news-category: Academics

Gardner-Webb Hosts Virtual Commencement on Dec. 12 for Fall Graduates

A photo of the speakers in the GWU commencement video, Dr. William Downs, Eric Davis, Tracy Jessup and Dr. Nicole Waters

Digital Event will be Shown on GWU Website, Facebook Page and YouTube Channel

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Gardner-Webb University will host a virtual commencement on Dec. 12 to honor fall 2020 graduates. The digital celebration will recognize the accomplishments of these students, who will not be able to participate in an in-person event due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ceremony will be shown at 10 a.m. on the Gardner-Webb website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

“This remains the Age of COVID-19, and as such we are relying on the wonders of technology to enable our second-ever virtual commencement,” observes Dr. William M. Downs, GWU president. “But let’s be absolutely clear, this is not the way any of us wants to recognize the hard work and achievements of our students. We would much rather be face-to-face, shaking hands, throwing caps in the air, and enjoying each other’s company. Since we all can’t be together, we will celebrate just as if you are here with us.”

The pre-recorded ceremony begins with a welcome from Downs and the invocation by Nicole Waters, associate provost of the College of Health Sciences. The commencement message will be delivered by Eric Davis, who is a 1995, 2001 and 2007 GWU alumnus.

Eric Davis

Davis has served as pastor of Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church since 2007. He holds three degrees from Gardner-Webb: a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the GWU School of Divinity, where he received the W. Bruce Rabon Doctor of Ministry Academic Award. He has also been recognized in the University’s Gallery of Distinguished Alumni. Davis is involved in the community, serving as chaplain of the Shelby Fire Department, Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, Cleveland County Firefighter’s Association, Boiling Springs Fire and Rescue, and Cleveland County Emergency Medical Services. In addition, he serves on the Board of Ministers at Gardner-Webb. Davis and his wife, Teresa, have led mission teams throughout the United States and in various countries including South Africa, Slovakia, Northern Ireland, Jamaica and Canada.

The theme of his message is “The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing.” He asks graduates to consider the question, What is the main thing for you? “Sometimes our lives are reduced to running frantically from place to place trying to keep it all going,” Davis says. “In the end, we pay the price—emotionally, physically, relationally, and spiritually. What we need is to be centered (on God). Every day is a new day of working toward God-centering your life.”

Each student will be recognized and acknowledged for accomplishments after the commencement address is offered. Downs and Waters will confer the degrees, and Downs will give the commencement charge.

Tracy Jessup, vice president of Christian Life and Service, will lead the Alma Mater. Musical accompaniment will be provided by Bruce Moser, associate professor of music. Jessup will end the program with the commencement prayer.

Students participating in virtual ceremonies are also invited to walk and attend a future, physical graduation at the University. If graduates choose to participate in a subsequent ceremony, they need to email [email protected] to confirm.

Auxiliary aids will be made available to persons with disabilities upon request 10 working days prior to the event. Please call (704) 406-4270 or email [email protected] with your request.

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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