Presbyterian College held its 133rd commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14, 2016. At the ceremony, the college granted 184 undergraduate degrees.
“Today you’re going to receive a diploma, which although it is a piece of paper, is much more than a piece of paper,” PC President Bob Staton told graduates. “It represents all the time, effort, and energy you have put into preparing yourself for life.”
“Life is not about what I or you do, it is about what we do,” Staton added.
Dr. Don Raber, provost for the college recognized student achievements with Thomas Alexander Valente of Hanahan, S.C., and Vanden Gregory Nibert of Clinton named valedictorians for the class of 2016 after a tie in their GPAs. Erika Laine Gotfredson of Berkeley Lake, Ga. was named Salutatorian.
In following its tradition, the recipients of the college’s Outstanding Senior and Professor of the Year awards, named at its honors convocation held in April. This year’s addresses were presented by Gotfredson, outstanding senior and Dr. Bob Bryant, the Kristen Herrington Professor of Bible.
“Welcome to my home,” Gotfredson said. “This home has molded us these past four years, and we are so glad that you are here to share it with us today.”
“We meet some of the best friends we will ever have and then scatter in the wind come graduation day, the only thing uniting us being our claim of the label ‘Blue Hose,’” Gotfredson added. “We are encouraged to make this place our home, to fall in love with it more and more each day, and yet we always know, in the back of our minds, that this home is temporary.”
“Thank you, PC, for giving me the best story of my life to date,” she said.
Bryant, who drew from the Albert Einstein quote, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile,” asked the students, “What effect will your words and actions have today and in the years ahead?”
“Humans are relational beings,” Bryant added. “They are so relational they can relate to every being in creation, from mosquitos to elephants, from quarks to galaxies. No other organism in creation can relate like humans can to creation.”
“The fundamental question here is not ‘whether or not you will relate to others.’ The question, rather, is ‘what kind of relationships will you have,’” Bryant told the graduating class. “Choose to be a blessing in all your relationships, and work to cause life to flourish, whatever you do. The world is literally dying for neighborly love and reconciling justice in pursuit of the common good. The world needs you, class of 2016, and it is my great privilege, on behalf of the faculty, to charge each of you to go out into the world to build meaningful relationships and communities where everyone matters, where everyone is treated with kindness and justice, and where everyone experiences grace so that life will flourish.”
In addition to the undergraduate degrees granted, the college also granted an Honorary Doctor of Public Service to Ann Shaw Cornelson of the Clinton community.
Cornelson was born in Raleigh, N.C. She graduated from Needham Broughton High School and earned a B. A. degree from Hollins University in Roanoke, Va.
She married George H. Cornelson, from Clinton, S.C. The Cornelsons have been residents of Clinton since 1956, after residing in Dayton, Ohio, where George Cornelson served in the United States Air Force.
While rearing their four children, Cornelson shared her time by focusing on civic activities, including serving on various local and county boards. She has also supported her alma mater, Hollins University, as a former member of their Board of Trustees and as a donor. Eventually serving as Chair of the South Carolina State Museum, Mrs. Cornelson was instrumental in the development of the museum that is housed in Columbia, S.C.
In the Laurens County community, Cornelson has been an active member of First Presbyterian Church in Clinton—serving in various roles of leadership; has worked closely and proudly with Dr. Jerman Disasa and the CHAMPS program during its 20 years of inspiring young people in Laurens County; and, has coordinated with George Love, of Laurens, and Jim Roberts, of Clinton, in the establishment of the Laurens County Community Foundation which now manages assets of approximately four million dollars.
Cornelson and her husband, have made a large impact on the students, faculty, staff, and life of Presbyterian College. Their generous gifts, include contributions to endowed scholarships that provide financial assistance to students; to the CHAMPS program of which PC is a primary partner; to the Cornelson Church Leadership Development Center; to numerous building and renovation projects—including Thomason Library renovations, Bailey Memorial Stadium, Templeton Physical Education Center, and most recently the Neville Renewed campaign; and contributions to the Annual Fund yearly. Their philanthropy and generosity to Presbyterian College have been transformational.
“I’m very honored, “Cornelson said. “I appreciate this, and I appreciate PC and what it has done for Clinton and Laurens County.”
Presbyterian College is located on a striking 240-acre campus in Clinton, between Columbia and Greenville, S.C. Offering challenging academics and a culture of honor, ethics, and service that prepares students to be leaders in communities, PC offers its students the benefit of engaging with an exceptional faculty who take individual interest in their students’ well-being, both personally and in the classroom. The Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy opened in 2010, and is dedicated to the ideals of leadership, honor to the profession, and service to the community. For more information about Presbyterian College, visit www.presby.edu.