news-category: Academics

Gardner-Webb Celebrates Academic Achievements of Students at Fall Opening Convocation

The Ignite Excellence Winners pose for a picture at Convocation
Photo by Sarah Garrison / GWU Photo Team

2021 Excellence in Teaching Recipient Dr. Abby E. Garlock and President William Downs Issue Challenges to Students

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Each year at the Fall Opening Convocation, Gardner-Webb University recognizes the outstanding academic achievements of its students. Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Karen Aubrey presented the 2021-22 Scholastic Awards to 30 students with the highest GPA at the conclusion of one, two and three years of study at the University.

Gardner-Webb President William Downs recognized 12 winners of the University’s top scholarship programs: Ignite Excellence, R.W. Andrews, Searight Leadership, and Tucker Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength.

Some of the winners of the two-year scholastic awards are recognized at the Fall Convocation. Photo by Sarah Garrison / GWU Photo Team

The event also included remarks by the 2021 Excellence in Teaching recipient, Dr. Abby E. Garlock, assistant professor and doctoral program chair, Hunt School of Nursing. The Excellence in Teaching Award is presented each year to an exceptional faculty member with at least five years of full-time teaching service to the University. Recipients are nominated by one of their peers and the winner is determined by comments from faculty and students.

Garlock began her remarks by recognizing her colleagues, “I hope you know that all of your faculty at Gardner-Webb University are excellent in their expertise and commitment to your learning.”

She continued by naming three things that give her joy: Working with people who are honest and kind, being able to express her faith, and working in a supportive environment. Then noted, “But what brings me the most joy is you. Our students. In fact, I think most of the faculty and staff here at Gardner-Webb would agree. We get joy from helping you learn, whether that is learning life skills, gaining knowledge for your major, learning how to score the winning point, or growing in your faith.”

Garlock gave the students three challenges that she believes will help them find joy in their time at Gardner-Webb. They are:

  • “Be courageous and make mistakes. Most of the time we are afraid to make mistakes because we don’t want to try and fail. We don’t want others to judge us if we don’t succeed or aren’t ‘good enough.’ Let that go. You learn the best from your mistakes.”
  • “Be honest and kind. Being honest is difficult, because it requires us to be vulnerable and express emotions we may not want to consider. But when we can be kind to ourself and to others, it is much easier to be honest.”
  • “Lastly, surround yourself with people who challenge you. I once heard it said, you are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. So, surround yourself with good mentors and good friends who help you reach the goals you have for your future.”

Downs thanked Garlock for her appropriate remarks, congratulated her on her recognition as an outstanding teacher and also thanked the faculty for their “energy, dedication, passion and compassion” in the classroom.

Noting important dates in GWU’s history, Downs spoke about the blessing of being at Gardner-Webb, and the certain measure of responsibility that comes with that blessing. “When you hear that people are struggling, it is easy to get depressed,” Downs asserted. “It’s easy to want to turn away, to wring our hands, to shrug our shoulders. But I believe that we at a university like this one—a Christian university—have a special responsibility. ‘To whom much is given, much will be required.’” (Luke 12:48)  

Downs said part of living out that responsibility is caring for humanity. He referred to a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that his freshman English professor wrote on the chalkboard 38 years ago: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”

At first, there was some eye-rolling, yet Downs said he has remembered the quote and its implications. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year…Don’t wilt or waver in the face of the challenges you see around you. Instead, be inspired by the positive impact you are going to be able to make one day as a college graduate. And, until then, remember that sometimes the best day of the year is the day you do something to make someone else smile.”

Downs also concluded his remarks by issuing a challenge, “Keep your eyes focused on a higher purpose. Keep your heart, soul, mind and strength fixed on doing good…for yourself and for others. Be your best Bulldog, friends, and you’ll have an amazing year.”

The program also included the welcome and invocation by Interim Vice President for Christian Life and Service Neal Payne. Alpha Chi President Allyson H. Butts performed the ringing of the bell. Dr. Joshua Cheney, assistant professor of music, led The Alma Mater and University Fight Song performed by the Concert Choir with accompaniment by the Marching Bulldogs. Student Government Association President Blake Elizalde led the reaffirmation of the University Honor Code, and Hannah C. Thurman, a senior music major, performed a musical interlude. Michael B. Causey, student coordinator for Campus Ministries United, gave the closing prayer.

