Lees-McRae College conferred degrees upon 230 graduates during commencement exercises Saturday, May 5 beginning at 10 a.m. inside Williams Gymnasium on the campus in Banner Elk.
Mr. Robert S. Jepson, Jr., president and chief executive officer of Jepson Associates of Savannah, GA and a member of the Lees-McRae College Board of Trustees, delivered the commencement address "Making a Difference."
Jepson addressed the graduates. "If you understand the uniqueness of yourselves, that wonderful power of the human spirit, you can and will make a difference."
In his address, Jepson identified the operative words and thoughts from a Henry David Thoreau poem that he encouraged graduates to tie into their future lives: dreams, confidence and determination, direction, leadership, and success - each being important for those who wish to be a player in the game of life.
"If you want to be a player, the game of life is waiting, and, I promise you, it is fascinating. Many of the rules are made up as we go. There are no formal teams, but teamwork is absolutely essential. We do not choose sides, but rather we play positions which shift regularly. The game is as competitive as you wish.
"The more you desire to achieve, the greater the competitive task and the greater the level of necessary commitment. I encourage you to choose to be one who will make a difference, and let me share a secret with you - once you are on the field, you are hooked; you cannot be dragged away. Why? Because every true player knows that the only losers in the game of life are those who do not try," he said.
Jepson concluded his speech with a charge to the Class of 2012. "Well, graduates, the world outside is waiting for you. With wings on your feet, run to it! And when you get there, tell them that Lees-McRae sent you!"
President Barry Buxton conferred upon Jepson an honorary doctorate of business administration before his address.
"Dr. Buxton and distinguished faculty, the greatest recognition an education institution can bestow upon an individual is the Honorary Doctorate. The degrees are never given lightly, and I can assure that this honor is not received lightly. I will hold it close all of my days," Jepson said.
At the conclusion of Jepson's address, degrees were conferred upon the 230 graduates by President Buxton. Then, Alumni Board President Catherine Button Campe '89/'91 inducted the Class of 2012 into the Alumni Association.
Campe said, "It is my honor to welcome each and every one of you into the alumni association. As you go forth in life, it is my hope that you will remember and cherish your alma mater. You are now part of a long legacy of graduates who strive to make a difference in both their community and the College. Congratulations, Lees-McRae alumni."
Near the end of the ceremony, President Buxton honored two graduates with the H.C. Evans, Jr. Fidelity Award. Named after the late Dr. H. C. Evans, ninth president of Lees-McRae College, the Fidelity Award recognizes academic excellence, campus citizenship, friendliness, and service to the college and community. The recipient is selected by the graduates themselves, approved by the faculty and administration, and represents the highest ideals of the graduating class. Dr. Evans, after whom this award is now named, used to refer to the Fidelity Award recipient as "Mr. or Miss Lees-McRae College."
Charles Fernsell, a religious studies major and FBI hopeful, received the main campus Fidelity Award for his campus contributions including being a member of the honors program and Order of the Tower, a resident assistant, president of Alpha Chi Honor Society, a Student Ambassador, and a tutor for the Burton Center for Student Success.
Stephanie Beasley Haymore was awarded the Fidelity Award for extended campus students. A native of Surry County, Haymore is an elementary education major, a peer adviser in her Surry Community College cohort and worked closely with students, faculty and administrators at Westfield Elementary School and White Plains Elementary School in Surry County.
About the Speaker
Robert Jepson is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Jepson Associates, Inc., a private investment firm which he founded in 1989. He was formally chairman and CEO of the Jepson Corporation, a Fortune 500 diversified manufacturing conglomerate, listed on the NYSE, which he sold in 1989. In 1993, he became Chairman of Kuhlman Corporation, also a NYSE listed diversified manufacturing company, where he engineered a restructuring that resulted in the successful sale of the company to Borg-Warner Automotive in 1999.
Mr. Jepson and his wife, Alice Andrews Jepson, focus much of their philanthropy on higher education and are known benefactors in the field. Among their most notable contributions is the University of Richmond Jepson School of Leadership Studies, founded in 1992. The school is the only one of its kind in American academia. Mr. Jepson earned two degrees from the University of Richmond: a B.S.B.A. in 1964 and an M.S. in Commerce in 1975. The University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree in 1987, the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service in 1992, the Trustee Distinguished Service Award in 1994, and the President's Medal in 2002. In 1996, the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society awarded him the Medallion for Entrepreneurship. In 2008, The National Leadership Honor Society of Omicron Delta Kappa presented him with their Laurel Crowned Circle Award. He has also been awarded honorary degrees by eight other American institutions of higher education.
Mr. Jepson currently serves on the Board of Dominion Resources, Inc., in Richmond, Virginia, and is a member of the Dominion Audit Committee and the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee. He also serves on the Board of the Georgia Ports Authority in Savannah, Georgia, where he is Vice Chairman and serves on the Audit Committee. In addition, he is Chairman of the Board of Visitors of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Lucas Theatre for the Arts, a Member of the Board of Trustees of The Georgia Historical Society, all in Savannah, Georgia, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina. Mr. Jepson and his wife, in co-partnership with Mr. and Mrs. John Kane and Mr. and Mrs. Curtis G. Anderson, founded the Savannah Educational Alliance. This scholarship program provides full scholarships at Savannah State University for 24 graduates of the Savannah School System. In addition, Mr. Jepson and his wife have provided scholarships and professional stipends at Gonzaga University for the past 30 years.
In former years, he has served on the Boards of numerous NYSE listed companies, including Washington Water Power Company, Hecla Mining Company, and AGL Resources, Inc., as well as local and State charities in Georgia, including the Georgia Cancer Coalition. He has also previously served on Boards of Trustees of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio.
Mr. Jepson is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who of Emerging Leaders in America, Who's Who in Finance and Industry, Who's Who in the South & South West, and Who's Who in the South & South East.
Mr. Jepson holds an airline pilot's license and is a certified diver. He and his wife, Alice Andrews Jepson, have two sons and five grandsons.
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