Tiger Take-off




Legg tells Campbellsville University’s candidates for graduation to live a ‘life of giving’ in commencement address

Siu Ching Esa Tsoi of Hong Kong smiles with her diploma and a bouquet of flowers after her commencement ceremony. She received a Bachelor of Science in Fitness and Wellness Specialist. (Campbellsville University Photo by Hector Santana)

By Gerard Flanagan, news writer and photographer, Office of University Communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – College graduates often receive a trove of compliments as they prepare to receive their diplomas, ranging from their strong work ethic to their talents, or perhaps their perseverance.

But, Dr. Hilda Legg, in her address at Campbellsville University’s commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 6, in the Powell Athletic Center, gave the graduates a unique compliment, calling them “a bunch of fruit.”

“Let me tell you what kind of fruit you are,” Legg told the candidates for graduation. “You are the fruit of your mother’s womb, the fruit of your parents and family who have been parenting you.

“You’re the fruit of your teachers, your coaches, your principals, and you are the fruit of Campbellsville University.”

The university held three commencement ceremonies—one on Friday, May 5 and two on Saturday, May 6. Campbellsville University had 1,344 candidates for graduation in May and August.

Legg, member of the Board of Trustees at Campbellsville University and 1974 graduate of Campbellsville College, said so many have chosen to give to Campbellsville University, whether of their money or time, because they “know the value of this fruit” and “know the value of each one of you graduates.”

Legg referenced Galatians 5:22, which lists the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness and faith.

“That’s who you are, graduates,” Legg said.

She asked the candidates if they were ready to step up to the challenge and fill the face of the world with the fruit of the Spirit, alluding to Isaiah 27:6.

She told the soon-to-be graduates, “Your purpose is to enable, motivate, assist, love, support, care, and listen to others who need you. You’ll be using your fruit and cultivating other fruits when you do this, so the world can be fed and nurtured and grow, and most importantly, so that you can live a life of giving.”

The world, Legg explained, is in need of these fruits.

“The world needs more of that joy, love, sweetness, gentleness, goodness, and peace,” Legg said, “and you are those who can share.”

Growing up, Legg said she hadn’t traveled much outside Kentucky and its surrounding states. Today, through her work, she’s been to more than 15 countries, including a recent trip to the Holy Land.

“The point to that is this: I couldn’t have imagined the opportunities in front of me that I have been given and blessed with,” she said. “…There’s so much ahead of you that you can’t even comprehend.

“No matter what you do, you are going to be blessed when you give of yourself, when you find the joy in giving.”

Legg told the graduation candidates that their task is to make the world a better place by sharing their fruit.

“That effort will bring you love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, goodness, and maybe most importantly, faith,” she said. “…And along the way, my prayer for you is that God will hold you in the hollow of His hand, and a life of giving will be your best life to live.”

Legg has over 40 years of experience in rural economic development, including as administrator of the Rural Utilities Service and as alternate federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

She was most recently the Kentucky State Director for Rural Development in the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the administration of Donald J. Trump.

She’s also served in the U.S. Department of Education.

Legg has also served as CEO and executive director of the Center for Rural Development in Somerset and field representative for United States Senator Mitch McConnell.

Today, she works at Legg Strategies as a consultant on rural economic development.

Dr. Hilda Legg told the candidates for graduation to live a life of giving and to make the world a better place by exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness and faith. Legg gave the address at Campbellsville University’s two commencement ceremonies on Saturday. (Campbellsville University Photo by Hector Santana)

In her address at the Friday ceremony, Dr. Michelle Tucker, dean of the Carver School of Social Work at Campbellsville University, said her pastor, Rev. Montel Richardson, recently gave a closing prayer at church and asked congregation members to reach across the aisle and join hands.

During the prayer, Richardson said, “We know God can do all things… except fail.” Tucker remembers the discomfort she felt trying to join hands with fellow churchgoers. These things resonated with Tucker.

“You see, God not failing, and the uncomfortable stretches are so evident throughout my life, especially when I think about my educational and professional journey,” Tucker noted.

Tucker started college in August of 1989 as a first-generation student, ready to leave her hometown of Campbellsville. Over time, she gradually veered off track and eventually dropped out of college.

Fast forward to 1996, and Tucker, after being encouraged by her husband to return to college and finish her degree, applied to then Campbellsville College. Though initially denied due to her poor academic history, she was granted an exception after pleading her case.

A meeting with her advisor, Dr. Darlene Eastridge, who later became the first dean of the Carver School of Social Work, introduced Tucker to the social work profession for the first time.

