‘Hard work and tenacity’

SBU holds virtual commencement

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SBU president Eric Turner delivers his commencement address via a video message. 

Southwest Baptist University president Eric Turner praised his graduates’ “hard work and tenacity” as the university conferred 320 undergraduate and 210 graduate degrees during three online ceremonies Saturday, May 16, according to an SBU news release.

“Today, we gather together from all around the world to honor the hard work and tenacity of our graduates,” Turner said during the ceremonies, according to the release. “Our graduates are extraordinary people. Graduates, you have worked diligently to achieve this significant milestone. We are so proud of you.”

Additionally, the university presented two graduates —  Sarah Lewright of Stockton and Sam Jones of Bolivar — with its Life Beautiful Award.

According to the release, the award is given annually to an outstanding man and woman in the spring graduating class. 

“These individuals have demonstrated by their scholarship and character that they are living a ‘life beautiful,’” the release stated.

According to the release, Lewright, who is the daughter of Ken and Stacey Spurgeon, graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Social Work with a minor in intercultural studies. 

1A-SBU- mug Lewright.jpg


She is a member of the Phi Alpha Honor Society and was named as a 2020 outstanding social work student, the release stated.

“Sarah is one of the best graduates I’ve had the privilege to teach,” SBU provost Lee Skinkle read from a nomination letter. “She stands out in her love for Christ and her service for others.” 

According to the release, Jones, who is the son of Tom and Sarah Jones, graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and computer science. 

1A-SBU- mug jones.jpg


He has served as a resident assistant at Gott Hall, participated and led a “Freedom in Christ” men’s discipleship small group and volunteered with Polk County KLIFE’s student ministry, where he led a middle school small group.  

According to the release, SBU faculty praised Jones’ leadership. 

"Even with his challenging workload, he's found opportunities to be a servant leader on campus as an RA and a mentor for many male students on campus with his leadership of his Freedom in Christ study through his local church and in the community life through K-Life student ministries," a nomination letter reads.

Orien B. Hendrex Distinguished Teacher Award

Additionally, Bill DuVall, a professor of psychology on the Bolivar campus,received the Orien B. Hendrex Distinguished Teacher Award during the ceremony.

1A-SBU- mug DuVall.jpg


The award is presented annually to a faculty member who has been judged by the previous three years’ graduating classes to be outstanding in both teaching ability and personal guidance. 

According to the release, DuVall has been a full-time faculty member at SBU and a part of the Bearcat Family since fall 2015. He is married to Julie, a University Success Center faculty member. They have three children, Elijah, Aidan and Abbey. 

Alumni congratulate students

Instead of a commencement address, a group of SBU alumni was assembled to deliver words of encouragement and congratulations via video message. 

“SBU has truly equipped you with knowledge and skills that set you apart from others,” Amy Spears, who graduated in 2000, told graduates. “Please allow those to shine in all that you do. Take with you your incredible memories of your time here and lifelong friendships.” 


The SBU ASN faculty share encouraging words as they gather via Zoom to ask God to bless the hands of the ASN graduates.

SBU awards honors to health sciences students

SBU’s Mercy College of Nursing and Health Sciences held its spring pinning and awards ceremony for the Associate of Science in Nursing graduates Wednesday, May 13, with an online celebration.


Renay McCarley, chair of the ASN department, presents the history of pinning and leads the pinning ceremony.


Shannon McKinzie welcomes the ASN graduates to the nursing profession.

“We want to recognize and celebrate our future nurses as they reach the final moments leading up to their entry into the nursing profession,” Brittney Hendrickson, dean of the college, said in her address, according to a news release. “To say we are proud of these students is an understatement.”

Skinkle shared how he appreciates the passion and preparation nurses put into their education and careers, the release said.

“Over my many years of working alongside nurses within education, and particularly within the Mercy College of Nursing and Health Sciences, I’ve come to appreciate many things — the passion that you bring to the task at hand, and the preparation that you’ve put into succeeding in anything that you take on,” Skinkle said.

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