Dr. Frank B. Ashley III delivered a nostalgic and encouraging keynote address during Saturday’s Louisiana Christian University’s 168th Commencement Exercises.
“I hate to tell you but earning this degree is only the beginning,” Ashley told the graduates not to be discouraged by that. “I know that sounds disappointing, but anything is possible if you are willing to just keep on learning.”
Graduates of December 2022, May 2023 and August 2023 participated in the ceremony.
“After I received my bachelor’s here, graduating ‘thank you, laude,’ I didn’t think I’d ever set foot on a university campus,” Ashley said. “Neither did some of your professors.”
Ashley earned his bachelor’s degree from LCU in Health, Physical Education and Safety. He went on to earn his master’s and doctorate from the University of Alabama.
Ashley, a 1999 LCU distinguished alumnus, has served in numerous administrative positions at Texas A&M in addition to being a senior professor. He oversees graduate education and research activities, as well as strategic planning, faculty affairs, student affairs, program development, diversity, assessment, communications and external relations, student services, and extended education programs in the Bush School.
He currently serves as the executive associate dean of Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service.
Ashley left graduates with a call to action.
“LCU has provided you with the tools you need,” he said. “So, Wildcats, go and take on the world. Go out and impact the lives that you touch. This is how our faith calls us to live our lives.”
LCU awarded diplomas to 259 students this year; 182 received bachelor’s or associate degrees while 77 received master’s degrees. Included in this group were the first graduates of the Jonathan E. Martin MBA program.
President Dr. Rick Brewer welcomed everyone and spoke to the graduates.
“Since 2018, LCU students have been through a tornado on campus, two hurricanes and an ice storm—and then the pandemic,” Brewer said. “You all deserve an ‘A’ in persistence and tenacity.”
During the ceremony, Ashley and Dr. Maggie Martin, of Alexandria, were awarded honorary doctorates.
Brewer remarked on both of their lives of service and the lives they have impacted.
Martin was recognized for her many years of distinguished support and service to the university and the community. The Jonathan E. Martin MBA program, named for her late husband, is a testament to the Martins’ contributions to the business community.
Several outstanding graduates spoke during the commencement exercises, as well.
Caleb Howe, who followed in the footsteps of several family members in attending LCU, said his time in Pineville allowed him to grow closer to God and develop lasting friendships.
Like Howe, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in education: biology concentration, Ashley Martin said attending LCU was not a difficult decision, as her parents met as teenagers on campus.
“Every moment at LCU has affirmed this is where I was supposed to be,” said the magna cum laude missions and ministries graduate.
Lady Wildcat basketball stand-out Miya McKinney, a criminal justice graduate, was recognized by Brewer during the ceremony as the Red River Athletic Conference women’s basketball player of the year.
McKinney teared up as she told the audience she was the first person in her family to ever graduate from college, and she recognized the impact her late grandmother and godfather had on her journey.
“Coming to LCU was a testimony all by itself,” she said. “My life was transformed here. I allowed God to take control of my life, and I’ve been blessed.”
Student Government Association President Shelby Cumpton, who graduated with a degree in history and a minor in political science, encouraged her fellow graduates to use the skills and knowledge gained at LCU and to serve the Lord faithfully.