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Mississippi College Family Celebration Salutes New Graduates

Kim Anthony, a four-time national champion on the UCLA gymnastics team, motivational speaker, and author at MC's commencement ceremony on the Quad.
Kim Anthony, a four-time national champion on the UCLA gymnastics team, motivational speaker, and author at MC's commencement ceremony on the Quad.

Sunshine splashed down on the Quad as Mississippi College leaders showcased new graduates, honored faculty, and heard inspirational speaker Kim Anthony's plea to stay committed for a lifetime to God's plans.

After the COVID-19 pandemic brought numerous challenges, MC’s Classes of 2020 and 2021 embraced the start of three days to mark their achievements at this joyful event. Live streaming captured the wonderful activities on the Clinton campus as President Blake Thompson saluted the grads for their many successes.

In the midst of a pandemic, Mississippi College students emerged from the challenging experience “stronger than ever before,” Dr. Thompson said.

It was a year of masking up, COVID-19 tests, social distancing, and other health protocols at MC and for millions of college students nationwide. Confronted by the worldwide health emergency, “The Savior is always with us, wherever we go,” Dr. Thompson told the audience.

Kim Anthony, a four-time national champion on the UCLA gymnastics team, motivational speaker, and author, noted how God helped her overcome major obstacles. Even when her life was threatened by a gunman upon returning home to the dangerous streets of Richmond, Virginia. “I walked away unharmed by the grace of God,” she said. The incident happened weeks after the UCLA freshman captured her first title.

Meeting a UCLA football player who shared his faith, telling Kim God loved her was another life-changing moment. A former UCLA Bruins football standout, Corwin Anthony, later became her husband. Married 29 years, the Ohio couple are active parents with two adult children. “God has a plan for your life,” Kim Anthony told the audience at the Christian university. While people around the globe faced physical, mental, and emotional tolls due to COVID, "God is not caught by surprise.”

The executive director of MomsHope, an organization empowering single moms to self-sufficiency, Anthony delivered an uplifting message of hope. It marked MC’s first in-person graduation after COVID halted such ceremonies in 2020.

MC grads will attend commencements at the A.E. Wood Coliseum Friday and Saturday.

Featuring live music, awards, moving speeches and beautiful spring weather, MC’s family celebration touched senior Brandon Blair. “Through all of this, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and undeserving recognition of our prayers and humble existence. I have been truly blessed,” the Monroe County resident says.

What’s next for Brandon Blair? In late May, the Mississippian travels to Italy to work as a private English tutor for the summer. In the fall, Brandon will begin a dual master’s program at the University of Malta in collaboration with George Mason University in Virginia. He will receive a master’s in conflict resolution plus a graduate degree in Mediterranean Security.

Planning to pursue a career in international diplomacy, Blair, 22, is the recipient of the Kerri S. Jordan Writing Award from the Department of English and Philosophy. This spring, he spearheaded a Student Government Association project with the Be The Match organization to help Americans obtain bone marrow transplants as they battle over 70 diseases.

Walking with hundreds of classmates to their seats on the Quad, senior Jill Dickerson, 22, loved every minute of the festivities. “I’m so thankful to have this last occasion all together as a big family,” says the communication major from Memphis. “It’s special to me because I will be able to attend a graduation ceremony with my best friends in different departments,” adds the Laguna Social Tribe leader.

Making the day’s ceremonies more memorable, Jill wore her cap and gown to join President Thompson for a photo near the stage in front of Nelson Hall.

Thursday’s program featured awards for outstanding faculty and students. A gifted mathematics faculty member for 29 years, Tommy Leavelle was honored as MC’s Distinguished Professor of the Year. Leavelle recently announced his retirement. Keith Randazzo, a kinesiology instructor, received the Young Professor of the Year award.

Keri Elizabeth Herrington, a senior sociology major from Clinton, picked up the D.M. Nelson Award. It is named for the MC president who led the Baptist-affiliated university through 1957. She recorded a perfect 4.0 academic average spanning four years. An interior design major, Mary Kelli Bethea of Edwards, achieved a 4.0 for two years at Hinds Community College and two more at MC. She earned the Sadler Award, a tribute to Dr. William Sadler, a 1929 MC grad and longtime biology professor.

Events wrapping up Saturday, May 8, are bittersweet for accounting professor Billy Morehead. "I am saddened to see our students depart the nest, but I'm so excited for what God has next in their lives!”

English professor Steve Price is delighted to see all the fanfare. "It was so good to see people together, smiling, talking, and celebrating.”

New Mississippi College grads join more than 40,000 MC alumni worldwide.