Dr. G. David Gearhart to Deliver Commencement 2021 Address on May 8

Commencement exercises for Westminster College’s 2021 graduating class will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 8, in a socially distanced outdoor ceremony in front of the College’s historic Columns.

In keeping with COVID-19 safety protocols the Class of 2021 adapted to throughout their unprecedented senior year, graduates and all other ceremony participants will be masked and seated in a roped-off area on what traditionally is referred to as “the Hill,” adjacent to Westminster Avenue.

Family members and other guests, who are encouraged to wear masks, will view the ceremony behind the reserved section.

Dr. G. David Gearhart, Chancellor Emeritus and Professor of Higher Education at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, will deliver the Commencement 2021 address.

A highly regarded Westminster alumnus from the Class of 1974 and member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, Gearhart graduated from the College with degrees in Political Science and Speech before embarking upon an esteemed career spanning decades in higher education.

He holds both a law degree and Doctor of Education degree from the University of Arkansas.

A native of Fayetteville, Gearhart served as Chancellor of the University of Arkansas from 2008 to 2015 following 10 years as Vice Chancellor for University Advancement.

As both Chancellor and Vice Chancellor, Gearhart was credited with overseeing a number of institutional improvements, including the first tuition freeze in 24 years, a $700 million campus capital plan, and the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century — the most successful capital campaign in Arkansas history, which raised more than $1 billion for academic programs.

Gearhart received the Black Caucus Lifetime Achievement Award and was named an Outstanding Teacher, Outstanding Faculty Member, and Outstanding Alumnus by multiple departments at the University of Arkansas, where he co-founded the National Lab for the Study of the College President.

Early in his career, Gearhart also served as Director of Development and Assistant to the President at Westminster College. He was named a distinguished Westminster alumnus in 1992. In addition, Gearhart was a member of the College’s Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2001.

Commencement activities will also include welcoming remarks by Interim President and Chief Transformation Officer Donald P. Lofe, Jr., who recently was appointed President and Chief Transformation Officer of the College, effective as of July 1, 2021.

Board of Trustees Chair James C. Morton, Jr., Vice President and Dean of Faculty Dr. David Roebuck, and Senior Class President Samantha Henderson of Louisiana, MO, among others, will also address the graduates.

During the ceremony, Mr. William E. Reller, Class of 1956, of Palo Alto, CA, and Dr. Monroe E. Trout of Appleton, WI, will receive honorary degrees from Westminster.

“The past academic year will be recorded as one of the most memorable in Westminster history,” Lofe says. “I am grateful to our faculty and staff for ensuring a successful academic year so our graduates could celebrate the conclusion of the education they worked so hard for, and I look forward to the conferral of their degrees this week, as well as welcoming our esteemed speaker and honorary degree recipients.”

Commencement 2021 will also include presentations of Seniors and Faculty of the Year as well as the Columns Ceremony, a Westminster tradition. Just as they are welcomed as freshmen into the Westminster community by walking through the Columns onto campus, graduates bid the College farewell by walking the opposite direction and out into the world.

In celebration of the College’s commencement activities, America’s National Churchill Museum, and the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, will open exclusively to members of the Westminster community, including graduates and their families, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There will be no admission charge.

Social distancing and all other COVID-19 protocols must be adhered to. The Museum and Church remain closed to the public because of COVID-19 concerns.

For those who cannot attend Commencement 2021, the event will be livestreamed on the College’s website and both its Facebook and YouTube pages.

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is a Media and Content Strategist at Westminster College in Fulton, MO. A 1992 graduate of the College, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communication in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.