“Could this really be the major I had been looking for?” Tucker said. “I decided to give it a chance and registered for classes.”

Tucker soon discovered she had no financial aid left, but a few weeks later, a former employer called Tucker and said she would be receiving a cash payout from the company’s stocks, which helped her pay for the last part of her education.

From there, Tucker got her Bachelor of Social Work from Campbellsville University in 1998 and worked in child protection services while working toward her Master of Social Work, finishing practicum hours and raising three children.

She was offered a research assistant position at the University of Louisville, which included a salary and tuition, before working in the Master of Social Work program at the Carver School after completing her doctorate.

“God still continues to call me to the uncomfortable stretches, but he also never fails me,” she said. “There is a peace and recognition that no matter where he guides me, his purpose for my life will not fail.

Tucker reminded the graduates that this is also true for their lives.

“God’s plan for your life is only just beginning,” she said. “He has so much more in store for you. I encourage you to lean into those uncomfortable stretches and never forget that God can do all things… except fail.”

Chris Davis, second from left, director of grounds and assistant director of special projects at Campbellsville University, and his wife, Leslie, advertising and social media coordinator, both of Campbellsville, pose for a photo following their commencement ceremonies along with their children, Pace, far left, and Parker, far right. Both received Master of Business Administration degrees. (Campbellsville University Photo by Alexandria D. Dalton)

During his charge to the graduates, Dr. Joseph Hopkins, president of Campbellsville University, discussed the university’s motto, “Find your calling.”

Hopkins told the graduates that finding one’s calling goes beyond a single moment. He noted that Scripture contains numerous accounts of those who followed God’s direction only to receive another calling or a refinement of the original calling.

“Think about Abraham, Moses, Jacob, or even the disciples and how God’s plan was revealed step by step,” Hopkins said. “And how many in this room could testify that the calling upon their life today has evolved or shifted from that first moment of clarity?”

Hopkins noted that those who can effectively navigate life’s unexpected changes would make the greatest impact.

“Continue to seek God’s calling on your life,” Hopkins said. “Continue to ask how your talents, efforts and passion can make a difference. And continue to give the glory for all of this to the One Who gives the calling, equips us for the task and guides us on the journey.”

Three graduates responded to Hopkins’ charge.

Responding to Hopkins’ charge at the Friday ceremony, Jordan Amburgey asked his fellow graduates how often they had been asked about the next steps in their lives.

“Sure, we may have an answer or a response of some kind, but the truth is we are not always going to know what’s next in our lives,” he said. “However, we have Someone who will always know what’s next.”

Amburgey, who received a Master of Music in piano pedagogy and performance, read Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

“I often find myself in a hurry as though God’s plan has a deadline to be met,” Amburgey said. “In reality, God’s timing is always perfect. He is never late. He’s never early. He’s always perfectly on time.”

Amburgey closed by reading Isaiah 30:21: “Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

“Wherever we go, if we listen to God, He will guide our path, one He has set us on,” he said.

Jordan Amburgey, of Campbellsville, Ky., gets a laugh out of the audience as he tells his story of how God turned a “hillbilly” into a piano player. Amburgey received a Master of Music in piano pedagogy and performance. (Campbellsville University Photo by Alexandria D. Dalton)

Lauren Alexandra Phillips, of Campbellsville, Ky., who received a Bachelor of Science in Theater, spoke about the change in direction in her life as she responded to Hopkins’ charge in the first ceremony on Saturday.

“I eventually did find my calling, after some plans changed, and then changed again, and then changed another time after that,” she said.

Phillips said she and her fellow graduates have a responsibility to inspire positive change, and they have an additional responsibility to honor God in their actions, words and impact.

“Dr. Hopkins, on behalf of my fellow graduating students, I would like to accept your charge and state that the graduating class of 2023 has seen change, has overcome change and will now go out into the world and inspire change,” Phillips said.

Ashley Denacia Simpson, who received a Bachelor of Social Work, responded to Hopkins’ charge during Saturday’s second ceremony.

“While being a student here at Campbellsville University, I have learned that things don’t always go as planned, and for some of us, that is hard to accept,” Simpson, of Louisville, Ky., said.

Simpson reminded her fellow graduates of Proverbs 16:9, which says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

“Therefore, we must trust in Him to guide us through life,” Simpson said.

She told her fellow graduates that they each had a different journey toward graduating.

“We have struggled, overcome, and gotten stronger along the way,” she said. “As we commence into this new chapter, I want us to remember this moment and remember that you have demonstrated to both yourself and those around you that you are capable of success.”

