news-category: GWU Commencement

Gardner-Webb Awards Degrees in Spring Commencement Ceremony on May 2

graduates celebrate after the ceremony

More than 500 Graduates Honored for Achievements

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Gardner-Webb celebrated the achievements of over 500 students at the University’s Spring Commencement Ceremony on May 2 in Spangler Stadium. The event honored students in the traditional undergraduate, online, and graduate programs of study. The featured speaker was Gardner-Webb alumna and Superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Schools, Dr. Crystal L. Hill.

Gardner-Webb University President Dr. William M. Downs offered his congratulations to the graduates as he welcomed their families and guests. “Arriving at the finish line of your degree program no doubt brings with it a wave of emotions … satisfaction, gratitude, exultation … and probably some relief,” he acknowledged. “Whatever emotion you feel today, I hope you find time to make it a joyful one … because this truly is a great day to be a Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldog.”

Among the graduates was Leah Carpenter, of Stanley, N.C., who was named Gardner-Webb’s first Tucker Scholar in 2020. Established in 2019 by Carolyn and the late Robert Tucker, the award includes full-tuition, room and board for eight semesters. The Tuckers created the scholarship to annually recognize a high school senior who exemplifies the principles and values representative of the Gardner-Webb community. The qualifications are based on Mark 12:29-31: “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Carolyn Tucker, left, and Lisa Tucker celebrated the
graduation of the first Tucker Scholar, Leah Carpenter

Carolyn Tucker and her daughter, Lisa, a member of the Gardner-Webb Board of Trustees, attended the ceremony to witness Carpenter’s achievement. Carpenter earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and has accepted a position at CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia, N.C.

Carpenter reflected on the Tuckers being there to watch her graduate. “God has been so faithful and given me so many different blessings that I do not deserve, but I am so grateful to Gardner-Webb for not only helping me achieve my dreams of becoming a nurse but showing me what a true community seeking after Jesus looks like,” she affirmed. “Having Carolyn and Lisa Tucker there is again such an honor, and all I want to do is make them proud, which I hope that I have done. They care so much, and I am so grateful to them for everything they have done for me. I will never forget it.”

Vice President and University Chaplain for Christian Life and Service Dr. Josh Parrott gave the invocation, followed by Board of Trustees Chair Gary Smith, who brought greetings from the board. President of the Student Government Association, Madi Mamoone, shared her thoughts on the significance of the occasion. “With our futures in mind and our plans in motion … Choose kindness, goodness and love with God in your mind and in your heart,” she acknowledged. “Class of 2024, today’s the day to celebrate you and everything yet to come. Your path is just beginning, and I know it will be bright. Change the world, do big things, and never give up. Congratulations! And for the last time, spread love and Sko’ Dawgs!”

Hill has more than 25 years of experience in education and became Charlotte-Mecklenburg superintendent on May 19, 2023. She earned her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership in 2008 from Gardner-Webb. As the leader of the second largest school district in North Carolina, Hill’s decisions impact more than 140,406 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 181 schools. Hill also serves the Charlotte community as a member of the Leading on Opportunity Council, an entity that helps its partners across Charlotte-Mecklenburg improve economic mobility for all.

Hill urged the Gardner-Webb graduates to face their challenges head on. “When we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and take on new challenges at work or in our personal lives, we often discover hidden strengths and abilities we never knew we had,” Hill affirmed. “We come out on the other side of that challenge or difficulty stronger, more resilient, more self-confident, and more prepared for the journey.”

Dr. Crystal L. Hill

She offered the graduates three action steps they can take to deal with the challenges that are sure to come: “Being prepared for what’s next in your journey means having a proactive mindset, being adaptable to change, and equipping yourselves with the necessary skills and resources to face whatever comes your way.”  

During the presentation of awards, the Most Outstanding Graduate Medals were presented to two students in recognition of their outstanding leadership, citizenship, and academic excellence. The 2024 recipient of the Most Outstanding Female Graduate Award was Chelsea Walters, of Connelly Springs, N.C., who received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The 2024 recipient of the Most Outstanding Male Graduate Award was Micah Moulder of Seneca, S.C., who earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology and sociology.

Senior Scholastic Awards were presented to students who completed their academic careers with a perfect 4.0 GPA. They were Carpenter, Caleb Cook, Alexandra Haasser, Paula Harvie, Makayla Jibben, Moulder, Emma Rayfield, Walters, and Shelby Watkins. Earning the online scholastic award, presented to the online student with the highest cumulative grade point average, was Haila Kaylin, of Gaffney, S.C.

Dr. Karissa Ebert, of Garner, N.C., received the Darlene J. Gravett Award, which is nominated by the faculty and presented to a graduate student for scholarly research that promises significant societal benefits. It is named in honor of Gravett, long-time dean of the GWU Graduate School and Associate Provost Emerita.

Ebert is a seasoned educator with two decades of experience in exceptional children’s education. Through her work with Novel Education Group, she provides tailored, in-home learning for students with severe disabilities. Her doctoral research in the EdD program in Curriculum and Instruction, titled “Accessibility for All: An Interdisciplinary Team’s Perception of Multisensory Community Experiences for Students with Severe Disabilities,” sheds light on crucial gaps in accessibility. Through in-depth interviews with special education professionals, her findings underscore the importance of collaborative efforts between special education experts and community members.

Video of Thursday’s commencement ceremony is also available on the University Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Recognition Events

The celebration continues on Friday, May, 3, with each college and school honoring its graduates.

  • 9 a.m. – College of Business, Spangler Stadium.
  • 9 a.m. – College of Health Sciences, Lutz-Yelton Convocation Center.
  • 11 a.m. – College of Arts& Sciences, Spangler Stadium.
  • 11 a.m. – College of Education, Lutz-Yelton Convocation Center.
  • 11 a.m. – School of Divinity, Dover Chapel.

More information about Gardner-Webb Spring 2024 Commencement is available here.

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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