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King University News :: King Celebrates Historical Commencement; Last as King College

The sound of bagpipes rang out across King’s campus on Saturday, May 11, as the spring Class of 2013 walked for one final time around the Oval.  Their class is the last to be awarded degrees from King College.  Graduating students will be awarded degrees from King University beginning fall 2013.  On June 1, 2013, King will begin operating as King University. 

“Every commencement is a special time as the entire campus comes together to celebrate the accomplishments of our students,” said Dr. Matt Roberts, dean of academic affairs and chief academic officer for King.  “This commencement ceremony was not only a historic occasion as King transitions into university status but also a time to celebrate our students’ accomplishments and the continued success of both our graduates and current students.”

Diplomas were awarded to more than 369 students who have completed undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies degrees from the King College School of Arts and Sciences, King School of Business and Economics, King School of Education, King School of Nursing, Peeke School of Christian Mission, and King Graduate and Professional Studies Online Programs.  Of the 369 graduation, 345 walked in Saturday’s ceremony.

Commencement is a time to recognize the achievements of King’s students.  Several special recognitions were awarded, including the M. Jeffrey Byrd Distinguished Service Award, named in memory of M. Jeffrey Byrd, former chair of King College Board of Trustees and former president of Bristol Motor Speedway.  This award is presented to a King student who “exceeds expectations” through his or her service to the community and has modeled leadership in a variety of ways throughout their college career.  The award pays tribute to those who have displayed a heart for service and commitment to the mission of King, which emphasizes cultural transformation in Christ.  The award also honors academic achievement, servant leadership and dedication to the student body as well as the local community.

The M. Jeffrey Byrd Distinguished Service Award recipient was awarded this year to two recipients – Kenneth McVey and April Tomlin.  McVey was also awarded his Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience with a minor in Chemistry.  Tomlin was awarded her Bachelor of Science in Communication.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award was named after Algernon Sydney Sullivan, a lawyer, devout Christian, mediator, orator, philanthropist, and in the words of a friend, someone who “reached out both hands in constant helpfulness to [humankind].”  It is made in recognition of “fine spiritual qualities practically applied to daily living, as distinct from high scholarship, athletic achievement, and success in business, professional ability, political leadership, or mere worldly prominence in any calling.”  The recipient is recognized for excellence in character and service to humanity.  King appoints the recipient as its representative to bear its standard before the world.

This year two students and two community members were recognized this year with awards.  The two students to receive the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award were Brooke Alexis Johnson and Jacob Daniel Strang.  The community recipients of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award were Helen Vance Scott and Gordon Alexander Turnbull.

Finally, The R. T. L. Liston Award for Academic Excellence honors the important contributions of the thirteenth President of King College who served for 25 years and led the College into a new era of academic excellence.  Beginning in 1986, this award is selected strictly on a quantitative basis without consideration for a particular degree.  The medal was designed by the late Dr. Graham G. Landrum, King professor emeritus of English.  The Latin inscription quotes St. Ambrose - QVIA TV NON PRO TE SED PRO ME DOLES, which is translated “Because Thou Dost Suffer, Not For Thyself, But For Me.”  The outcome of the quantitative analysis for the recipient of the Robert Todd Lapsley Liston Award resulted in a tie this year.  The two recipients were Seth Duncan Peltier and Amanda Susan Countiss.

This year, the Distinguished Faculty Award was awarded to Dr. Raymond H. Bloomer, Jr.  He was recognized for contributions of a senior faculty member who has no doubt positively influenced many graduates’ lives.  After 35 combined years of service and many years of service in the US military as a Colonel in the Air Force before arriving at King, Dr. Bloomer is retiring, having led the Physics Department almost single-handedly and with great distinction over these years. He has taken many students to observatories in the Rocky Mountain west for extended periods of observation of double stars during the summers, resulting in many joint student/professor publications in astronomical journals.  Dr. Bloomer has been an overall supporter of all things King College. He has been a friend, mentor, and role model for King professors and students alike. 

The Student Government in cooperation with the Math Department purchased a beautiful astrolabe in honor of Dr. Bloomer’s exemplary service.  An astrolabe is an astronomy tool dating back to the time of classical antiquity.  This astrolabe is engraved in honor of Dr. Bloomer’s distinguished service and includes one of his favorite bible verses, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things,” from Philippians 4:8.

This year’s commencement speaker was Dr. Belle Wheelan, current president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.  She is the first African American and the first woman to serve in this capacity. Her career spans more than 30 years and includes the roles of faculty member, chief student services officer, campus provost, college president, and secretary of education.  In several of those roles, she was the first African American and/or woman to serve in those capacities.

Dr. Wheelan received her bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in Texas with a double major in Psychology and Sociology.  She went onto receive her master’s from Louisiana State University in Developmental Educational Psychology and her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin in Educational Administration with a special concentration in Community College Leadership.

Dr. Wheelan has received numerous awards and recognitions including four honorary degrees; the Distinguished Graduate Award from both Trinity University and the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin; Washingtonian Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, D.C.; the AAUW Woman of Distinction Award; the Suanne Davis Roueche National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development’s Distinguished Lecturer Award, and the John E. Roueche National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development’s International Leadership Award (2010); and the AACC Leadership Award.

Dr. Wheelan holds and has held membership in numerous local, state, and national organizations including Rotary International; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; the American College Testing, Inc., board of directors; American Association of Community Colleges’ board of directors; the Lumina Foundation for Education, board of directors; and the President’s Round Table of the National Council on Black American Affairs.

On Friday, May 10, graduates joined together in worship during King’s annual Baccalaureate Ceremony at First Presbyterian Church. 

The Baccalaureate ceremony speaker was the Rev. Dr. Fred Foy Strang.  He currently serves as King’s Chaplain, dean of the Peeke School of Christian Mission, and associate professor of Missions and Philosophy Religion. Strang serves Bristol’s First Presbyterian Church as contemporary worship director.  He is also president of the Maasai Special Projects Fund, Inc., leading Theological Education by Extension for indigenous church leaders in Africa.

Strang holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Furman University, a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, a Doctor of Ministry from Reformed Theological Seminary, a Master of Science by Research from the University of Edinburgh, and a Ph.D. from the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World at the University of Edinburgh.



King University is a Presbyterian, master's-level comprehensive university.  Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, digital media, education, and humanities.  Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing.  A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available.  King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity athletic teams.  For more information about King University, visit  King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability.  King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia.  For more information, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.