Dr. John Chowning, center, executive assistant to the President for government, community and constituent relations at Campbellsville University, receives the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Community Award. Making the presentation were, from left, Dr. Joseph Hopkins, president of Campbellsville University, and Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs. (Campbellsville University Photo by Alexandria D. Dalton)
Mary Kate Cecil, center, of Louisa, Ky., receives the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award. Cecil received a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education (Primary-5) and Spanish. Making the presentation were, from left, Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Joseph Hopkins, president of Campbellsville University.(Campbellsville University Photo by Alexandria D. Dalton)

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Community Award was presented to Dr. John Chowning, executive assistant to the President for government, community and constituent relations at Campbellsville University.

For over three decades, Chowning has served in various capacities at the university, including two terms on the Board of Trustees and a stint as the board’s chair. He also served in the administration as a vice president.

Chowning, a native of Cumberland County, Ky., is in his 30th year as pastor of Saloma Baptist Church in Taylor County.

He has been active in several ministry organizations and is involved in reconciliation ministry – working with others across the community, state and nation to bring people of faith together across racial, ethnic, and denominational lines.

He and his wife, Cathy Pence Chowning, are the parents of four children and have four grandchildren.

Chowning received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from Campbellsville University in 2013.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award was presented to Mary Kate Cecil, who received a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education (Primary-5) and Spanish.

Cecil, of Louisa, Ky., served two terms as president of the Student Government Association (SGA) at Campbellsville University.

She was also secretary for SGA and a Presidential Ambassador. She spent two years as a member of the Education Club council and was a resident assistant at Stapp Hall for two years.

Campbellsville University was selected in 2002 to participate in this prestigious awards program that honors the memory and legacy of the late Algernon Sydney Sullivan. Only 70 colleges and universities are approved by the Sullivan Foundation to annually present these awards to one graduating senior and to one community member.

Jakob Zum Kolk of Germany smiles after his commencement ceremony. He received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. (Campbellsville University Photo by Hector Santana)

Along with Cecil, the co-valedictorians, with their degree listed, are as follows: Angela Dawn Carman, of Liberty, Ky. (Bachelor of Social Work); Victoria Danielle Marie Cox, of Campbellsville, Ky. (Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication Area); Elinor Marie Keck, of LaGrange, Ky. (Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Ministry); Mason Andrew Lee, of Brandenburg, Ky. (Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Physical Education, P-12); Kate Proctor, of Jamestown, Ky. (Bachelor of Science in Mathematics); Carly Brooke Sage, of Louisville, Ky. (Bachelor of Science in Psychology); and Logan Wade Verble, of Goreville, Ill. (Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration).

Co-salutatorians were Macy Jo Brown, of Greensburg, Ky. (Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accounting); Austin Lanham, of Greensburg, Ky. (Bachelor of Science in General Business); and Lauren Alexandra Phillips, of Campbellsville, Ky. (Bachelor of Science in Theater).

Ashley Fox, director of alumni relations, welcomed the graduates to the Campbellsville University Alumni Association, which she called a “very proud, loyal and diverse family.”

“Your time here has equipped you with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in your chosen fields, but perhaps more importantly, it has instilled in you a sense of purpose, character, and service that will guide you throughout your lives,” Fox told the graduates.

She urged them to stay connected to their alma mater, saying, “As alumni, we have a unique responsibility to give back to the institution that has given us so much.”

“Whether it’s through financial support, volunteering, or simply staying in touch, we can all play a part in ensuring that future generations of students have the same opportunities that we did,” Fox said.

Erin Watts, of Hanson, Ky., celebrates with her son, Nolan, following her commencement ceremony. Watts received a Master of Social Work. (Campbellsville University Photo by Alexandria D. Dalton)

Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs, participated in the bestowing of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards. She also read the names of the graduates, along with assistance from Nagamani Palla, instructor of computer science.

Of the 1,344 students receiving degrees, 17 received associate’s degrees, 332 received bachelor’s, 989 received master’s and six received doctorate degrees.

Candidates for graduation receive their degrees on the recommendation of the faculty and the approval of the Board of Trustees.

Dr. Tony Cunha, dean of the School of Music, led in the singing of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and the university’s alma mater, “Campbellsville, We Love Thee.”

At all three ceremonies, The CU Brass Ensemble performed; Henry Lee, chair of the Board of Trustees, gave the invocation; and Dr. Twyla Hernandez, professor of Christian missions and chair of the faculty forum, gave the benediction.

For additional commencement photos, visit Campbellsville University’s Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/campbellsvilleedu/albums.

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university that offers over 100 programs including doctoral, master, bachelor, associate and certificate programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.