Methodist University Celebrates Largest Class of Graduates in School History

Methodist University will celebrate the largest graduating class in school history at the 55th annual Spring Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 5 at 2 p.m. Since this year’s class exceeds the capacity of any campus facility, the ceremony will take place off campus for the first time, in the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.

There are currently 241 undergraduate candidates for graduation.

Retiring Methodist University President Ben E. Hancock, Jr., who has been President since March, 2011, will deliver the undergraduate commencement address. As part of the ceremony, the University will confer an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to A. Howard Bullard, Jr., a member of the Methodist University Board of Trustees and long-time Methodist University supporter.

The ceremony also will include the commissioning of four ROTC cadets and speeches by this year’s Distinguished Graduates, Brent Breedlove and Summer Combs, who were elected by the graduating seniors. One student also will be presented with the Lucius Stacy Weaver Award, which was established in 1964 in honor of the University’s first President. The award recognizes academic excellence, spiritual development, leadership and service.

Following the MU tradition for a student who is the first MU graduate from his or her country, Douah Coulibaly will present the flag of Mali, and Dulcine Djetouan will present the flag of the Ivory Coast.

The graduate commencement ceremony will take place on Friday, May 4, at 2 p.m. in Huff Concert Hall. Dr. Dickson Schaefer, a Fayetteville orthopedic surgeon who serves as treasurer on the Methodist University Board of Trustees, will deliver the graduate commencement address. Schaefer is a 1996 graduate of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and is a colonel in the United States Army Reserve. He and his wife Emily have four children.

The Rev. Dr. Jesse Brunson, a retired pastor with the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, will deliver the baccalaureate address at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 4, in Huff Concert Hall.

Commencement Speaker

Dr. Hancock has led Methodist University’s unprecedented growth in enrollment, programs, and facilities. During his tenure, a new School of Health Sciences has been established, which has led to the creation of the University’s first two doctoral programs in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. New programs have been created in Kinesiology, Engineering, Applied Forensic Science, Sport Management, Entrepreneurship, and Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity. 

Prior to assuming the presidency at Methodist University, Dr. Hancock served as Vice President for University Advancement at Ball State University, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Albion College, and Executive Director of the Boise State University Foundation.  He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian Studies and Master in Education from James Madison University and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Virginia.

He and his wife Debbie, a retired teacher of exceptional children, have five children and eight grandchildren. 

Howard Bullard

Asa Howard Bullard, Jr. is the president of Bullard Furniture, Inc. Bullard Furniture has earned many awards, including Retailer of the Year; North Carolina Retailer of the Year; and Methodist University’s Center for Entrepreneurship’s Small Business Excellence Award.

Bullard has been a member of the Methodist University Board of Trustees since 1996 and has been a source of wise counsel for his fellow trustees and Methodist University presidents. He has served as the board's treasurer and secretary and is currently on the Board of Trustees Executive Committee. He also served on the Methodist University Board of Visitors.

He and his wife Marta have contributed to campaigns to fund the construction of several Methodist University facilities, including the Horner Administration Building, the Library Annex, and, most recently, the Gene Clayton Tennis Center. Bullard also helped to establish the Bullard-Templeton Lecture Series in 2000, which explores the relationship between science and religion.

The Bullards have four children and 15 grandchildren.

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