news-category: Campus News

Kendal Vest Crowned Miss Gardner-Webb 2023 on March 26

Miss GW 2023 Kendal Vest, right, poses with the runners-up, Grace Fort and Alyssa Wilkie and pageant contestants. Photo by Ezekiel Martin
Miss GW 2023 Kendal Vest, right, poses with the runners-up, Alyssa Wilkie, second from right, and Grace Fort, third from right, and pageant contestants. Photo by Ezekiel Martin

Grace Fort is First Runner-Up and Alyssa Wilkie is Second Runner-Up

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Kendal Vest, an exercise science major from Shady Spring, W.Va., was crowned Miss Gardner-Webb 2023 on March 26. Nursing major Grace Fort, of Monroe, Ga., was first runner-up, and Alyssa Wilkie, of Bostic, N.C., also a nursing major, was second runner-up. 

Vest, a junior, transferred to Gardner-Webb University this semester. “I am so thankful to be able to represent Gardner-Webb,” she said. “It is truly an honor to be part of such a strong, close-knit community. Gardner-Webb has become a second home to me, and I could not be more grateful or proud of what this University stands for. I am so thankful for GWU! ‘Sko Dawgs!”

Kendal Vest is crowned by Miss GWU 2022 Allie Cooke. Photo by Danielle Billups / GWU Photo Staff

Seven contestants competed in four areas: business wear, casual wear, talent and evening gown. As part of the evening gown competition, each young woman gave a speech that paid tribute to a woman who has inspired them in their lives.

For the talent portion, Vest played the song “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran on the piano. In her speech, she chose to honor and remember her fifth grade teacher Mrs. Phyllis Shrewsbury, who passed away last year. “She was a woman whose faith never wavered and whose light could always brighten another’s day,” Vest related. “She believed in me and made me know that I could do anything I set my mind to do. Her kindness and godliness will be remembered and carried on by her students and those she loved. She is a woman I strive to be like someday.”

Miss GWU 2023 and the runners-up received flowers, a sash and a plaque. Vest won a $300 prize, along with a crown. Fort received $200, and Wilkie, $100. Fort also won the most photogenic award, and Wilkie received the most talented award. Vest and Fort tied for the Miss Congeniality award.

Jes Raduly, pageant coordinator and associate director of Student Engagement described the Miss Gardner-Webb Pageant as an empowering tradition based on confidence, grace and sisterhood. She thanked all of the people who assisted in the planning, preparation and execution of the event.

Choreography was developed by 2019 alumna Kaylie Lemmon, who has experience in cheer and dance and received her master’s in school counseling from Gardner-Webb. A workshop on poise and confidence was led by Miss GWU 2022, Allie Cooke, a junior elementary education major from Hickory, N.C., and the 2022 first runner-up Bri Bryant, a sophomore biblical studies with a concentration in discipleship major from Gastonia, N.C.

Vest thanked everyone who helped with the pageant, especially Raduly and Hope Saunders, assistant director of Student Engagement. “They, along with many others, went above and beyond to make this experience great for us,” Vest affirmed. “I would also love to thank the other contestants and congratulate them for being confident and bold enough to do the pageant. They truly are beautiful women. I am both honored and thankful to have grown with them through the Miss GWU experience. Lastly, I want to thank the judges for taking time out of their weekend to make this possible.”

Miss Gardner-Webb University Pageant


Tori Weatherley, senior political science major with a minor in English from Friendswood, Texas.


  • Thea Thompson, Assistant Vice President, Web and Digital Communications.
  • Carrie Baker, Director of Academic Services for Student Athletes.
  • Stephanie Allen, Director of Counseling Services.
  • Reilly Morgan, Undergraduate Admissions Counselor.
  • Caylin Smith, Assistant Director Residence Education.


Dr. Felice Policastro, Professor of International Business and Finance

Also competing were:

BryceLynn Glover

  • Hometown: Waco, N.C.
  • Academic year: Freshman
  • Major: Psychology

Anna Sample

  • Hometown: Freemont, Calif.
  • Academic year: Junior
  • Major: Psychology

Sierra Jones

  • Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
  • Academic year: Sophomore
  • Major: Political Science/English

Maddalena Giovine

  • Hometown: Elk Village, Ill.
  • Academic year: Junior
  • Major: American Sign Language

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, 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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