Brewton-Parker graduates challenged, encouraged by commencement speakers

MOUNT VERNON -- In the moments preceding the time when the majority of 228 Brewton-Parker College graduates were presented their diplomas in commencement exercises Saturday, the morning's keynote speaker and honorary degree recipient offered encouragement and reflections on their respective upbringing and college experiences in the area.

Heddye Brinson Ducree, a Dublin native whose family has a long history in Montgomery County, offered an address filled with challenges to the attending graduates, family members, faculty, staff, and other friends who attended the ceremony in the Student Activities Center.

Following Decree's oration and in beginning the conferring of degrees, J. Olan Jones, the CEO and president of Baptist Village Retirement Communities in Waycross, was bestowed with the honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Since 1994, Ducree has served as director for the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding at Princeton University, a position from which she will retire in August and return to Dublin.

"In a world that is reinventing itself at an unprecedented pace, both technologically and politically, in a world filled with crime, violence, war and rumors of war, we cannot afford to lose our sense of what is truly important in our lives," Ducree said as she intertwined reflections of visiting family members in Mount Vernon.

"Your own integrity will keep you grounded in a culture that values material things, appearances and styles over substance, mission and commitment. It is my prayer that you will always see yourself in the same delight, pride and expectation with which God sees you, never allowing anything or anyone to limit you in any way, professionally or otherwise."

"Be determined to be all you are. You will only reach your greatest potential by realizing that your best today is not your best tomorrow."

Ducree offered her thanks for having God-fearing parents and a grandmother "who believed in God and believed in the power of prayer, education and hard work."

"As you prepare to leave these halls, leave determined to labor with integrity, to walk with dignity and to pray with persistence and power, and to light the way so that others may soar. To God be all the glory and honor."

Jones, who received an associate of arts degree from Brewton-Parker in 1953, received the honorary doctorate diploma from Dr. David Smith, Brewton-Parker's president, and a hood placed on him by Dr. Ron Melton, provost, and Dr. W. Starr Miller, president emeritus.

Smith read a resolution adopted by the Board of Trustees and the Brewton-Parker administrative council, which proclaimed that Jones was conferred the honorary degree "in recognition of his outstanding service to the cause of Christ through service of others," to affirm his exemplary service to Brewton-Parker as a student, graduate, alumnus and friend, and by "acknowledging the legacy and life ministry of this dear servant of God."

"This is a very emotional time for me," said Jones, who had his wife of nearly 48 years, the former Ann Perry whom he met while at Brewton-Parker, and five of his six sons join him for the event. "I have been surrounded by family all of my life who have been a source of encouragement and strength."

Jones said he was indebted to Brewton-Parker, where he said he felt a call to vocational ministry.

"So much of the values that I have lived by and that have guided me through the years, I learned while I was here at Brewton-Parker," he said. "You honor me today in a way for which I cannot even begin to understand or express appreciation. It is another of a long list of things that I do not feel are deserved but are gratefully received as from the storehouse of God's grace."

Later in the day, 50 Brewton-Parker graduates from the Savannah Center and the Liberty County campus in Hinesville gathered for commencement exercises at Calvary Baptist Temple in Savannah. Dr. John Connell, pastor of Calvary Baptist Temple, delivered the keynote address.

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Framed by the mortar boards of listening Brewton-Parker College graduates, Heddye Brinson Ducree, a native of Dublin and director for the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding at Princeton University, challenges graduates to maintain their integrity in all walks of life during Brewton-Parker's commencement exercises Saturday, May 10, at the Student Activities Center on the campus in Mount Vernon.
 

J. Olan Jones (second from left), the CEO and president of Baptist Village Retirement Communities in Waycross and a 1953 graduate of Brewton-Parker College, is draped with a hood by Dr. Ron Melton (left), provost, and Dr. W. Starr Miller, president emeritus, in accepting an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Brewton-Parker during commencement exercises Saturday, May 10, at Brewton-Parker's Student Activities Center on the campus in Mount Vernon. Jones received the honorary doctorate diploma from Dr. David Smith (right), Brewton-Parker's president, who also read a resolution marking the occasion.