Centre College’s 191st Commencement saw the largest graduating class in the school’s history cross the Newlin Hall stage at the Norton Center for the Arts on Sunday, May 25. Three hundred and twenty-five seniors received degrees, making it the first time that the number of Centre graduates exceeded 300.
With a four-year graduation rate topping 84 percent — the highest graduation rate among all Kentucky colleges and universities — the class of 2014 presented an impressive lineup. Eighty-three students graduated with honors: nine summa cum laude, 27 magna cum laude and 47 cum laude. Among the seniors were 31 members of Phi Beta Kappa, 10 Brown Fellows, nine Posse Scholars and 280 students (86 percent of the class) who studied abroad at least once during their four years at the College.
Lauren Fall and Michael Fryar were recognized as this year’s valedictorians.
Fall, of Hanover, N.H., received the Gavin Easton Wiseman Valedictorian Prize for the top female graduate. Graduating summa cum laude, she also received the Jeffrey Scott and Ann Rose McBride French Prize, awarded to an outstanding senior French major. Fall plans to attend Dartmouth Medical School.
Fryar, of Lexington, Ky., received the George Winston Welsh Valedictorian Prize for the top male senior, graduating summa cum laude. An economics major and standout track and field student athlete, Fryar also received the Charles W. Campbell III Prize for Economics and the Fred M. Vinson Honors Award, presented to a senior who is most outstanding in scholastic, athletic and extracurricular pursuits. Fryar will spend next year on a Rotary fellowship at the London School of Economics.
Members of the 2014 class also included a Fulbright winner and earlier recipient of the prestigious Boren Scholarship, Karissa Jackson of Jeffersonville, Ind., who will spend next year teaching English in Moldova. Audrey Jenkins of Floyd, Iowa, will teach English in Vietnam thanks to a Princeton in Asia award.
Kentucky Governor Steven L. Beshear was this year’s featured Commencement speaker. Upon receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree during the ceremony, he joined a Centre alumni roster that includes 11 governors from seven states.
With a nod to the College’s national leadership for study abroad, Beshear challenged seniors during his address to step outside their “normal sphere of interaction and comfort” and set big agendas for their lives.
“Most of you here in the Centre College class of 2014 have seen the world. You’ve studied it, and you’ve lived there. For you, you may think the world is your limit. But, you know something? We’re trying to get to Mars by 2023. So the world isn’t your limit; the universe is your limit. So go for it.”
Dr. Christopher B. Howard, president of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, provided the baccalaureate sermon to the graduating class Sunday morning and received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during the Commencement ceremony.
Cody Cook, president of the Centre College Student Government Association, reminisced on the four-year journey to becoming a Centre graduate during his senior class response.
“We made it,” said Cook. “We struggled and it paid off. This piece of paper that we have received is one that many people do not have the opportunity to obtain. Take it and be proud of your success and thankful for your experience.”
by Amy Clark Wise