Lees-McRae College Commencement was held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 22 at the Williams Physical Education Center inside Williams Gymnasium on the Banner Elk campus. Degrees were conferred upon 228 students, the largest graduating class in the history of the four-year, liberal arts college.
Incoming President Barry M. Buxton delivered the commencement address called "Fulfilling the Promise". He reminded graduates and the audience of the courage Rev. Edgar Tufts displayed when he moved to Banner Elk in the late 1890s to improve the lives of the people of Banner Elk and Avery County. "This young couple, Edgar and Bessie Tufts, had the courage, vision and dedication to found Lees-McRae College"ï¿½to work together, tirelessly, for the benefit of Appalachian people."
He also spoke of the joy of returning to the mountains of Appalachia with his wife Debbie to serve Lees-McRae. "Coming to Lees-McRae is coming back home for both me and my wife, Debbie. We grew up in nearby Blowing Rock and we are proud to be from this place"ï¿½proud to be Appalachian."
"One only needs to spend a day on this campus to realize that Lees-McRae College is a family"ï¿½a family that loves one another and aspires to great service," President Buxton said.
After the conferral of degrees and the induction of the Class of 2010 into the Alumni Association by Alumni Council President Kim Garrison Palmisano '83, Joshua Kurtz was honored with the H.C. Evans, Jr. Fidelity Award. This award, named for the College's ninth president, recognizes academic excellence, campus citizenship, friendliness and service to the College. The recipient is selected by the graduates themselves, approved by the faculty and represents the highest ideals of the graduating class.
Joshua Kurtz from Oak Ridge, NC, earned a degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Religious Studies. Kurtz served as a captain on the men's basketball team, was a member of the honors program, and a resident director in Tate Residence Hall. He is also a member of a legacy family. Kurtz's father Michael also attended Lees-McRae. After graduation he hopes to teach middle school, and is currently in the process of applying to several school systems.
About the Speaker: Barry M. Buxton will become fifteenth president of Lees-McRae College on June 1. A native of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, President Buxton has a long history of involvement with institutions of higher education in Appalachia. During the decade of the 1980s, he served as Executive Director of the sixteen-member Appalachian Consortium. In this capacity, he worked with faculty on research projects, scholarly conferences, and publications related to Appalachia. In 1987, he received a distinguished service award from the Blue Ridge Parkway in recognition of the historic studies he conducted of Mabry Mill, Moses H. Cone Estate, Davey Farm, and Brinegar Cabin.
Most recently President Buxton served as Vice President for Special Projects at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he was responsible for major gift solicitation, leadership development, and foundation relations. He also served as executive liaison to the Savannah, Atlanta, and European Boards of Visitors.
In a diverse career spanning 35 years, he has been a teacher, researcher, publisher, editor, and community leader with extensive international experience. He has served as a consultant to such diverse organizations as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Tennessee State Board of Regents, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Texas A&M University. President Buxton is a past member of the North Carolina Humanities Council and the Nebraska Humanities Council.
He holds two degrees from Appalachian State University, where he received his teacher certification and was an E.F. Lovill Fellow. His Ph.D. is from the University of Nebraska, and his dissertation was titled "Job Satisfaction of College and University Presidents."
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