Written by Sarah Shelley | Content Development Specialist

More than 2,100 graduates celebrated the completion of their undergraduate or graduate degrees from Cumberlands this spring.

It was another joyful graduation weekend at University of the Cumberlands as the campus hosted annual commencement ceremonies.

More than 2,100 graduates celebrated the completion of their undergraduate or graduate degrees from Cumberlands this spring. Many graduates attended commencement ceremonies in person on the university's Williamsburg campus the first weekend in May to celebrate their accomplishments.

"Graduates, today marks a significant milestone in your lives," said Dr. Larry L. Cockrum, university president, during the ceremonies. "You have persevered through years of hard work and dedication and now stand here, ready to take on the world. I am honored to congratulate each and every one of you on your outstanding achievements."

President Cockrum offered heartfelt advice to the newest graduates – in short, to dream big, work hard, make mistakes, and always be kind. He said those were the lessons that have gotten him through his life and made all the difference and encouraged graduates to try it for themselves.

The Class of 2023 from University of the Cumberlands hailed from all 50 states and territories – as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam – and from 21 countries around the world. Many diverse cultures, languages, and backgrounds were represented in the graduating class, all sharing a universal commitment to education and determination to succeed.

Of the Class of 2023 undergraduate students, 134 earned Latin honors of Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, or Summa Cum Laude. A Cum Laude Latin honor denotes students earned a cumulative GPA of 3.70 to 3.84 , Magna Cum Laude denotes a cumulative GPA of 3.85 to 3.94, and Summa Cum Laude denotes a cumulative GPA of 3.95 to 4.0.)

On-campus undergraduates who completed 96 hours of coursework (with a minimum of 48 hours obtained at Cumberlands), who maintained a 3.75 cumulative GPA or higher with at least a 3.50 GPA for their first 48 credit hours of college classes, and who have no incomplete courses (barring ongoing Presidential Scholar research) are designated J.T. Vallandingham Scholars by University of the Cumberlands. It is the highest academic honor bestowed by the university. Of the Class of 2023, 308 were named J.T. Vallandingham Scholars.

While academics are important, college is about more than grades. Among other values, Cumberlands emphasizes the importance of community service. The on-campus undergraduate Class of 2023 performed 42,085 hours of community service during their college career.

Moreover, Cumberlands designates as "Hutton Scholars" the graduates who have served their respective communities for 200 or more hours during their college career. Of the on-campus undergraduate Class of 2023, 80 students were named Hutton Scholars.

Several graduates won campus awards this year as well, including:


Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award – William “Ethan” Comer

Ethan Comer is from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and was a Christian studies major.

At Cumberlands, Ethan was an active member of campus ministries and served in leadership roles with Appalachian Ministries and Evangelism Disciple Making. He also took on the role of Cumberlands’ campus mascot, Patriot Pete. In this role, Ethan participated in a number of campus events where he shared the spirit of Cumberlands with a number of stakeholder groups, including current and prospective students. (He kept his identity as Patriot Pete hidden until graduation day – when he wore the mascot’s costume boots as he walked across the stage to receive his degree from President Cockrum.)

Ethan came to University of the Cumberlands as a transfer student from the Georgia Military Institute.  He continues to serve the U.S. Military as an active National Guardsman and oversaw a number of ROTC events on campus, often leading in prayer.

Ethan’s future plans include attending Liberty University and working toward a Master of Divinity: Professional Chaplaincy – Military Program.  Ultimately, he would like to be an Army chaplain, a ministry he has felt called to since high school.

Mary Mildred Sullivan Award – Madalyn Sutton

Madalyn Bethany Sutton is from Williamsburg, Kentucky. She was a double major in accounting and business administration.

At Cumberlands, Madalyn served as vice president of the Business Club and was a member of Sigma Beta Delta and Sigma Tau Delta.

Madalyn faithfully served her local community as pianist and a member of the choir at her local church, Goldbug Missionary Baptist Church of Williamsburg, Kentucky. At the church, she taught the Sunday School class for middle schoolers. Madalyn also served as a volunteer for Baptist Health of Corbin, Kentucky, assisting hospital staff and administration with the onboarding of other volunteers. She currently serves Baptist Health as a volunteer, providing patient care support for clinical healthcare providers.

Madalyn’s future plans include working in tax accounting at FWK & Associates in Lexington, Kentucky. She will begin the MBA Program at Cumberlands and seek her CPA licensure. Ultimately, she wants to continue to serve by providing financial literacy opportunities and teach others about Christ, both at home and abroad.

Gorman Jones Campus Leadership Award – Emma Lehmkuhl

Emma Lehmkuhl is from Ft. Wright, Kentucky. She was a double major studying Elementary and middle school education with minors in both Spanish and history.

Emma was a member of the university’s swimming and diving program, serving as dive team captain for three years. She was also Diver of the Year, an NAIA National All-American honoree, and College Sport Communicators (formerly CoSIDA) First Team Academic All-American for the NAIA. In addition to athletics, Emma was a part of the Student Government Association at Cumberlands.

Emma’s future plans include graduating in December and continuing her education with the master’s degree program in educational leadership at Cumberlands. Emma would like to teach fourth and sixth graders and, ultimately, serve as principal at an inner-city school.

T.J. Roberts Campus Leadership Award – Jaxon Moran

Jaxon Hugh Moran is from Union City, Tennessee. He was a double major in accounting and business administration with a minor in computer information systems.

At Cumberlands, Jaxon served as president of the Hutton School of Business’ Business Club, volunteered as a Kentucky Society of Certified Public Accountants (KYCPA) student ambassador, and was a member of Sigma Beta Delta. Jaxon was the T. E. Mahan Memorial Service Award recipient for the 2021-2022 academic year. Off campus, Jaxon has worked at a local healthcare facility.

Jaxon’s future plans include continuing to work at Dayspring Health as a staff accountant and data analyst while enrolling in the MBA program at Cumberlands and obtaining his CPA licensure.

Presidential Scholars

University of the Cumberlands offers undergraduate students who have excelled academically an opportunity to complete significant research in their major field of study. This advanced independent study or creative activity is conducted over two semesters as students are mentored by a faculty member. The resulting thesis and oral presentation are reviewed and approved by both the respective academic department and the Presidential Scholars Research Committee. This year, two undergraduate students completed the requirements for this honor:

Alexandra Miller – Psychology

Alex is the daughter of Felicia and Glenn Miller and is from Hazard, Kentucky. She has now graduated with a major in psychology and a minor in Christian missions and ministry. 

Alex’s research project was titled “The Relation Between Social Media Motives, Body Dissatisfaction, and Self-Objectification.” Her research directors were Dr. Haley Turner, Dr. Jane Whitaker, and Dr. Eric Stephens. Alex recently presented her study at the Bluegrass Undergraduate Research Conference in Bristol, TN.

Alex is now an intern with Love Thy Neighborhood in Louisville, KY. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

Kathryn (Hunter) Couch – Chemistry

Kathryn is the daughter of Scott and Carrie Hunter, and the wife of Gannon Couch. She is from Hindman, KY.  Kathryn has now graduated with a major in chemistry and a minor in biology.

Kathryn’s chemistry study was titled “Microwave-Assisted Chemical Recycling of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Bottles.” Her research director was Dr. Julie Tan.

Kathryn’s future plans include attaining a Master of Arts in Teaching at University of the Cumberlands with the intent to teach high school chemistry.