16 2021 Distinguised Grad Maria ChoiMethodist University graduated more than 200 students on May 8 during the first outdoor commencement ceremony in the school’s history. The commencement, held at Segra Stadium in downtown Fayetteville, graduated seniors from the class of 2021, but also recognized graduates from the class of 2020, who missed their in-person commencement when the global pandemic hit.

“Graduates, I’m proud of you. Together, we’ve been through a long dark season because of COVID,” said Dr. Stanley T. Wearden, MU’s president.

“I have witnessed your resilience and have seen you make countless sacrifices. I have witnessed you rise above challenges and uncertainty of these times. It has been a sacred privilege to spend this time with you.”

Students, faculty and staff were able to make a far-from-ordinary academic year successful with hybrid learning and modified events, which resulted in the campus staying open for residential living and in-person classes all year while many colleges and universities across the state and nation shut their doors.

One of these modified events was the commencement ceremony, which is usually held indoors. Methodist University became the first institution of higher learning to partner with Segra Stadium downtown to host the open-air ceremony.

While some aspects of MU’s commencement changed, the ceremony remained one that honored the many accomplishments of its students. Eight students were recognized for their recent commission into the U.S. Army, while graduates Elias Rodriguez (Argentina) and Hamza Boubacar Kassomou (Niger) were recognized as the first MU grads from their respective countries.

Aiden Sherry was presented with the L. Stacey Weaver Award, which is awarded to a Spring graduate via a vote from MU faculty. The student must exemplify academic excellence, spiritual development, leadership and service.

Darryll Decotis and Rachel Townsend became the first MU recipients of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Mary Mildred Sullivan Awards. These awards are given to the students who demonstrate a noble character and act as humble servants who place service to others before their own self-interests.

Distinguished graduates Allison Nagel (2020) and Maria Choi (2021) were selected by a vote by the senior class to share a few words during the ceremony.

“The close-knit community at Methodist is what makes our experience so much different than that at other colleges,” said Nagel. “I want to say ‘thank you’ to every single person I’ve encountered at Methodist, and I challenge you to reach out and do the same. Even when you struggle, the people around you here today want you to succeed as much as you want to succeed yourself.”

“We’ve experienced so much in the past few years,” added Choi. “How much more will we learn and grow in the coming years? Every day, we have the opportunity to leave the world a slightly better place than it was when we woke up.”

The commencement address was given by long-time MU baseball coach Tom Austin, who was recently recognized as the winningest active baseball coach in NCAA Division III.

Austin, who has earned more than 1,200 career wins at Methodist University since joining the staff in 1980, gave graduates several pieces of advice for their life
after MU.

His advice included be on time, be prepared, give a great effort, do the job no one wants to do, have a great attitude and great body language, treat others with respect and do the right thing.

“I’m going to throw you one final pitch,” Austin said. “I hope you get a job you love as much as I love this job here at Methodist. Congratulations graduates, may God bless you and guide your every step.”

Following his speech, Wearden presented Austin with the University Medallion, one of Methodist’s highest honors.

Pictured Above: Distinguihed graduate Maria Choi (pictured) and Allison Nagel were chosen by their senior class to make remarks during the ceremony. 

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