Mars Hill University Confers Degrees on 195 Spring Graduates

Lauren Sermersheim

Lauren Sermersheim gives a student address.

“The beautiful and hardest thing about our time here is that it inevitably ends,” said Mars Hill University graduate Lauren Sermersheim, delivering a student address to her fellow graduates. “In some way, shape, or form, we move on to the next part of our lives. And while this unknown may be intimidating, it’s also invigorating.”

Sermersheim, from Asheville, North Carolina, was one of 195 students to receive either bachelor’s or master’s degrees during the university’s spring commencement on Saturday, May 11, 2024. The summa cum laude graduate double-majored in community and nonprofit leadership and in religion and philosophy. She told the audience, “Our time at Mars Hill has prepared us for this moment—and I believe we’re ready…. We leave Mars Hill ready to inspire, uplift, and empower those around us, and make the world a better place. Congratulations, and may our journeys be filled with purpose, passion, and endless possibility.”

Nurses on stage holding lit lamps.

Nursing graduates during the pinning and lamp lighting ceremony on Thursday.

Thirty-one graduates received master’s degrees, in criminal justice, education, management, or teaching. Undergraduate degrees presented were the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and Bachelor of Social Work.

The 14 Bachelor of Science in Nursing Students also were honored on Thursday during a pinning and lamp-lighting ceremony to mark their passage from the student role to the medical practice role.

Jonas Randolph

Jonas Randolph gives the student address representing the Adult & Graduate Studies program.

Jonas Randolph, a social work graduate from Asheville, gave the student address representing the Adult and Graduate Studies program. “Graduation is not about the end result,” he said. “It’s about the journey, the setbacks, the struggles, and the resilience that got us here today. It’s about the times we stumbled and fell, and chose to get back up and keep moving forward. Now we have the tools to take us where we’ve always known we could be. Endless opportunities await for us to let us serve our purpose.”

Randolph previously attended Mars Hill as a traditional undergraduate student and was a star on the football team, winning the 2011 Harlon Hill Trophy, NCAA Division II football’s highest player honor and comparable to Division I’s Heisman Trophy. He resumed his education in the university’s Adult and Graduate Studies program, completing the requirements for a Bachelor of Social Work degree.

Other students on the program included Deja Benton, a criminal justice major from Asheville, who gave the invocation; music education majors Judah Barak of Mars Hill, North Carolina, and Jared Dunn of Asheville, who presented special music; and Marcus Orta, a music education and music performance major from Traphill, North Carolina, who led the singing of the university “Alma Mater.”

Charlie Trammell with trustee vice chair Anna Renfro and President Floyd.

Charlie Trammell receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, presented by board of trustees vice chair Anna Renfro and President Tony Floyd.

The commencement ceremony also included the presentation of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Charlie Trammell of Memphis, Tennessee. Trammell, who attended Mars Hill in the late 1950s, is a trustee emeritus and a previous recipient of the university’s Philanthropist of the Year Award. He has been a major catalyst in Mars Hill University’s new strategic plan which has enrollment growth initiatives, facility rehabilitation initiatives, and a focus on rebuilding performing arts programs. He has provided funding for several women’s sports, student summer work opportunities, music scholarships, pay increases for employees, air conditioning for Huffman Residence Hall, renovation of Dickson-Palmer Apartments, renovation of areas within Moore Fine Arts Building, renovation of the theatre green room, renovation of the university pool, refurbished athletics locker rooms, and start-up funding to begin the acrobatics and tumbling program.

Group gathers to cut large blue ribbon in front of gazebo.

Ribbon cutting for Trammell Family Park.

Recent projects he made possible were the acquisition of and renovation of the gazebo lot at the corner of NC 213 and N. Main Street in downtown Mars Hill, construction of the new campus front gate, and renovation of the Sunken Garden. The Sunken Garden was dedicated on Friday morning and the “gazebo lot” was dedicated and named by the university as Trammell Family Park in a ceremony following graduation.