GTC3411 Commencement 2009 Was Special Beyond a Record Graduating Class

Mary Alice Birdwhistell received the President’s Honor Award from Dr. Crouch just prior to giving the Senior Speaker address; Commencement speaker Malcolm Wall, KET’s executive director, applauds at right.

Dr. Crouch made a slight adjustment in the Commencement program Saturday (May 16) – because he’s the president, he joked, and it’s his prerogative – plus it made dramatic sense to announce the President’s Honor Award winner before introducing the same young lady as Senior Speaker.

Mary Alice Birdwhistell said this dual honor is even more meaningful because she is part of the largest graduating class (290) in Georgetown College history. “I felt tears flowing down my face as President Crouch recalled different facets of my Georgetown experience before presenting it to me,” said the Lawrenceburg native. “While I’m so sad for the ‘Georgetown College’ chapter of my life to end, receiving this award was such a special way to cap off what have been some of the best years of my life.”

Several times Mary Alice spoke to the Alumni Gym audience about venturing from one’s “comfort zone” – on our spiritual journeys “Christ puts us in uncomfortable situations,” and “do things that make you uncomfortable and you’ll accomplish dreams you thought impossible.”

Certainly, she has been practicing what she preaches the past four years and refusing to let a physical disability hold her back. She has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare bone disorder that causes her bones to break very easily. “I’ve broken over 30 bones. Well, actually I just stopped counting!,” Mary Alice said with her characteristic, brave smile.

Then, with humility and gratitude – especially to Sigma Kappa sorority sisters and fellow students who carried books, or even her, during snowy or icy weather, she added, “The campus community, professors, staff, and students, have all been phenomenal in helping me to master college life with this disease; I wouldn’t have made it without them.” The feeling must have been mutual because Mary Alice Birdwhistell was named Sorority Woman of the Year.

Mary Alice has put her time where her mouth is as well, participating in three Alternative Spring Break mission trips and summer mission to the Alpha & Omega Home in Garca, Brazil. She was also president of Campus Ministry for one year, a member of the Chapel Leadership Team, and in Chorale for three years.

One might expect her to be a Religion major – especially with beloved uncle-professor Jack Birdwhistell in the department. But, the well-rounded redhead majored in English (accepting the W. B. Jones Award for Upperclass Prose on Academic Honors Day) and double-minored in Music and Psychology. A Parks Baptist Scholar, she graduated summa cum laude with a 3.9 GPA (Dean’s List all eight semesters), and was in the Honors Program and a member of Phi Kappa Phi honorary society.

So wouldn’t you know Mary Alice would take this rich Georgetown College experience this fall to Waco, Texas and begin work at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary on full scholarship.

This summer she will put her faith and writing skills to use as a freelance writer with a new magazine, Kentucky Christian Life.

A Georgetown legacy in more ways than one, Mary Alice is the daughter of Mark Birdwhistell ’77 and Martha; and the sister of Matt ’04.

Other Highlights

Malcolm Wall, executive director of Kentucky Educational Television, drew laughs from the Class of ’09 when he referred to Reading Day “traditions,” how these seniors reportedly “arranged” nearly a week without classes due to the Ice Storm earlier this year, and how many of them had furthered their equine educations on a certain Friday each October and April…at Keeneland. Then, he seriously challenged them to “make this world better than we have.” And, he concluded with three, suddenly apt words that obviously impressed him – GC’s motto: Live.Learn.Believe.

GTC3420 Commencement 2009 Was Special Beyond a Record Graduating Class

Professor Ed Smith, center, beamed after receiving the prestigious Cawthorne Award for Excellence in Teaching from President Crouch and Provost Rosemary Allen.

Dr. Edward Smith ’88 of our Theatre & Performance Studies department was named recipient of the annual Don and Chris Kerr Cawthorne Excellence in Teaching Award. Also, as editor and producer of “Surviving Guthrie” – that had its premiere a year ago at Lexington’s Kentucky Theatre – he continues to use Georgetown’s first feature film as a teaching tool and bring attention to this new major and the school by entering it in film festivals.

Senior Class President Michael Clemons – yes, the one and same Fulbright Scholar and (male) Mid-South Conference Student-Athlete of the Year – proudly announced the largest class “gift” in Dr. Crouch’s 18 years here –  $8,025. Even better is that the money is ear-marked for a scholarship for a deserving, incoming student.

GTC3402 Commencement 2009 Was Special Beyond a Record Graduating Class

Jane Hope Snyder Oldham Fields ’39, posed with her sons (both on staff at GC) and grand-children before receiving an honorary doctorate degree. From left: Ben Oldham ’65, Distinguished Service Professor; Jane Hope; Shannon Oldham Sampson ’95 (Ben’s daughter) and daughter Lauren Clay Sampson, who turns 4 June 1; and Robin Oldham ‘69, Assistant to the President and part of Institutional Advancement.

Honorary Degrees: Jane Hope Snyder Oldham Fields ’39, who helped organize the Rucker Hall anniversary celebration in 2006, and Milton Neal – the Fireside Room in the Ensor Learning Resource Center is named for him and his late wife, Katherine – received honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees; Dr. William D. Figg, Dr. Susan Goodin, and Dr. Jack Reed – all wonderful supporters of the College who began their undergraduate careers at GC, but finished elsewhere – received honorary Baccalaureate degrees.

William M. Dixon ’59 – who was part of the 50th Class Reunion dinner and breakfast during the weekend – had the honor of presiding over the Induction of the Class of 2009 into the Alumni Association; and, Dr. Austin French, who retired this summer as Professor of Math and Computer Science, gave the Benediction.

Baccalaureate Highlights

GTC3271 Commencement 2009 Was Special Beyond a Record Graduating Class

Sheila Klopfer, left, received the faculty Christian Service award from Maribeth Hambrick ’49, a former GC trustee and current Marshall Center for Christian Ministry board member.

Friday night, Dr. Sheila Bailey of Dallas, TX, delivered the Baccalaureate Sermon “Farther In and Deeper Down” in John L. Hill Chapel. Obviously entranced by this campus and its direction even before becoming one of our newest trustees, she is a big part of Georgetown’s unique partnership with Bishop College – and a big fan of the Bishop Legacy Scholars concept.

The Marshall Center for Christian Ministry recognized the following for their exemplary service this school year:

George Walker Redding Faculty Award: Dr. Sheila Klopfer, assistant professor of Religion and Director of Ministry Student Formation

Kenneth Claiborne Fendley Staff Award – Dr. Gretchen Lohman, Associate Dean for Academic Enhancement

GTC3277 Commencement 2009 Was Special Beyond a Record Graduating Class

Ashley Clayton ’09, left, received the senior student Christian Service award from MCCM board member Lisa Brown, the director of student and multicultural affairs at University of Kentucky’s School of Journalism and Telecommunications.

Norman and Martha Yocum Lytle Graduating Senior Award – Ashley Clayton, a member of Campus Ministry, she was known for her social justice work and service with UrbanPromise Ministries in Camden, NJ; she also headed up a project on campus that brought in 10,000 books for Invisible Children. A Psychology major and Art/Philosophy double minor from Burlington, KY., she will begin work on an M.A. in Community Psychology with an emphasis in Clinical Services at the University of New Haven (CT) this fall.