Outstanding Senior Kennedy Wright to address classmates at May 13 commencement
When Presbyterian College’s Outstanding Senior Kennedy Wright addresses fellow members of the Class of 2023 at commencement this Saturday, there is at least one thing she wants them to remember.
That she is proud of her fellow Blue Hose.
Wright joins Professor of the Year Dr. Ben Bailey as one of the two keynote speakers at PC’s 140th commencement, which begins at 10 a.m. on May 13 on the historic West Plaza.
“I definitely want to express how proud I am of everybody,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to think their accomplishments are belittled, because some people thought they’d never make it to graduation. To get that degree is a huge deal.”
As the senior chosen to speak one last time on her classmate’s behalf, Wright said she hopes they will also be proud of her. When the college announced at Honors Day that she was this year’s Outstanding Senior, Wright said her peers’ approval and response meant a lot.
“I wanted to feel like people expected that of me,” she said. “That they weren’t upset that I got it but were happy and proud and thought I was deserving.”
They did. And, objectively, she is. In addition to being named Outstanding Senior for her class, Wright is PC’s former student body president and was named Outstanding Senior in Management. Wright earned both a Senior Achievement Award and an Academic Excellence Award for her career at PC.
Last spring, she was a finalist for a Truman Scholarship, one of the country’s most prestigious national fellowships. Wright has also served as treasurer and president of the Multicultural Student Union.
One of Wright’s proudest moments as a PC student was serving on the college’s Moving Forward Together Committee to address systemic racism. What she and the committee accomplished during her freshman year triggered exponential personal growth and pointed her toward a future.
“That’s when I really found what my drive is and what made me tick,” she said. “I found out what my passion is. With help from my professors and my advisor, (associate professor of political science) Dr. Erin McAdams, helped steer me – to put all that energy and passion towards something I wanted to be.”
McAdams, who also served on the committee, was rightly impressed.
“This experience gave me a unique opportunity to witness Kennedy’s leadership and commitment to service outside of the classroom,” she said. “I think that the faculty, staff, and trustees on the committee were most impressed with her organization and leadership skills. As a result of her work on that committee, she was able to spearhead several policy recommendations that resulted in the development of a Student Conduct Committee and a new anti-racism policy at PC to help to change the culture on campus. Since then, she has continued the hard and admirable work of making PC’s campus more equitable and inclusive.”
McAdams said Wright’s academic performance, campus leadership, and overall embodiment of the college’s mission make her an excellent choice as Outstanding Senior.
“She is one of the most impressive students that I have encountered in my 17 years of collegiate teaching,” McAdams said. “As a student, Kennedy is always well-prepared for class, is eager to ask questions, and makes insightful contributions to class discussions. She is also an extremely hard worker who greatly values challenging experiences and goes above and beyond in every task in order to succeed. Her work ethic, intellectual curiosity, and maturity are exceptional.
“Kennedy inspires me to be a better teacher and advisor, and it has been a pleasure working with her over the past four years.”
After impacting campus throughout her PC career, Wright aims to make a greater difference in society as a civil rights attorney. Before she sets off to law school, however, Wright is taking a gap year to prepare for the Law School Admission Test. Even then, she hopes to make a difference in her community, whether continuing her work at the United Way of Laurens County or joining AmeriCorps.
Either way, Wright is taking up her alma mater’s call to live a life of service to others. It is a call she fervently hopes future Blue Hose will also embrace.
“Anytime I’ve ever served on a student panel for prospective students, they ask me what things are actually like at PC,” she said. “And I’m honest – I think PC still has some things to improve on. But someone asked me if I could go back and pick a different school, would I?
“And I wouldn’t. I would pick PC all day, every day. My best advice is to get involved. PC really gives you that opportunity to make a change. If you see a hole or gap somewhere, you have the ability to change it, to fix it.”
Wright said her greatest lesson at PC was learning to be authentic and genuine.
“I am eternally grateful for everyone at PC,” she said. “The people I don’t like, the people I do like, and the people I admire – I think this school shaped the person I am. I think PC taught me to stand strong and tall in my beliefs and to be true to who I am and what I believe.”