Cumberland University Hosts 177th Commencement Ceremony

Cumberland University hosted its 177th Commencement, celebrating the largest graduating class in university history. The graduate degree ceremony and hooding took place on Friday, May 3 and the undergraduate degree ceremony took place on Saturday, May 4.

Both ceremonies were held in the Dallas Floyd Phoenix Arena on Cumberland’s campus. An estimated 3,000 guests were in attendance, including the nearly 600 graduates, families, friends and university supporters.

The undergraduate commencement processional included Bob and Pam Black as the macebearers, followed by the 2019-2020 Student Government Officers as the honor guard, including President Kayla Sanders, Vice President Paige Hrobsky, Secretary Natalie Humphrey, Treasurer Josh Woodward and Student Liason Allie Garcia. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. C. William McKee opened the 177th commencement assembly.

The invocation was led by Elder Darryl M. Taliaferro of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and the Cumberland Chorale sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” accompanied by Lee Austin, instructor of Music, and conducted by Professor Brian Kilian.

Cumberland University President Dr. Paul C. Stumb welcomed the crowd and congratulated students for their hard work and dedication that led to this success. Cumberland Board of Trust Chairman W.P. Bone, III; Faculty Senate President and Assistant Professor Dr. Stephen Earnest, and Student Government President Kayla Sanders all spoke words of congratulations and encouragement to the graduates.

The following awards were presented during the ceremony:
Faculty Award of Excellence: Binh Ngo, Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting
President’s Award: Ashley Kambietz, Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting & Marketing
Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award: Virginia (Ginny) Lea, Bachelor Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Bachelor of Science in Psychology
Algernon Sydney Sullivan Community Award: Lawrence and Peggy West
President’s Award for Teaching Excellence: Dr. Julie Phillips, Assistant Professor of Biology
Faculty Promotions: Dr. Maxim Yurievich Melnikov from Associate Professor to Professor, Ms. Kerry Ann Moore from Instructor to Assistant Professor
Rising Phoenix Award: Autumn Blackburn
Award of Excellence in Humanities, Education and the Arts: John Fanning
Award of Excellence in Nursing and Health Professions: Misty Woodward
Award of Excellence in Science, Technology and Business: Leon Henderson

An honorary degree was awarded to Igor Babailov, master portrait painter. Babailov has created portraits of three Presidents, two Prime Ministers, members of the noble families and British Royalty, and three Popes for the Vatican. He has painted over 2,000 commissioned portraits, grand scale multi-figurative paintings and other works of art.

After the conferral of earned degrees, the University Singers performed the Cumberland University alma mater. The benediction came from University Chaplain and Assistant Professor Dr. Mike Ripski, and the valedictory and farewell from President Stumb concluded the ceremony.

For more information on Cumberland’s 2019 Commencement Ceremony, visit

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