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King University Celebrates Spring 2016 Commencement

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 30, 2016 – The air was filled with the sound of bagpipes on Saturday, April 30, 2016, as graduates gathered with family and friends as well as King faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and students to celebrate King University’s Spring 2016 Commencement exercises on the Student Center lawn on the University’s main campus in Bristol, Tenn.

“Commencement is a special time as the entire campus comes together to celebrate the accomplishments of our students,” said Matt Roberts, Ph.D., vice president of Academic Affairs. “We look forward to their continued success in building meaningful lives of achievement and cultural transformation in Christ in our region and beyond.”

Diplomas were awarded to 517 students who have completed undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Applied Science and Technology, School of Behavioral Health Sciences, School of Communication, Information, and Design, School of Business and Economics, School of Education, School of Nursing, and the Peeke School of Christian Mission. Of the 517 graduating, more than 470 walked in Saturday’s ceremony.

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 Ashleigh Nicole Manke (’16). A native of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Manke majored in Business Administration and a was member of the King University Women’s Volleyball Team. This summer she will be working at Camp Kanakuk. She will then begin her working toward a master’s degree at Warner University. She will also serve as the Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Warner Christian Academy. 

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.” This year’s recipient of the R. T. L. Liston Award for Academic Excellence was Caleb Greene. Green, a native of Blountville, Tenn., double-majored in Cell and Molecular Biology and Chemistry while at King.

This year’s Commencement speaker was Professor Jonathan L. Walton, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University and Pusey Minister in Harvard’s Memorial Church. He is also a professor of Religion and Society on the faculty of Divinity.

Professor Walton’s research addresses the intersections of religion, politics, and media culture. He has published widely in scholarly journals such as Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation and Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. His book “Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism” (NYU Press, 2009) disrupts commonly held assumptions that associate evangelical broadcasting with white, conservative evangelical communities, while illumining the ways televangelists’ professed aims are frustrated by their hyper-mediated methods.

Professor Walton’s work and insights have been featured in several national and international news outlets including the New York Times, CNN and the BBC.

Walton earned his Ph.D. and Master of Divinity degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary. The Atlanta native graduated from Morehouse College with a B.A. in Political Science. Walton was an assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside prior to joining the faculty of Harvard Divinity School.

On Friday, April 29, graduates joined together in worship during King’s annual Baccalaureate Ceremony at First Presbyterian Church. Professor Jonathan L. Walton served as the speaker for the service.


King University is a Presbyterian-affiliated, 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 on SCHEV certification, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.