Beautiful weather reflected the bright spirits of 200 graduates as they walked across the stage in ceremonial regalia to shake the hand of Hannibal-LaGrange University President, Dr. Anthony Allen, and receive their diplomas on Saturday, May 6.

The commencement address was given by Dr. Dwight Blankenship, HLGU Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees and pastor of Parkway Baptist Church, who spoke to the graduates on their vision for the future.

“In these moments before you receive [your diploma], what can I instill? What is the tool that I can give you?” Dr. Blankenship asked the graduates. “Every one of us ends up somewhere in life, but few of us end up somewhere on purpose.”

He continued, “Dear graduates, that’s what I’m sharing with you. Make your vision great. Make it big. Make it something that dares you to be more than you are…Dare to dream, be individuals of integrity, make obstacles into stepping stones, and learn the great lesson of forgiveness.”

Following the presentation of graduates, Brooke Kicklighter and Justin Dickson, selected Who’s Who Among Seniors at HLGU, led the graduates in the graduate pledge and in giving a standing ovation to thank all friends and family for their support.

Also at commencement, the Parkway Distinguished Professor Award was presented to Mrs. Michelle Todd. The award is given by Parkway Baptist Church in St. Louis, and selection is based on outstanding professional and personal contributions to Christian education.

Mrs. Todd has devoted 18 years of full-time service to HLGU where she serves as the business and computer information systems division chair as well as the computer information systems department chair. She holds the rank of associate professor. Mrs. Todd earned her associate and bachelor’s degrees from HLGU, and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree.

Mrs. Todd is married to Pastor Charles Todd, and is the mother to Mikayla and Marissa.

In addition, HLGU also honors one staff member each year. The staff member of the year has been awarded since 2010. The selection process includes nominations by fellow staff members with a vote of affirmation by the administration. This year, the award went to Mrs. Jenny Johnson. Mrs. Johnson holds the title of serving as the longest, continuously-working, full-time employee of Hannibal-LaGrange with 35 years of service celebrated this year.

A graduate of HLGU, Mrs. Johnson is married to Brent, also an HLGU graduate, and is the mother of two, Emily Charlton and Levi Johnson. Another title Jenny thoroughly enjoys holding is that of grandmother to Ruger and newborn Jackson Charlton.

Prior to the ceremony, the graduates processed through the HLGU arch on the University’s traditional Walk of Honor, symbolizing the end of their schooling and their entrance into the world as college graduates.

by Rebecca Sneed