres, age seven, Temple resident. I would make snacks for her when she was studying. I had an event at my school, and only my dad could come, I didn’t want my mom to miss graduation practice.”
Most of the graduates were from Texas, but some traveled across the country and around the globe. Graduates hailed from nine different states and two different countries.
“Some of you came to know the Lord or strengthened your faith during your time at UMHB. Some of you met you future spouse here,” said Randy O’Rear, president, University Mary Hardin-Baylor. “I suspect all of you made life-long friends on this journey.”
O’Rear talked about the growth and development the university had seen since the four years many of the graduated have spent on campus.
“You all came here during a very transformational time. The campus looks very different today than it did on your first visit,” commented O’rear. “We broke ground on the art and nursing buildings during your first semester with us, and you were some of the first students to use those facilities. More recently, you helped us inaugurate Crusader Stadium with the Game Ball Run and you participated in the ribbon-cutting for the Bawcom Student Union.”
Student awards given during the ceremony including the Provost Medal for highest overall GPA, which was split between seven students who each graduated with perfect 4.0 grade point averages: Emily Anne Boardman of Geronimo, Brooke Ashley Hoelscher of Temple, Paola Raquel Nuñez of Harker Heights, Kendall Ann Pye of College Station, Sarah Rachel Wesselius of Belton, and Nia Williams of Arlington.
The Loyalty Cup for the student who is most representative of the ideals, traditions and spirit of the university was given to Kitrick DeShea Bell of Missouri City.
The President’s Award for meritorious service went to Belton resident, Pierce Van Thedford III. During his time at UMHB, Thedford has been involved in Some Christians, Alpha Chi, Gamma Beta Phi National Honors Society, the CRU Football Mentor program. Thedford has been named to the 2014 American Southwest Conference (ASC) All-Academic Team and was selected as the 2014 ASC Football Distinguished scholar athlete.
“He is a shining example of Christian ethics in everything he does,” said Steve Oldham, provost, University Mary Hardin-Baylor. “He is the kind of man that UMHB hopes to mold and will be an incredible influence on all the lives he touches.”
Before leaving, the graduates went up to receive their diplomas and start the next chapter in their lives, O’Rear spoke encouraging words.
“Class of 2015, when I look at you, I see nearly 400 opportunities to make this world a better place,” remarked O’Rear. “You have pages and pages of blank chapters waiting to be written, and you control the pen. Fill them with adventures, lessons, memories, and successes. I am confident that you are ready for the next chapter.”
Deanna Dawdy, nursing student graduate said, “Can’t believe we did it. We are done!.”