news-category: Academics

Gardner-Webb University Will Host First Virtual Commencement on Oct. 24

GWU Commencement

Event Celebrates May and August 2020 Graduates

Written by: Claire Coile, ’20, Intern for Office of University Communications

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Gardner-Webb University will host its first virtual commencement in school history on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The digital event will celebrate the May and August 2020 graduates who did not receive ceremonies due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ceremonies will be shown at 10 a.m. for May 2020 graduates and at 2 p.m. for August 2020 graduates on the Gardner-Webb website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Graduates and their families will hear prerecorded, moving messages from University President Dr. William M. Downs, University Provost and Executive Vice President Dr. Ben Leslie, Vice President for Christian Life and Service Senior Minister to the University Tracy Jessup, and guest speaker, GWU alumnus Clayton King.

Downs regrets that the Class of 2020 could not celebrate as one body in Boiling Springs, but he is thankful for the technology to honor each graduate. “This is not the way any of us wants to recognize the hard work and achievements of our students, but this is the year 2020,” Downs observed. “Our message to you today, however, will be the same. It will be upbeat and celebratory. It will be inspirational, and it will be emphatic. It will be a strong message of pride in what you have each done during your time at Gardner-Webb.”

Clayton King
Clayton King

King, an author and evangelist, will give the commencement address for both ceremonies. He is the founder of Crossroads/Clayton King Ministries—an organization which offers summer camps, student conferences, and leadership and coaching networks. King has authored 17 books, traveled to 44 countries and preached to over 5 million people.

King will focus his remarks on what it means for Gardner-Webb graduates to be set-apart, image-bearers of God. “It’s a true honor for me to be able to address this graduating class,” King reflected, “at a place that is home to me still to this day.” 

Leslie will announce recipients of the Senior Scholastic Award, honoring the graduates who earned the highest grade point average during their terms of university study. The recipients for May 2020 are Allison C. Chandler, Courtney Brooke Kanetzke, Jennifer Michelle Jackson, and Taylor Ann Mills. The recipient for August 2020 is Madolyn Grace Aucremann.

Every year the Most Outstanding Female Graduate Medal is awarded to a woman chosen by the faculty based on her outstanding character of service and citizenship. Celsea Lynn Reeder is this year’s recipient. The Most Outstanding Male Graduate Medal is bestowed on a man who displays leadership, citizenship and academic excellence. This year’s medal is awarded to Isaac Carroll Tuttle.

Dr. Ben Leslie cheers for the graduates.

The Degree Completion Scholastic Award is given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average for those completing their degrees online. Valerie Karen Jones is the May 2020 recipient, and Emily Denise Murphy is the August 2020 recipient.

The Darlene J. Gravett Citizen Scholar Award is presented to the soon-to-be Dr. Candace Butler from the College of Education doctoral program for impactful, scholarly research in her area of study. Gravett served as dean of the graduate school and is associate provost emerita of GWU.

Graduates received the opportunity to participate in the virtual ceremony by submitting their information and photos. After the speeches and award presentations, each student will be recognized in the video. Gardner-Webb Registrar [email protected] and the graduation committee longed to host an in-person graduation. “I know how important that is to students and their parents,” she empathized. “However, because of social distancing and crowd size restrictions, a face-to-face commencement was unrealistic at this time.”

During these unusual times, the virtual commencement allows students and their families to unite in celebration of the 2020 Gardner-Webb graduates. “We want this ceremony to be an opportunity to come together—even though we are physically apart,” explained Social Media Manager Kim Kreuzman, “And celebrate the great achievements of the Class of 2020.”

Students are invited to walk and attend a future, physical graduation. If graduates choose to participate in a subsequent ceremony, they need to email [email protected] to confirm.

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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