Family, friends, and supporters packed Finis Horne Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 18, to see 218 graduates receive degrees during Lander University’s 158th commencement.
The Fall 2018 class was represented by students from China, France, South Korea and various U.S. states including South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Maryland and Alabama.
The event was a milestone for nursing student Jatrese A. Brownlee, of Hodges and graduate of Ware Shoals High School, who also gave the invocation at the beginning of the ceremony. “I transferred from another university to Lander because I had heard so much about its reputation for preparing students for their careers or to begin graduate school, and it definitely lived up to the hype,” she said. Brownlee leaves Lander with a job offer in-hand from AnMed Health Medical Center in Anderson.
Lander President Dr. Richard Cosentino announced Michaela Smith, an Elementary Education major from Greenwood, as the winner of the 2018 Thayer Award, the university’s highest academic recognition. The award was established by the family of Dr. Henry Thayer and is presented each semester to the Lander student who earns at least 60 credit hours and graduates with the highest grade point average.
Dr. Cosentino also recognized Daisy Dantes, of Laurens, and Dale Fleming, of Greenwood, who both graduated as commissioned officers for the U.S. Army.
Providing the commencement address was Dr. Sean Barnette, associate professor of English at Lander and winner of the university’s 2018 Distinguished Professor Award. Barnette, who joined the Lander faculty in 2005, lived up to his self-description as having an expertise in linguistics.
During his address, he directed graduates to the Latin words “puritas et scientia,” which are prominently displayed in the official Lander seal. “Those words mean ‘purity and knowledge,’” explained Dr. Barnette. “When Lander decorates itself with these words, its saying ‘This is our one wish for you: purity and knowledge.’ Purity is what we need, and what you need, though perhaps not in the way you may be thinking.”
Harkening the teachings of philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, Dr. Barnette explained that “purity means you know your one wish and you’re committing yourself to it – despite whatever difficulties or disappointments may come along. This kind of purity is active, not passive; fierce, not fearful.”
This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle.