Class of 2024 celebrated at Presbyterian College’s 141st Commencement

Class of 2024 celebrated at Presbyterian College’s 141st Commencement

A pair of Presbyterian College graduates following the 141st commencement on May 11.


At Presbyterian College, no one asks for whom the bagpipes blow each spring. They blow one last time for every graduating Blue Hose

Underneath the oaks on the Vance Plaza on May 11, the Class of 2024 was celebrated at the college’s 141stcommencement for the College of Arts and Sciences on May 11 and welcomed for the first time as PC alumni.

Jerry Smith '50 got to walk across the stage for commencement after graduating from Presbyterian College nearly 75 years ago.

Jerry Smith
PC Class of 1950

One alumnus, Jerry Smith, was welcomed back to campus so that could officially walk across the commencement stage nearly three quarters of a century after he graduated. Smith, a member of the Class of 1950, finished PC in only three years because of the limited amount of funding he received from the G.I. Bill, which he earned after serving in the military during World War II.

The college’s newly-inaugurated president Dr. Anita Gustafson opened commencement by thanking seniors for making her first year a great one.

“I am so glad that we have overlapped here at Presbyterian College,” Gustafson said. “Your last year at PC has been my first year as president, and I have been so impressed with your leadership, your hard work in the classroom, your service to others, your good sportsmanship, and your ability to occasionally let loose and have some really good fun.”

Gustafson noted that the Class of ’24 braved a global pandemic, persevered, learned, and now stands ready to begin a new chapter.

“Even though today is the culminating experience for you as a student at Presbyterian College, the word commencement, as you probably know, actually means beginning,” she said. “It’s an exciting beginning for all of you as you pursue your dreams and goals. As you put your education and experience as a PC student to good use. As you move forward to pursue pathways for leadership and service.”

Gustafson reminded seniors of the depth of their “True Blue” identities.

“It has shaped your ability to engage deeply with your academic studies,” she said. “It has created tight bonds of community with other students, as well as with faculty and staff. It has provided championship opportunities on the field and in the classroom. And it has infused you with a heart of service.”

In his address, PC’s 2024 Outstanding Senior William Johnson asked classmates to be grateful to the people who helped them succeed.

William Patrick Johnson of Lexington addressed classmates at Presbyterian College's 141st commencement.

William Patrick Johnson
Outstanding Senior 2024

“To our families, who were our strength when we had none left to give, comforted us when we felt alone, and encouraged us to pursue our dreams even when they seemed impossible – thank you,” he said. “To our teachers, mentors, and professors, who have shared with us your knowledge, dared us to think for ourselves, and inspired us to reach greater heights – thank you. And finally, to our friends, who have stuck with us through thick and thin, made us laugh, and gave us memories to last a lifetime – thank you.

“Each of us standing here represents the legacies of countless others who came before us; who fought through blood, sweat, and tears to allow us to be where we are, so cherish this moment for yourself and for those around you.”

Johnson said his path at PC – as a student-athlete, a member of Campus Outreach, and a student volunteer – is familiar to many fellow students for a reason.

“That is the magic of Presbyterian College,” he said. “Though our experiences did not look the same, all of us have learned to embrace the diverse thoughts, backgrounds, and beliefs of our fellow students, learned how to seize opportunities and overcome obstacles, and we have ventured beyond our comfort zones, embraced new experiences, and have seen great personal growth.”

Johnson said the Class of 2024 is prepared now to carry out its own legacy.

“As we begin the next chapter of our lives, let us not forget that we carry the legacy of PC and those around us everywhere we go,” he said. “Do not forget the lessons you have learned here and continue to embrace the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead with courage, integrity, and humility. Class of 2024, as we move on from our lives here at PC and step boldly into the unknown, let us remember that the learning does not end here – it is only just beginning. So let us embrace the future with open hearts, curious minds, and unwavering determination, knowing that the world is ours to shape, and the possibilities are endless.”

Mark Anderson, the Marianne and E.G. Lassiter Professor of Art, spoke during commencement as he ends 35 years of service to Presbyterian College.

Mark Anderson, Marianne and E.G. Lassiter Professor of Art, Professor of the Year

PC’s Professor of the Year Mark Anderson is retiring after more than 30 years of service as the Marianne and E.G. Lassiter Professor of Art. In his address to graduates, Anderson noted that he graduated from high school, college, and two graduate programs without ever crossing a stage to receive a diploma. So, at his final commencement at PC, he thanked the Class of ’24 for commencing with him on the next stage of his life, as well.

In his address, “Art Lessons for Life,” Anderson said everyone comes into the world equipped to be creative and their cumulative story is the “ultimate great work of the soul.”

“The nature of our investment in that work is ultimately determined by our ability to practice some form of artful living on a consistent basis,” he said, outlining a set of fine art lessons to create a meaningful life.

The first, Anderson said, is attendance.

“In life, as in art, little is achieved when our attention is compromised,” he said. “Since attention is payable only where and when life is actively unfolding, we strive to make it our practice to remain, as much as possible, alert and attentive, focused on the here and now.”

Anderson said people often overlook the hidden treasures found in everyday life and squander opportunities for deeper engagement.

“Only while completely engaged in the moment at hand can we fully participate in the creation of a synchronous, meaningful life and fully share the riches of community life with those around us,” he said. “In choosing to be present with skillful, focused attention, we actively shape the nature of the soul growing within us.”

Anderson also challenged graduates to be themselves without pretense.

“Draw from your own real life and experience,” he said. “Paint your own picture. Throw your own pot. Draw the water of life from the well of what you see. Be willing to wholeheartedly inhabit your time on the planet. Be unashamed to be from your own house in your own hometown.”

Being authentic also requires people to acknowledge their own suffering and a commitment to stand up for themselves and each other, Anderson said. His sister Patty told him before she died of pancreatic cancer, “You are enough, Mark, just the way you are.”

Anderson also informed the Class of 2024 that perfection is an idea but art is the “real thing.” The Japanese art of kintsugi, for example, involves the repair of broken ceramics with seams of golden lacquer where the flaws are made more precious.

“The art lesson here says, ‘get over yourself. Perfection is not a proper goal. Authenticity is better,” he said.

Anderson’s final art lesson was to practice appreciation for things that are done well or artfully.

“Appreciation is a life skill that requires a degree of interest in other people and a curiosity about the things they are exploring,” he said. “It involves a willingness to invest some of our time and energy, often without recompense, seeking to recognize the emerging excellence in other people and the things they do or say.”

Anderson closed with gratitude for his students and colleagues.

“I am the luckiest person in the world to have been here these years working with brilliant young men and women,” he said. “I wish you well!”

Provost Dr. Kerry Pannell announced the Class of 2024’s valedictorians who earned perfect 4.0 grade point averages throughout their academic careers at PC:

  • Kathryn Elizabeth Dover of Inman – Summa Cum Laude, Honors in Mathematics
  • William Patrick Johnson of Lexington – Summa Cum Laude, Honors in Chemistry
  • Landon Isaiah Norizsan of Walhalla – Summa Cum Laude
PC graduates after the 141st commencement on May 11.