news-category: Academics

Gardner-Webb Awards Degrees in Expanded Spring Commencement on May 7 and 8

Graduates walk into the stadium

More than 500 Graduates Honored, Including Students Who Participated in Virtual Ceremonies During 2020

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Officials at Gardner-Webb University celebrated the return to in-person commencement activities on May 7 and 8 by achieving a university milestone. For the first time in the institution’s history, Friday’s ceremony was held under the lights in Ernest W. Spangler Stadium. A fireworks presentation completed the festivities.

More than 500 graduates were honored over the two days, including students who participated during virtual celebrations in 2020. Saturday’s activities featured separate ceremonies, where graduates walked across the stage, received individual recognition and congratulations from GWU President Dr. William M.  Downs. Receptions were held throughout the day for graduates, their families and friends.

GWU President Dr. William M. Downs
During the ceremony on May 7,
GWU President Dr. William M. Downs
presented awards to the recipients.

“We celebrate your achievement,” Downs praised. “We celebrate your persistence, and we celebrate your determination. And, perhaps most importantly, we celebrate the promise that each of you will carry forth from this place…the promise of a bright and rewarding future.”

Also present for the occasion were alumni from the Class of 1971. This year marks the 50th anniversary of their graduation from Gardner-Webb. They also have the distinction of being among the first to receive four-year degrees as Gardner-Webb transitioned from junior to senior college status.

Several graduates were honored for outstanding leadership, citizenship, and academic excellence. The Most Outstanding Male Graduate medal was presented to Malik Alexander Stewart, of Parksley, Va., who earned degrees in biomedical sciences and chemistry.

The Most Outstanding Female Graduate was presented to Zoha Mueez Aamir, of Cherryville, N.C., who earned a degree in biology.

Senior Scholastic Awards were presented to students who completed their academic careers with a perfect 4.0 GPA. The honorees were Allyson Call Rideout, of Old Fort, N.C., elementary education; Benjamin Joseph Schade, of Apex, N.C., communication studies; Benjamin Spicer LaSpaluto, of Apex, N.C., mathematics; Emily Nicole Grace Dyment, of Whitby, Ontario, Canada, exercise science; and Heath Ian Porter, of Pilot Mountain, N.C., accounting.

The Degree Completion Program Scholastic Award was given to Kayla Birdwell, of Jonesville, N.C., who earned a degree in human services.

The Darlene J. Gravett Citizen Scholar Award was presented to Mabel Lamprea, of Gainesville, Va., who earned a Doctor of Education Degree. This honor recognizes a graduate student whose scholarly research, done as a part of his or her program of study, has the potential to make a distinct contribution to the improvement of society. It is named in honor of Gravett, longtime dean of the Graduate School and associate provost emerita. Lamprea’s dissertation focused on “Enhancing English Learners’ Academic Resilience: A Professional Development/Learning Design Study.”

Mabel Lamprea, of Gainesville, Va., received the Darlene J. Gravett Citizen Scholar Award.

The commencement speaker was N.C. Rep. and Speaker of the House Tim Moore, a native of Kings Mountain, N.C. Moore, who represents Cleveland County, N.C., was first elected to the General Assembly in 2002. He is the longest serving Republican House Speaker in North Carolina history. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his Juris Doctor degree from Oklahoma City University School of Law. After passing the North Carolina Bar Exam, he returned to Cleveland County. He lives in Kings Mountain and practices with his firm, Tim Moore, Attorney at Law, P.A. He is a member of First Baptist Church of Kings Mountain.

N.C. Speaker of the House Tim Moore speaks to the audience.
The speaker on May 7 was N.C. Rep. and Speaker of the House Tim Moore.

Moore spoke about being one of the first in his family to attend a four-year college. He reflected on navigating the pressures of serving in the North Carolina Legislature. Through his experiences, he offered the following advice: Treat everyone with respect; be flexible; and never stop learning. “True leaders recognize their shortcomings and can admit when they simply do not know,” he stated. “They take those moments of uncertainty as opportunities to learn from and adapt for the next challenge they face. I challenge you to approach every situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. Your mind is your greatest tool in life, sharpen it with every chance you get.”   

Additionally, Dr. Ben Leslie, associate provost and executive vice president, presented a tribute for Dr. Sharon Creed-Hall during the College of Health Sciences recognition event. Hall passed away on Feb. 22, 2021, due to complications from the Coronavirus. She received her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Gardner-Webb, and returned to serve as a full-time faculty member beginning in 2011. “Dr. Hall was a person of strength and of character who carried out her teaching duties and service to her community and church courageously in the midst of a pandemic,” Leslie stated. “Clearly, she, like all of her colleagues at Gardner-Webb, felt compelled to follow that higher calling to service, even at grave personal risk. For that we are humbled and in her debt. We are grateful for the work of Dr. Hall, and the many ways it has made the College of Health Sciences a better place.”

The commencement ceremonies were live streamed on the University Facebook page and YouTube channel.

General graduation photos can be found at (links below). If you are interested in purchasing individual portrait photos, you may contact the Grad Images Customer Service Department at (800) 261-2576, online at, or email [email protected].

A chair holds a memorial tribute for Dr. Sharon Creed Hall.

Located in the North Carolina foothills, Gardner-Webb University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university. Gardner-Webb emphasizes a strong student-centered experience and rigorous academics to prepare students to become effective leaders within the global community. Ignite your future at

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