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President of Spelman College inspires graduates to ''make history''

Speaking at Berea College’s 137th Commencement on May 24, 2009, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, urged graduating seniors to “be the leader you are waiting for. No matter what you do you are making history,” she said, so “choose the history you want to make. Be hopeful, but more than that, translate your hope into purposeful action.”

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Tatum made her remarks prior to the awarding of degrees to 188 seniors. Another 24 seniors were expected to complete their degree requirements by the end of the summer.

Tatum also was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Berea.

Awards to three graduates and three College faculty and staff members also were presented at the ceremony.

The Hilda Welch Wood Award for outstanding achievement by a female student went to Morgan Adams, an English major from Lexington. The T.J. Wood Award for outstanding achievement was given to two male graduates – Mathew Bailey, from the Letcher County community of Isom, and to Hung Tran of Hanoi, Vietnam. Bailey received a B.A. in physics and Tran majored in both economics and mathematics.

Berea’s highest faculty honor, the Seabury Award for Excellence in Teaching, was presented to Dr. Janice Blythe, professor Child and Family Studies. Blythe holds a masters degree and Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky and earned a B.S. from Eastern Kentucky University., She has been a member of Berea’s faculty since 1986. Two faculty members were awarded the Paul C. Hager Award for Excellence in Advising – Dr. Katrina Rivers Thompson, professor of Child and Family Studies and to G. Edward McCormack, professor of Business. Mary Ann Shupe, theatre lab costumer and Costume Shop Supervisor received the Elizabeth Perry Miles Award for Community Service for her volunteer work for applying her talents as a designer and seamstress to the service of many community organizations.

Earlier in the day, Rev. Dr. Bill Leonard, Dean of the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University, spoke at the Sunday morning Baccalaureate Service held at 10:30 a.m. in Phelps Stokes Chapel. The day’s other public events included the Nurses Pinning Service at 8 a.m. in Union Church and a reception at 4 p.m. on the College quadrangle for graduates and guests.

Since 2002, Dr. Tatum has served as president of Spelman College, the nation’s oldest historically black college for women, located in Atlanta, Ga. In addition to being an accomplished administrator, Tatum is recognized as a scholar, teacher, race relations expert and leader in higher education. A clinical psychologist by training, Dr. Tatum holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan as well as an M.A. in Religious Studies from Hartford Seminary. The recipient of numerous honorary degrees, in 2005 Dr. Tatum was awarded the prestigious Brock International Prize in Education for her innovative leadership in the field, and recently was named among “Most Influential Georgians” by “Georgia Trend” magazine.

Her academic best-sellers include “Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation,” (2007) and “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race” (1997). She is also the author of “Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community.”

A member of the President’s Advisory Board for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Dr. Tatum also serves on national boards including the Institute for International Education and the Council of Independent Colleges. She is a former trustee of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and past chair of the American Council on Education Commission on Racial and Ethnic Equity in Education.

Baccalaureate speaker Rev. Dr. Bill Leonard has been a member of the faculty at Wake Forest since 1996, where he is Professor of Church History in the Department of Religion as well as serving as dean of the Divinity School. In Kentucky, he was Professor of Church History at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville from 1975-1992 and from 1988 to 1995 was a member of the summer faculty of the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center (AMERC) based in Berea. He currently serves on the board of AMERC. Leonard has also held teaching positions at Samford University, Yale Divinity School and Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka, Japan.

An ordained Baptist minister, Rev. Dr. Leonard has served as pastor of First Community Church in Southboro, Mass., and as interim pastor of more than 25 congregations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Kentucky, Indiana and North Carolina. Among the 15 books he has written or edited are “The Nature of the Church: Word of God Across the Ages,” “Appalachian Christianity,” “Baptists in America.” He is a frequent lecturer on college and university campuses and his specialization in American and Southern studies makes him a frequent commentator on popular religion in the U.S. Leonard holds a B.A. from Texas Wesleyan College, a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Boston University.

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