news-category: GWU Commencement

Gardner-Webb Recognized 2023 Summer and Fall Graduates on Dec. 15

Nearly 500 Graduates Honored at Commencement and Recognition Ceremonies

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Gardner-Webb University celebrated the achievements of nearly 500 graduates on Dec. 15. The commencement ceremony was held at 9 a.m. in Lutz-Yelton Convocation Center. Graduates who completed their degrees in the 2023 Summer and Fall semesters were honored. Scholastic awards were presented to online and traditional undergraduate students. Doctoral candidates received their hoods, and Gardner-Webb President Dr. William M. Downs conferred undergraduate and graduate degrees on all graduates.

In his opening remarks, Downs offered his congratulations to the graduates and appreciation to all the parents, spouses, friends and loved ones who supported them in their academic pursuit. He stated, “Whatever emotion you feel today, it is likely a joyful one … and that makes this truly a great day to be a Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldog. Today, we celebrate your achievement. 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 moment and from this place … the promise of a bright and rewarding future.” 

Dr. Mischia Taylor, dean of the Godbold School of Business, announced the online scholastic award winners. Quentin Blake Whisnant, who earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting, received the award for the 2023 Summer Semester, and Samantha Jade Fellows was recognized for the 2023 Fall Semester.

Dr. Karen Aubrey, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, presented the traditional undergraduate senior scholastic achievement awards to Karis Leigh Wallace, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, and Kathryn Wilson, who received a Bachelor of Science in biology.

Chris Peek, president and chief executive officer of CaroMont Health, challenged graduates to take a lesson from the nursery rhyme, Jack and Jill. Emphasizing the line: “When Jack fell down, Jill came tumbling after,” Peek observed, “Jill had no plan of her own … no personal purpose. She had not discovered her own uniqueness outside of the lens that was Jack.”

He continued, “I would contend to you, that each of you sitting here this morning has a level of uniqueness unparalleled by anyone else. It is simply dependent upon your decision to become what you were uniquely created to be.”

Chris Peek, president and chief executive officer of CaroMont Health, challenged graduates
to be who they were uniquely created to be.

Peek noted three lessons to consider from Jack and Jill’s story: First, make priorities non-negotiable; second, be authentic; and third, protect your perspective. He elaborated on each point and then summarized, “Never negotiate on your principles, values, or priorities. Be the authentic version of who God made you to be. Protect the view of the world that you were given by your Creator… and enjoy the journey of fulfilling the purpose that only you can fulfill.”

A 30-year resident of Gaston County, Peek is an honors graduate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Belk College of Business and holds a Master of Business Administration from Amberton University. He leads a regional healthcare system comprised of CaroMont Regional Medical Center, a 476-bed acute care hospital; CaroMont Medical Group, a network of more than 55 primary and specialty care physician offices; Courtland Terrace, a 96-bed skilled nursing facility; and Gaston Hospice, a robust hospice and palliative care organization.

With more than 25 years of experience in leading national and regional nonprofit and public administration organizations, Peek joined CaroMont Health in 2017 to reinforce the 75-year-old health system’s role as a regional healthcare partner with deep roots in the communities it serves. Under Peek’s leadership, CaroMont Regional Medical Center was named one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals by IBM Watson Health and has earned more Leapfrog Group grade “A” ratings for patient safety than any other hospital in the Charlotte region.

The 9 a.m. ceremony is available for viewing on the University’s YouTube channel.

Commencement was followed by recognition services as follows:

  • 11 a.m. – College of Health Sciences, Lutz-Yelton Convocation Center
  • 11 a.m. – School of Divinity, Dover Chapel
  • 1 p.m. – Godbold College of Business, Lutz-Yelton Convocation Center
  • 3 p.m. – College of Arts & Sciences, Dover Theatre
  • 5 p.m. – College of Education, Dover Theatre

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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