Triumphs, challenges celebrated in ceremony for business, education, engineering

Sixth and final commencement ceremony the end of a unique journey for the Class of 2024

From virtual classrooms and hybrid learning models to charged social and political climates at the beginning of their undergraduate journeys, the Class of 2024 faced hurdles like few classes before them. Saturday marked a celebration of not only crossing a finish line, but the beginning of what comes next. 

The sixth and final Spring Commencement ceremony at Campbell University (held over three days) honored graduates of the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business, the School of Education & Human Sciences, the School of Engineering and students in Adult & Online Education.  

Addressing her classmates, health care management graduate Angel Cundiff-Barnes reflected on the “triumphs, challenges, laughter, tears and growth” her class experienced and endured over the last four years.

“Let us embrace the future with open arms and open hearts, ready to seize the opportunities that await us and make our mark on the world.” 

Of the 1,116 degrees conferred at Campbell University from Thursday through Saturday, roughly 500 walked the stage in Saturday’s two ceremonies in the Pope Convocation Center’s Gore Arena. Other ceremonies honored students in Campbell’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine, Norman A. Wiggins School of Law, College of Arts & Sciences and Divinity School. 

Commencement speaker Shirley Hoogstra

Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities since 2014, delivered what she said is her final of several commencement addresses as CCCU president as she’ll be soon stepping down. She said she decided to go a more personal route in her final speech and offered eight lessons to the graduates, each based on important moments in her life. 

Her challenges and mistakes as a teacher early in her career led to Lesson No. 1: “Let’s give up being perfect. We learn so much from our mistakes and the grace that people give us. The mistakes I’ve made throughout life have kept me humble, vulnerable and have given me a chance to laugh at myself and others to laugh with me.” 

Lesson No. 2: Kindness is never forgotten. Lesson No. 3: Even when you don’t 100-percent know what you’re doing, you can create redemptive spaces. “You can provide conditions for other people to reinvent themselves and maybe even into their better selves.” 

No. 4: Even when you think you’re making a mistake, nothing is wasted in God’s economy. No. 5: Don’t worry if you don’t have your future pieces all in place — pray, love well and trust in God’s future for you. No. 6: If you believe you’re right, persist with vigilance and passion and don’t take “No” for an answer. No. 7: Never miss an opportunity to celebrate. 

And the final lesson: Be grateful for others, because no one accomplishes great things on their own. 

“Graduate, it is my hope that someday in your life, your passion and your work will merge together,” Hoogstra said, “because I have been so fortunate in my life, and I hope that you will also have that opportunity. It has all made me very grateful and amazed at the way the Lord can bless you when your passion and your work come together.” 

A merging of passion and work shouldn’t be a problem for Aaron Katzenberger, a graduate of the business school’s PGA Golf Management program. 

“During my time at Campbell, I’ve been equipped with skills in a variety of business acumen that has prepared me to be an effective individual, not only in today’s workforce, but also in coaching individuals and growing the success of the golf industry.

“Graduating from college means a new beginning. I can now take the tools that so many have given me and use them to help others. This is about celebrating accomplishments and tipping the cap to all who got you here.” 

Avery Browning, who earned a dual degree in elementary education and theater education, said she won a goldfish during a student-run event her freshman year. Her fish, named “Swim Fish,” survived all four years, she said, likely hearing about her many “amazing memories” during that time. 

“Some of my favorite memories came from the theater department, producing shows to learning new skills that I didn’t even know I had,” she said. She pointed to her time in the department’s recent production of Winnie the Pooh, which brought in large crowds of local elementary children during its short run.

“My students still talk about it,” she said. “We were able to fill the theater space with people from all ages and backgrounds with laughter, love, excitement and joy. I was in the theater department during COVID when the maximum capacity was just 10 people. To be able to experience this with an amazing cast and see a full theater was an amazing, breathtaking experience.” 

Engineering graduate Georgia Yeargin’s advice to future Campbell students is to surround themselves with a diverse set of peers, both in and out of their major.

“A solid support system of friends is one of the best ways to succeed in college,” Yeargin said. “But never forget that it is your effort that determines how well you do, not theirs.”

Editor’s Note: A special congratulations to Evan Budrovich, who earned his Master of Business Administration from the School of Business on Saturday. Evan has run Campbell’s social media for the past few years and is an exceptional voice and advocate for Campbell University. He was already a Camel before the degree, but now it’s official.