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King University News :: King University Celebrates Spring Commencement

BRISTOL, Tenn., May 3, 2014– The sound of bagpipes carried across King University’s main campus in Bristol, Tenn., on Saturday, May 3 as graduates gathered with family and friends as well as King faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and students to celebrate King’s Spring 2014 Commencement exercises.

Diplomas were awarded to more than 378 students who have completed undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies degrees from the King College School of Arts and Sciences, King School of Applied Science and Technology, King School of Behavioral Health Sciences, King School of Business and Economics, King School of Education, King School of Nursing, and Peeke School of Christian Mission.  Of the 387 graduating, 350 walked in Saturday’s ceremony.

“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. “We look forward to their continued success in building meaningful lives of achievement and cultural transformation in Christ in our region and beyond.”

Several special recognitions were awarded during the Commencement ceremony, 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 Brittany Rae Linkous.

This year, the Distinguished Faculty Award was awarded to Dr. Karen Gregner Rohr. Prior to coming to King, her experience in education included teaching and administrative positions associated with all ages from kindergarten to nontraditional college students. Dr. Rohr first arrived at King approximately 30 years ago and served in the areas of Extended Learning, Career Development, and Cooperative Education. She was instrumental in setting up and growing these departments, and in 1987, she became a member of the teaching faculty. She served on the teaching faculty in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and later in the Department of Psychology. She also served as the chair of the Department of Psychology from 1998 to 2008 and was instrumental in the founding of the Blue Ridge Undergraduate Research Conference, which is currently in its 20th year.

Over the years, Dr. Rohr has earned many awards and accomplishments. She received the Outstanding Service Dedication to the Student Government Association Award, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and the Outstanding Professor Award by the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. In the classroom, Dr. Rohr was a challenging professor who always started class with prayer and was fully committed to a Christian liberal arts education. Her concern for her students extended well beyond the classroom and was evident by her presence at concerts, plays, picnics, and athletic events. She has served King’s community as a Christian role model by faithfully attending chapel and convocation and clearly demonstrating her love for the Lord, her family, her students and King University.

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 were recognized this year. The two students to receive the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award were Nathan Heacock and Jose Rodrigo “Ro” Avila.

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.

This year’s recipient of the R. T. L. Liston Award for Academic Excellence was Jason Thead.

This year’s Commencement speaker was Dr. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. Dr. Plantinga is the emeritus president and Charles W. Colson professor of Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary and Senior Research Fellow for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. He studied at Calvin College, Yale University, Calvin Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary. He has also been a visiting scholar at St. Edmund's College, University of Cambridge. In the academic year 1999-2000, under the provisions of a Christian Faith and Life grant from the Louisville Institute, Dr. Plantinga was a resident member of the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton. He was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church in North America in 1971.

Formerly the pastor of the Webster (New York) Christian Reformed Church, Dr. Plantinga was professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary from 1979 to 1996. In the summer of 1996, he became the first-ever dean of the Chapel at Calvin College. In Jan. 2002, he became the sixth president of Calvin Theological Seminary. He stepped aside from the presidency July 31, 2011, to devote a sabbatical year to speaking, preaching, and writing. On Aug. 1, 2012, he became senior research fellow at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College.

He is a former editor of the Calvin Theological Journal, and is now a member of the Board of Editors of Books Culture, of the Board of Governors of First Things, and of the evangelical team within Evangelicals and Catholics Together. He has authored six books, co-author of one, and co-editor of two in addition to publishing more than 230 published articles, essays, and reviews.

On Friday, May 2, graduates joined together in worship during King’s annual Baccalaureate Ceremony at First Presbyterian Church

The Baccalaureate ceremony speaker was Dr. Todd B. Jones. Dr. Jones has served as the pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Nashville, Tenn., since 2002. First Presbyterian Church has grown to a congregation of more than 4,200 members. For eleven years, he served First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg, S.C. Dr. Jones has also served churches in Basking Ridge, N.J., and Columbia, S.C. He currently serves as a trustee of Princeton Theological Seminary.

Dr. Jones was born in Bridgeville, Penn. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh and his Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. He conducted graduate studies at Edinburgh University in Scotland, and was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Presbyterian College in 1994.


King University is a Presbyterian, doctoral-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, 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 sports. 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.