JACKSON, Tenn. – May 17, 2014 – As she labored through her studies, Rachel Barber sometimes resented her mother for encouraging her to complete her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
“I don’t know why I let you talk me into this,” Barber told her mother, Kay Moore, many times.
Now, at the end of the process, Barber is thankful for her mother’s encouragement and for her example. The two of them each graduated with their doctor’s degrees May 17, part of the class of 630 graduates at Union University’s 189th annual spring commencement ceremony, held at Oman Arena.
“I’ve just kind of tagged along behind her,” Barber said. “I say I followed behind. She kind of dragged me behind.”
The event marked the 50th and final Union graduation (counting spring, summer and fall ceremonies) for longtime president David S. Dockery, who was elected to lead the university in 1995 and was recently named president of Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. This year’s graduating class brings the total number of graduates during Dockery’s administration to about 15,000 – roughly 70 percent of all living Union alumni.
“We are grateful for the difference that each one will make for the cause of Christ and his kingdom in the days to come,” Dockery said.
Greg Thornbury, president of The King’s College in New York City, delivered the commencement address, encouraging the graduates to stand in solidarity with their fellow believers in Christ – a theme he emphasized during his years as Union’s dean of the School of Theology and Missions.
“This campus been through an awful lot this year,” Thornbury said. “There have been harrowing moments of deep sorrow, confusion, and uncertainty. But this campus, anchored by this senior class, rallied together.
“You built one another up because you have internalized the lessons of a robust understanding of Christian solidarity,” he continued. “The world into which you will now go needs that message more than ever.”
As part of the ceremony, Union presented degrees posthumously to Leighton Williams and Olivia Greenlee, two Union students who died during the 2013-2014 academic year. The graduating class rose in unison as each woman’s name was read.
Union also presented the Elizabeth Tigrett Medal to Grace Morriss, an engineering major from Flower Mound, Texas. The award honors the mother of Isaac B. Tigrett, a former interim president at Union, as well as a benefactor and trustee. The medal has been awarded since 1912 by vote of the entire Union faculty to an outstanding member of the senior class.
For Moore, who earned her Doctor of Education degree, the ceremony marked the culmination of several years of college education that didn’t begin until she was 46 years old. Moore acknowledged that she was a lackluster student in high school and had to take remedial college courses for a year and a half before she could complete her bachelor’s degree from Belhaven University.
Moore went on to complete her Master of Business Administration at Union before doing her doctoral work. She wrote her dissertation on remedial education and how to predict the success of students who enter college in remedial courses.
“It was more of a personal achievement for me,” Moore said of completing her doctorate. “I can’t sing or dance. I just wanted to do something special.”