HANNIBAL – 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.
“This day marks the achievement of goals set long ago, met through diligent study and personal sacrifice. What a joy it is for me to see today many of your faces, remembering the time I shook your hand as you came through the arch,” said Dr. Allen, HLGU President, referring to HLGU’s traditional Walk of Honor. He continued, “Today we will complete that process by again shaking your hand to see you off to your future.”
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.
During her time at Hannibal-LaGrange, Mrs. Todd has creatively found avenues to meet the needs of her department, including securing grants and donated equipment, as well as collaborating with other departments. She has a heart for HLGU students, and she serves them well as a teacher and mentor, often opening her home to them.
Mrs. Todd is known as a hard-working team player who embodies the University’s motto, “Knowledge for Service,” not only at the Institution, but also in the community. She leads STEM-oriented summer camps, a competitive robotics team, and involves herself in numerous ministries.
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.
Mrs. Johnson’s career has been focused in the admissions and enrollment management departments at HLGU. She currently serves as the office manager for the office of admissions where she works closely with many other office personnel and displays a disposition of encouragement and a servant’s heart.
A graduate of HLGU, Mrs. Johnson is married to Brent, also an HGLU 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.
Special music during the ceremony was presented by graduate Angie Smith. Smith sang and performed on piano an original composition titled, “You Will,” with sign language interpretation by Sabrina Brookshire, assistant professor of theatre.