Dr. Everett McCorvey, director and executive producer of the Opera Theatre at UK, challenged the 2016 graduating class of Berea College to pursue their “impossible dreams” at the 144th Commencement on Sunday, May 8th.
The day’s events began with the Nurses’ Pinning Ceremony at 8:30 a.m. in Phelps Stokes Chapel. Lt. Col. Don Hirschman, ND, MHA, CRNA, a 1967 Berea College alumnus, was the keynote speaker. The ceremony recognized this year’s graduates of Berea’s Nursing Program, which is the oldest college-affiliated nurse training program west of the Allegheny Mountains. Later, Rev. Michael Jinkins, President and Professor of Theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, addressed the graduates and their families on “If Your Education Worked . . . “ during the Baccalaureate ceremony, also held in Phelps Stokes Chapel.
At the Commencement ceremony, the 216 graduating seniors, along with several dozen others who will complete their degree requirements in August, were challenged by Dr. McCorvey as he cited examples of individuals who, in spite of seemingly overwhelming obstacles, pursued their dreams successfully and in doing so, changed their own lives and the world around them. His speech, titled, “To Reach the Unreachable Star: The Power of One Vision,” cited notable individuals including Booker T. Washington, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Berea’s founders John G. Fee and Cassius Clay who had “impossible dreams.” McCorvey told the graduates, “I know that God’s dream for you is much bigger than either you or I could imagine.”
Relating some of his personal experiences, Dr. McCorvey, who has performed at venues all around the world, said, “Two nights ago I was standing on the stage of the Lincoln Center in New York City conducting 150 chorus and orchestra musicians in a performance of one of the world’s great choral works, Verdi’s great choral masterpiece, the Requiem. During the performance I caught myself pondering this thought, … ‘How did this little black child from Montgomery, Alabama, raised during the Civil Rights Movement, end up on the stage of the greatest concert hall in the world conducting to a full house?’ It wasn’t in my plan. But here’s the wonder of it all: God had a bigger plan. My job was just to work hard and have a singleness of vision of trying to share my gifts with the world. I didn’t know what form it would take or how it would happen. I just wanted to make sure that if it did happen, I was ready.”
In addition to conferring degrees to the graduates, several Berea-specific awards were made to faculty and students. Andrew Baskin, ’73, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies received the Paul C. Hager Award for Excellence in Advising. Dr. Meta Mendel-Reyes, Associate Professor of Peace and Social Justice and General Education was presented the Elizabeth Perry Miles Award for Community Service. Berea’s highest award for faculty, the Seabury Award for Excellence in Teaching, was presented to Dr. Kathy W. Bullock, Professor of Music. Top student awards went to Layne Callow, ’16, and Theodore MacMillan, ’16, who received the Hilda Welch Wood Achievement Award, and the T.J. Wood Achievement Award, respectively. Kaitlyn Reasoner, ’16, was awarded Student Employee of the Year for the State of Kentucky by the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators (MASEA). Amanda Peach, Reference & Instruction Librarian, was announced as the MASEA Student Employment Supervisor of the Year for the State of Kentucky.