Written by Sarah Shelley | Content Development Specialist

Students in the Class of 2021 hailed from 40 states and territories as well as multiple countries.

University of the Cumberlands held commencement ceremonies this spring to celebrate its newest graduates. Students in the Class of 2021 hailed from 40 states and territories as well as multiple countries, including Canada, Gambia, India, Jamaica, Madagascar, Serbia, Spain, Taiwan, and Ukraine, among others. Graduates from the Class of 2020 were also able to participate in this year’s ceremonies.

Cumberlands President Larry Cockrum gave his heartfelt congratulations to the students and offered them a few reminders as they take their next step in life.

“You will have a unique story to tell throughout your life about the circumstances of your senior year,” Cockrum said. “How you respond to circumstances is more important, more defining, and more lasting than the circumstance itself. Always remember that with hopefulness, with preparation, and with the proper tools, we are all capable of a new and positive beginning. Find the joy in life. Life brings opportunities and obstacles. Pursue the opportunities, and be persistent and patient in getting past the obstacles. Follow your heart, but use your head. Listen to the people around you, always looking to learn, grow, and try new things, and laugh a lot.”

President Cockrum also took a moment to recognize the family and friends who had supported the graduates while they were taking classes, noting their “sacrifice, concern, and labor of love” that helped the graduates succeed.

The university also honored exemplary students during its undergraduate commencement ceremonies on April 30 and May 1, acknowledging the students’ exceptional academic performance, leadership, and character.

Hutton Scholars include all undergraduate students who completed a minimum of 200 community service hours during their Cumberlands career. The Class of 2021 had 31 Hutton Scholars and performed 30,935 hours of community service throughout their college careers. The Corporation for National and Community Services values volunteer work at $25.43 per hour, making this graduation class’ total contribution to the community $693,603.

The administration also recognized students who had been accepted into the J.T. Vallandingham Scholastic Honor Society, the highest academic honor granted by Cumberlands. For acceptance, the students must have completed 96 hours of coursework and maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.75. There were 64 students from the Class of 2021 inducted into the honor society.

Presidential Scholars are those who have excelled academically and completed significant research in their major field of study, whose work is then reviewed and approved by both the academic department and the Presidential Scholars Research Committee. Presidential Scholars for 2021 include Kaelynn Abner and Hope Siler. Kaelynn Abner is the daughter of Tom and Monica Abner and is from Bainbridge, Indiana. She graduated with majors in psychology and human services. Kaelynn now plans to pursue a master’s degree in communications sciences and disorders at the University of Kentucky. Her project was “Benefits of Special Olympics on Volunteers.” Hope Siler is the daughter of Kenneth and Shannon Siler and is from Corbin, Kentucky. She graduated with a major in English literary studies and a minor in French. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in English literary history at Ohio University. Her research project was “Spiritual, Social, and Cognitive Empathetic Instruction through Narrative: Anne Brontë as a Self-Proclaimed Educator.”

Cumberlands also commended its graduates who won campus-wide awards based on their service to the community, impact on Cumberlands’ campus, and upstanding values.

The H.N. and Frances Berger Awards honor a male and female student from the senior class who demonstrate outstanding leadership and service to the university and to the larger community as a whole.  Recipients must also demonstrate sound academic achievements.

This year’s male Berger Award recipient was Samuel Golden. He is the son of Dr. Jeffrey and Emily Golden of Somerset, Kentucky. Samuel majored in chemistry and minored in biology. In addition to being an orientation leader and campus ambassador, Samuel also participated in ministry events and worked as a teaching assistant in the Department of Chemistry. He plans to pursue a career in the medical field as a dermatologist and participate in biomedical research.

The female recipient of the Berger Award this year was Mallory Allen. Mallory is the daughter of Steve and Dawn Allen of Corbin, Kentucky. She received a degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. At Cumberlands, she was a member of four honor societies, the Pre-Health Club, and the women’s junior varsity soccer team. She has completed more than 200 community service hours while a Cumberlands student, earning her status as a Hutton Scholar. She has been accepted into University of Kentucky Medical School’s Rural Physician Leadership Program Class of 2025 and, upon completion of the program, plans on earning her M.D. 

