Bendsondy Pierre, '23, of Les Cayemites, Haiti, graduated magna cum laude as a first-generation student.

Graduates Go Beyond

The 175th commencement ceremony for the graduating class of 2023 was held at Fred Selfe Stadium on the Emory campus on Saturday, May 6. More than 230 graduates walked across the stage and received their diplomas with supportive family, friends and faculty cheering them on. Speakers included Dr. John W. Wells, president; Dr. Michael J. Puglisi, executive vice president and provost; Dr. Ann Sluder, ’81, chair of the board of trustees; Rev. Sharon Wright, ’94 College chaplain and co-pastor of Emory United Methodist Church; graduates Diego Zamarripa Velo, ’23 and Olivia Bailey, ’14, ’23; and keynote speaker Alan Levine, chair and chief executive officer of Ballad Health.

Posted July 03, 2023

2023 graduates walking through a tunnel of faculty cheering them on. 2023 graduates walking through a “tunnel” of faculty cheering them on. “America’s greatness rests on the strength of faith and a culture that recognizes goodness, compassion and giving will always triumph over strife and evil. Look for ways to serve others and put those in need above yourself. Don’t expect anything in return, but do it for the joy that comes with knowing you are inspiring someone else,” said Levine.

Emory & Henry graduate with diploma Seniors Cody Hubbard of Kingsport, Tenn., and Jaynae Wright of Lebanon, Va., were awarded Outstanding Senior Awards by a faculty vote. Wright also was awarded the Senior Research Award for her outstanding academic record and research work for her thesis, The Childcare Infrastructure Development Index. Hubbard also was recognized with the Byars Medal in Science for an exceptional academic record. Haley Jackson of Meadowview, Va., was recognized with the Eleanor Gibson Via Science Award, an award given to a female undergraduate student earning a degree in the sciences who shows promise for future service. The Senior Service Award was presented to Jett McReynolds of Kingsport, Tenn., for his service to the College. Seven students were recognized with the Snavely Senior Scholarship prize including Madeline Cavender of Chelsea, Ala.; Lillian Cox of Hillsville, Va.; Cody Hubbard and Amaya Lee of Bristol, Va.; Haley Miller of Swords Creek, Va.; Spencer Scott of Stephens City, Va.; and Emma Skeen of Lebanon, Va.; for their outstanding 4.0 grade-point averages. Of the 2023 class, 41 students graduated summa cum laude, 44 graduated magna cum laude and 21 graduated cum laude.

“We salute all of you, Class of 2023, for working hard to realize your dreams,” said President Wells. “You have a degree that teaches you to think and adapt over time as skills and technology change. As lifelong learners, you will be prepared to lead and to serve.”

People watching the Commencement 2023 ceremony The DeFreice Award was presented to Arthur “Scrapper” Broady, ’70, the first Black male to graduate from the College, for his considerable contributions to civilization and humanity as an alumnus and former Emory & Henry Board of Trustees member.

The first degree of the ceremony, a posthumous Doctor of Divinity degree, was conferred on Squire Miller Henry, a former porter and furnace stoker at the College, accepted by his eldest living descendant, Marie Lampkins, age 90. More than 70 descendants of Henry gathered together to celebrate the honor at commencement. The 2023 ceremony marked 100 years since the passing of Henry. A residence hall in The Village on campus will be named in Henry’s honor, the first building named for a Black contributor to the College.

Dr. Sluder shared the admirable story of Henry at the ceremony and stated that the Board of Trustees joined with members of the faculty to “recognize the distinctive contributions of [Henry]” with the posthumous degree “in an effort to tell a more complete history of Emory & Henry College and bring light to the stories of hundreds of people who have helped build and sustain it for nearly two centuries.”

The graduating class of 2023 hails from 15 states, the furthest of which is California. The class also included four international graduates from Mexico, Scotland, the British Virgin Islands and Haiti. They have indicated a variety of preliminary destinations following their graduation. A list provided by the van Vlissingen Center for Career and Professional Development revealed that graduates from the class of 2023 have landed incredible positions in widely known workplaces such as Teach for America, the U.S. Peace Corps, Verizon, Blue Gate Musicals, Deloitte, Bristol Motor Speedway, the U.S. Air Force, Knoxville Police Department, Bristol Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Walt Disney World, Utility Trailer, Eastman Chemical Company, the U.S. Department of Defense and more. Additionally, many undergraduate students have been accepted into graduate programs to further their education at top-tier universities such as the University of Tennessee Haslam College of Business, Stony Brook University Chemistry, Harvard University International Relations, Yale’s David Geffen School of Drama, George Mason University, Virginia Tech, the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Emory & Henry School of Health Sciences in Marion, Va.

To read more about the class of 2023 or view the ceremony recording, please visit

Look for ways to serve others and put those in need above yourself. Don’t expect anything in return, but do it for the joy that comes with knowing you are inspiring someone else.

—Alan Levine CEO, Ballad Health

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