Speakers encourage faith to 2023 spring graduates during Ashland University’s commencement
ASHLAND, Ohio – Commencement speaker Marsha Curry-Nixon told Ashland University’s 2023 spring graduates that Saturday’s ceremony was about more than them.
“I know this is your big day, but I confess this isn’t about you,” said Curry-Nixon, founder of a flourishing ministry based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “It’s about Him. We stand here as evidence of what He is able to do for us through Him. We are nothing without Him.”
The theme that God has guided the grads to this point in their lives and will continue to do so after they leave AU prevailed throughout the event inside the Niss Athletic Center for the conferment of 133 master’s/doctorate, 382 bachelor's and 238 associate degrees.
“What we believe at Ashland is that there is one who is directing your course, who has seen what your future will embrace,” AU President Carlos Campo said in his welcome speech. “That’s our wish for you: that every moment you will know someone is directing your sails, even in your darkest times.”
Curry-Nixon shared with the crowd how God helped her through the darkest times of her life.
Early in her life, she suffered various levels of abuse, became a young mother, turned to drugs and ended up in prison for three years in the 1990s.
She said her remarkable transformation through God began while incarcerated, as she learned to forgive, found her faith and trusted that He had a plan for her future.
From there, she went on to earn associate, bachelor's and master’s degrees on way to creating her ministry, Amiracle4sure, which is focused on renewing, refreshing and restoring the life of individuals whose lives have been impacted by negative experiences.
Among the nearly 800 graduates were a number of grads who took similar paths as Curry-Nixon, transforming their lives with the help of Ashland University’s Correctional Education.
AU is home to the longest continuously operating correctional education program in the U.S. and goes along with the university’s Christian heritage, which believes in the importance of second chances. Established in 1964, Ashland University now delivers a transformational education experience to thousands of students within more than 120 correctional facilities across the country.
Salutatorian Glenn Rainey was one of those CE graduates. Rainey, of Natchitoches, Louisiana, earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies after losing his wife, children and well-paying job when he was sent to prison.
“Rediscovering his faith and discovering Ashland University would change him forever,” Dr. Rosaire Ifedi, Faculty Senate president, said in presenting him and the valedictorians, reading what his former site director and now state director, Kimberly Evans, wrote about him. “For Mr. Rainey, receiving the salutatorian award is strong proof that he is not defined by his mistake and that faith in God and perseverance ultimately pay off.”
Carrick Miller of Millersburg and Samantha Chable, of Centerville, who both graduated with bachelor’s degrees in exercise science, were the valedictorians.
Miller will continue his education at AU in its physician assistant program, while Chable will also continue hers in a PA program at Kettering College in Dayton.
Chable, a member of the 2023 Division II national champion AU women’s basketball team, gave the senior class presentation.
She emphasized not letting anything or any moment go to waste, based on the words of former AU track coach legend Jud Logan, who passed away in 2022: “What I had, I gave, what I save is lost forever.”
“Apply for that graduate program you have doubts about, apply for your dream job even if you think you need to start out small, tell that girl on the side of the street that you like her hair, and live in a way that relentlessly pursues your passions,” she said. “It is these little moments we have that make all the difference. Life is too short to doubt your abilities and not speak up for what you believe in.”
Some other highlights of the ceremony included Dr. Mason Posner, professor of biology, being named the newest Trustees’ Distinguished Professor; recognition of legacy students; and greetings from Ashland Mayor Matt Miller, an AU graduate who reminded the crowd that the university’s seal behind him as he spoke has a cross in the most important spot, the center, as a reminder that the center of AU “is an acknowledgment of the awesome, genuine and unconditional love of God.”
Like Campo, Curry-Nixon and Miller, others who spoke at Saturday’s ceremony continued the theme of God working through the recent grads.
“As you go, my prayer goes with you that you will bless those that God puts in your path and that you will make a profound impact on their lives as I know you will,” said Jim Hess, chair of the AU Board of Trustees.
“As we go forward, we ask for your continued guidance as we move into a new chapter in our lives,” said Mark Blitz, senior class president, for the benediction. “We ask you to help us conquer adversity with grace and accept achievement with prudence. We ask you to bless the road ahead and all the paths we may take as we use our gifts to give back to those around us. We pray that you will be ever present in our lives as we seek to stay true to our dreams, use our gifts and to walk into the future with faith, hope and love.”
The Scripture reading of Jeremiah 29:11 by Tiffany Sims, Student Senate president and 2023 spring grad, reassured the graduates that God will be ever present in their lives: “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Even though God will be there for them, Curry-Nixon stressed to the grads that they have to be ready for what He is going to do for them through them in their lives.
“I believe that you will change the world around you, but I believe it will require more of you because you are leaders,” she said to conclude her speech. “I believe you are able to sustain that through the grace of God and the purpose he has planned for you.”
Then with a big smile as she looked at the hundreds of graduates in attendance, she added: “This is what a miracle looks like.”
Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.