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Mary Mildred Sullivan Awards honor a male and female student who have made significant contributions to university life while demonstrating outstanding spiritual values.

The 2021 recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award was Miguel Reis. Miguel is the son of Wagner Machado Reis and Eliane Moraes de Carvalho of Lorena, Sao Paulo, Brazil. He received degrees in Christian studies and psychology. Miguel has been a member of Cumberlands’ soccer and track teams, being named an NAIA Academic All-Conference selection. In his role as a residence hall director on campus, Miguel developed a program devoted to helping students with their personal development. He also served as a leader in the Diversity Club. Off-campus, he delivered meals to children during quarantine, mowed lawns for the community, and participated in internships at a local church. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in project management at Cumberlands.

The Mary Mildred Sullivan Award was presented to Kaelynn Abner. Kaelynn is the daughter of Tom and Monica Abner of Bainbridge, Indiana. She received degrees in psychology and human services. While at Cumberlands, Kaelynn was a member of Psi Chi, the national psychology honor society; Tau Upsilon Alpha; and the Student Government Association. Off-campus, she volunteered more than 300 hours to serve individuals with disabilities through the Special Olympics, Indiana’s Autism Society, and her high school’s unified track team, a team she created for individuals with and without intellectual disabilities. Kaelynn will be pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Kentucky.

The Gorman Jones and T.J. Roberts Campus Leadership Awards are given to graduating seniors who have exemplified the roles and qualities of leadership on campus while maintaining high academic standing.

The winner of the 2021 Gorman Jones Award was Jennifer Stein. Jennifer is the daughter of Patrick and Melanie Stein of Louisville, Kentucky. She received a degree in accounting and business administration with a minor in Spanish. Jennifer is a member of Sigma Beta Delta, the business honor society, and is the first Cumberlands student to win the Society’s Educational Scholarship through a competitive international scholarship selection process. She was a member of the varsity volleyball team, which earned the National Champion of Character Team Award in 2018, and she was team captain in 2020-2021. She is currently pursuing her MBA with a concentration in accounting at Cumberlands.

This year’s T.J. Roberts Campus Leadership Award was presented to Matthew Fannin. Matthew is the son of Mike Fannin and Dana Dotson of Hindman, Kentucky. He received degrees in accounting, business, administration, and Christian studies. Outside the classroom, Matthew is a member of the business honor society and the HSB Business Club, through which he has volunteered in several community service activities. He plans to enroll in two master’s programs at Cumberlands to earn his MBA and a master’s in Christian studies.

The A.T. Siler Memorial Service Award honors a female student in her junior year of study who is expected to make an outstanding contribution to their community in the future. This year’s recipient was Katelynn Johnson. Katelynn is the daughter of Roy and Tonya Johnson of Williamsburg, Kentucky. She is majoring in accounting with an emphasis in finance and minoring in information technology. She is a member of several campus clubs and honor societies, and she serves as an office assistant in the Office of Financial Aid. Katelynn was named Miss Nibroc in 2019. In this role, she has volunteered in the community in various ways throughout the year. Her goals are to earn an MBA and a Doctor of Business Administration following her graduation from Cumberlands.

The T.E. Mahan Memorial Service Award honors a male student in his junior year of study who is expected to make an outstanding contribution to his community in the future.  This year’s recipient was Isaac Carmicle. Isaac is the son of Allen Shields and Jennifer Douglas of Stanford, Kentucky. He is a first-generation college student and has eleven siblings. He is majoring in biology with a minor in psychology. In addition to completing more than 100 hours of community service, Isaac also holds part-time jobs to pay for his education, and he has served as a peer tutor on campus. His long-term goal is to become a cardiologist.

The university thanks this spring’s graduates for their lasting, positive influence on Cumberlands’ campus and the community and congratulates all Class of 2021 scholars and award winners on a job well done.

From everyone at University of the Cumberlands, congratulations, Class of 2021!

Graduates who attended commencement ceremonies (both the Class of 2020 ceremony and Class of 2021 ceremonies) may visit www.ucumberlands.edu/classof2021 to download their graduation ceremony video and photos.