One-Year Scholastic Awards

After the completion of one year of work at Gardner-Webb, the One-Year Scholastic Award is presented to 15 students who tied for the award with perfect 4.0 averages. They are:

  • Daniel Beheler, of Gaffney, S.C., economics/finance.
  • Theodore Drescher, of Gainesville, Va.
  • Leah Holland, of Kings Mountain, N.C., art .
  • Christian Horton, of Shelby, N.C., psychology.
  • Kyndal Jackson, of Gaffney.
  • Reese Jones, of Alberta.
  • Zackery Morris, of Stanley, N.C., accounting.
  • Giampaolo Nardi of Caracas.
  • Sara Roslund of Lund.
  • James Seip of Salisbury, N.C., history.
  • Bridgette Strobl of Littleton, Colo., chemistry.
  • Shelby Watkins, of Manchester, Tenn., Christian studies.
  • Alva Sofia Katari Joensson.
  • Aaron McIver, of Matthews, N.C.
  • Siv Lina Kristina Ullèn.

Two-Year Scholastic Awards

Upon the completion of two years of study at Gardner-Webb, the Two-Year Scholastic Award is presented to 12 students who have a perfect 4.0 average. They are:

  • Helena Berczes, of Henrico, Va., biology.
  • Leah Carpenter, of Stanley, N.C., nursing.
  • Mark Chandler, of Chester, Novia Scotia.
  • Caleb Cook, of Hudson, N.C., accounting.
  • Alexandra Haasser, of Seffner, Fla., biology.
  • Paula Harvie, of Johnson City, Tenn., Spanish.
  • Makayla Jibben, of Anderson, S.C., biology.
  • Micah Moulder, of Seneca, S.C., psychology.
  • Emma Rayfield, of Bessemer City, N.C., biology.
  • Grace Schiefen, of Mooresville, N.C., music education.
  • Chelsea Walters, of Connelly Springs, N.C., nursing.
  • Selah Werner, of Robbinsville, N.C., Christian studies.

Three-Year Scholastic Awards

After completing three years of study at Gardner-Webb, the Three-Year Scholastic Award is presented to three students with a perfect 4.0 average. This year’s award recipients are:

  • Allyson Butts, of Concord, N.C., exercise science.
  • Jasmine Jones, of Tamuning, exercise science.
  • Victor Putter, of Pretoria Gauteng, mathematics.

Ignite Excellence Scholars

The Ignite Excellence Scholarship competition serves as an opportunity for students to compete for the highest academic scholarships awarded by the University. This year, eight students received full-tuition scholarships to honor their exemplary academic achievements. The average grade point average of these students is 4.45.

  • Peyton Bryant from Mooresville, N.C., majoring in business management.
  • Sydney Hudson from Lincolnton, N.C., majoring in business and political science.
  • Sarah McLean from Lenoir, N.C., majoring in exercise science and psychology.
  • Peter Moore from Rutherfordton, N.C., majoring in traditional worship music.  
  • Benjamin Rogers from Waxhaw, N.C., majoring in biology.
  • Annali Silver from Bakersville, N.C., majoring in history education.
  • McCoy Stowe from Lincolnton majoring in biomedical science.
  • Stephanie Toukmaji from Charlotte, N.C., majoring in nursing.
The RW Andrews Scholarship winner is congratulated by President Downs
President William Downs congratulates R.W. Andrews Scholarship winner, Kofi Boakye Jr. from Kings Mountain, N.C., a music major. Photo by Sarah Garrison / GWU Photo Team

R.W. Andrews Scholarship

The R.W. Andrews scholarship is awarded to a male student from Cleveland County planning to attend Gardner-Webb. To be considered for the scholarship, candidates must display integrity, leadership, and academic success. The student awarded this scholarship is one who upholds the true mission and value of Gardner-Webb University.

  • This year’s recipient is Kofi Boakye Jr. from Kings Mountain, N.C., majoring in music.

Searight Leadership Award

The Searight Leadership Award supports first-generation college students who have demonstrated leadership potential. This award will provide access to the knowledge and skills that will enable graduates to become catalysts for good throughout society and within America’s corporate structure. This year’s recipients are:

  • Caitlyn Hamrick from Shelby, N.C., majoring in elementary education.
  • Lys Ishiari from Charlotte, N.C., majoring in computer science.

Tucker Scholar

Kylee Morris, of Morehead City, N.C., is the 2022-23 recipient of the Tucker Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength Scholarship. Photo by Sarah Garrison / GWU Photo Team

The Tucker Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength Scholarship is awarded each year to one high school student who exemplifies the principles and values representative of the Gardner-Webb community. This top scholarship is made possible by the generous support of Carolyn and Robert Tucker, who exemplify these same principles and values in their personal and professional lives.

  • The 2022-23 recipient is Kylee Morris from Morehead City, N.C. She is majoring in biomedical science.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to six professional schools, 14 academic departments, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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