School News
Austin College Commencement weekend approaching
By Austin College
May 9, 2018
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Sherman, Texas -- Austin College seniors and their families are counting the days until graduation weekend, culminating with Commencement exercises for more than 280 Bachelor of Arts degree candidates in the Class of 2018 and 12 Master of Arts in Teaching degree candidates. The ceremony is Sunday, May 13, at 8:30 a.m. on the Clyde L. Hall Graduation Court on the north side of the campus.

In case of rain, the ceremony moves to Sid Richardson Center inside Robert T. Mason Athletic/Recreation Complex, with simulcast viewing available in multiple locations for overflow seating. 

President Steven P. O’Day is eagerly anticipating his first Austin College Commencement exercises alongside Board of Trustees chair David Corrigan of Dallas, who approves the conferring of degrees for students on behalf of the board. Corrigan, a 1981 graduate of the College, is president and CEO of Corrigan Investments, a commercial real estate development and investment firm in Dallas.   

The crowd, which usually numbers close to 4,000, will watch closely for their “own” graduate as faculty, graduates, and other dignitaries process through Williams Founders Plaza onto the Clyde Hall Graduation Court and to the rows and rows of white seats upon the green lawn. The procession is led by three bagpipers and College Marshal David Baker, professor of physics, carrying the official Austin College Mace. The College’s 1849 Founding Flag will be carried by Anhthu Shirley Banh ’19, president of Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow, with the 1968 Class Flag representing the 50-year anniversary class carried by Natalie Bencowitz Eustace and Harry Wistrand III, both Class of 1968; and the 2018 Class Flag carried by Senior Committee leaders Emily MacDonald and Jessica Mitchell. Members of the Class of 1968 and other “Golden ’Roos” will have spent the weekend celebrating the 50-year anniversary class reunion and will have special seating and recognition during Commencement.

Before graduates cross the stage to receive their diplomas from President O’Day, they and others in the audience will hear from two speakers and watch as President O’Day and Dr. Sheila Pineres, vice president for Academic Affairs, recognize several individuals for special honors.

Pranav Sheth, Class of 2018 and elected by his classmates, will present the Senior Address. Completing a major in business finance and a minor in political science, Sheth served as student body president in 2017 and has been active in many aspects of campus life. He was a member of the student team that founded the TEDxAustinCollege program and has served as a Public Affairs intern; an ambassador with Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow; a member of the Service Station Board; and a leader in Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity, among many other campus involvements.

The Commencement Address will be presented by Joyce M. Davis, a veteran journalist, author, and communications professional who has worked around the globe for some of the most respected news organizations in the world. Today, she lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where she is the founding president and chief executive officer of the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg and director of communications for the City of Harrisburg. Davis will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Austin College.

Melinda Veatch, a Presbyterian with a combined 21 years of experience in parish pastoral ministry and faith-based nonprofit leadership who will present the Baccalaureate sermon Saturday evening, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity.

John Hitt, the much-honored 26-year president of the University of Central Florida who will transition to president emeritus of that university this summer, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. He is a 1962 graduate of Austin College.

And, finally, that for which the graduates got up early: the conferring of degrees, first the Master of Arts in Teaching degrees, then the Bachelor of Arts degrees. Then come words of welcome to the new alumni from Austin College Alumni Board president Jeanne Thoes, Class of 1984 of behalf of the full Alumni Association. The new graduates will hear a few closing remarks from President O’Day as he sends them out into the world

Other participants in the ceremony include 2018 student body president Clarissa Caballero Pinedo ’19; Rev. Kenneth Page, pastor of Orangewood Presbyterian Church in Phoenix, Arizona, who will offer the invocation; Austin College chaplain John Williams ’84, who will offer the benediction; and members of the College’s A Cappella Choir, led by Dr. Wayne Crannell.  

More about the guest speakers and honorees

Commencement Speaker

Joyce M. Davis, a veteran journalist, author, and communications professional who has worked around the globe for some of the most respected news organizations in the world. Today, she lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where she is the founding president and chief executive officer of the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg and director of communications for the City of Harrisburg.


Previously, Ms. Davis lived in Prague, Czech Republic, and supervised broadcast services for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia, and many countries of the former Soviet Union. Her efforts on behalf of freedom of information throughout the world have garnered international recognition. A member of the Hall of Fame of Women in International Security and a fellow in media ethics at Washington and Lee University, Ms. Davis has lectured on foreign policy and terrorism at many noted institutions, including the United Nations.


She is a specialist on the Middle East and Islam and has written two books on the topics as well as a chapter in the book The Trauma of Terrorism (Psychology Press, 2005). Ms. Davis attended Loyola University in New Orleans and was one of only 20 journalists worldwide selected to a master’s equivalent academic/work program sponsored by Columbia University and the Centre de Formation des Journalistes in Paris.


Baccalaureate Speaker

Melinda Veatch has a combined 21 years of experience in parish pastoral ministry and faith-based nonprofit leadership. She and Glen Ely, her husband of 25 years, recently relocated to western Colorado where she is working with several community organizations and is activity involved with the Presbytery of Western Colorado.


From 2006 to 2017, she served as executive director of Tarrant Churches Together, a Tarrant County–wide nonprofit organization that engages congregations and community groups in collaborative community ministry. From 1996 to 2006, she served as associate pastor at St. Philip Presbyterian Church in Hurst, Texas, where her ministry included multi-level Christian education, mission, congregational fellowship, and pastoral care.


During her 21 years in the Fort Worth area, she was active in the larger community, working with the Fort Worth Advisory Commission to End Homelessness, the Compassionate Fort Worth Steering Committee, and the United Way Community Development Advisory Council. She also was actively involved in Grace Presbytery, serving on various committees and councils and as Presbytery moderator.


Dr. Veatch earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in education at Austin College, a Master of Divinity degree at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary.



Dr. John C. Hitt became president of the University of Central Florida in 1992 after a distinguished academic career at Tulane University, Texas Christian University, Bradley University, and the University of Maine. At UCF, he has created a tremendous success story, having overseen an increase in the quality of faculty, programs, and students, tripled enrollment, and recognition of UCF as a major metropolitan research university of major impact.


During his tenure, the university has undertaken more than $1 billion in construction, including more than 100 new buildings and the founding of the university’s College of Medicine. Dr. Hitt has received many awards and honors, including recognition as one of America’s 10 most innovative college presidents by Washington Monthly magazine and twice being ranked No. 1 on Orlando Magazine’s list of Orlando’s 50 Most Powerful People.


President Hitt has been active in higher education service nationally and has been an active in community leadership in the Orlando and central Florida region. He will transition into the role of president emeritus at UCF in July, retiring after 26 years as president.


A graduate of Austin College, Dr. Hitt earned master’s and doctoral degrees at Tulane University. He and his wife, Martha, also an Austin College graduate, have been married for 56 years.

Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 40 percent of students representing ethnic minorities. A residential student body of approximately 1,275 students and a faculty of more than 100 allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. The College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.