The 98th Mineral Area College Commencement saw about 220 students awarded associate degrees before a full house of family, friends, MAC administrators and instructors, as well as alumni and current students who gathered on a sunny Saturday morning in the Robert E. Sechrest Sr. Field House.
Commencement began with the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance” and ended with the “Fanfare and Recessional,” both pieces performed by the Mineral Area Fine Arts Academy Chamber Brass.
In his welcome and introduction, MAC President Dr. Joe Gilgour announced there were 350 students graduating from the Park Hills-based community college this spring, although not all were participating in Saturday’s ceremony. He also introduced this year’s faculty marshals — Dr. Nathan Calkins, Chemistry; Pam Jaycox, English; Dr. Shawn Young, Education; and Abril Warner, Art.
Following Gilgour’s opening remarks, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the MAC Singers, under the direction of Sherry Francis.
Distinguished Alumni Award
This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award was bestowed upon two Mineral Area College Law Enforcement Academy graduates who showed outstanding courage while keeping their oath to protect and serve. Patrolman Lane Burns and Corporal Garrett Worley, both members of the Bonne Terre Police Department, responded to a March 17 call that resulted in the death of Burns and left Worley hospitalized with serious injuries.
Burns was born in Joplin and grew up in Carthage, graduating from Carthage High School in 2009. Later that year, he moved to southeast Missouri where he fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer when he graduated from the MAC Law Enforcement Academy. He remained in the area, spending the early years of his law enforcement career in the Leadwood and Leadington police departments and the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Office. He had been with the Bonne Terre Police Department (BTPD) for the past five years.
While working with the BTPD, the department and many in the community fell in love with Burn’s quiet, but witty and sarcastic personality. He was known for constantly pulling jokes or pranks on his fellow officers. Some would try to keep up with his antics, but most didn’t even bother to try.
Burns received a Lifesaving Award from the BTPD Dec. 4, 2021, for responding quickly and professionally to a house fire in September of that year. He assisted in saving a human life and exhibited exceptional courage and performance in the line of duty.
Burns was an avid gamer who loved Ford Mustangs and attending hot rod shows. His greatest passion was being a father to his two children, Ivy Claire, 9, and Raiden Michael, 5.
Worley was born in Farmington and graduated from Bismarck High School in 2012. He attended Mineral Area College where he earned his associate degree in 2014 and graduated in 2015 from the MAC Law Enforcement Academy. He has worked at BTPD for seven years.
From a young age, Worley knew he wanted to be a police officer. As a small boy, he saved up all of his money and bought an old blue light that he used when pretending to pull over neighborhood kids on their bikes. Worley took pride in his work as a police officer and has touched numerous lives throughout his career.
Worley and his wife Litany live in Farmington. The couple married in 2018 and have two sons — Winston, 2, and Ryland, 1. Worley said he loves being a father and spending time with his boys.
Henry Y. Cashion Memorial Award
Following the recognition of Burns and Worley, Provost Roger McMillian announced that Conner Priest of Park Hills is this year’s recipient of the Henry Y. Cashion Memorial Award for Radiology Excellence. The award recognizes exceptional performance by a Radiologic Technology student for the entire two-year period of enrollment. It is given to the graduating student who has maintained academic excellence, outstanding clinical performance and a professional rapport as defined by fellow radiologic technologists.
Priest, a 2022 graduate of the Radiology Program at MAC, graduated with a 4.0 GPA with his Associate of Science degree after completing his classroom training at MAC and clinical training at Mercy Hospital-Jefferson. Pries plans to cross train and work in CT and MRI.
Outstanding Student Awards
Three MAC students were named recipients of this year’s outstanding student awards. They are Brittni Bader, Leadership & Campus Service and Art; Ethan Orsburn, Career & Technical Education; and Haley Hernandez, Athletics and Music.
The commencement address was delivered by the Rev. Ron Beaton, senior pastor of Memorial United Methodist Church in Farmington.
In his introduction of Beaton, Gilgour said, “Since moving to the area in 2019, he has become an active members of the Mineral Area College campus community. MAC basketball fans will recognize him as the public address announcer for the men’s and women’s home games. He’s also the campus pastor for the Cardinal Congregation, an interdenominational Christian ministry with a goal to create a safe and inclusive space for all students.
“Rev. Beaton is a board members of CASA of the Parkland, which has a mission to recruit, train, and support community volunteers who assist the court in protecting the best interests of abused and neglected children in the 24th Circuit, made up of Madison, Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois and Washington counties. He is also a member of the Farmington Kiwanis Club and Farmington Ministerial Alliance.
“Rev. Beaton earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Journalism from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, and a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Prior to his current position, he served as the pastor of United Methodist churches in Dexter, Appleton City, Montrose, and Rockville, Missouri.
“A native of Kennett, Missouri, Beaton and his wife Kasey currently reside in Farmington with their son Isaac and daughter Hannah.”
Addressing the graduates, Beaton said, “This day matters and you matter and today we celebrate you. We celebrate the knowledge you have gained from this venerable institution. There’s a saying that I’m sure most of you have heard — ‘Knowledge is power.’ It’s a term that was attributed to Francis Bacon. It’s the notion that knowledge is the most important tool to get ahead in this world — to have influence on the world around you. Physical might will only get you so far, but wisdom and knowledge can outlast any giant, they say. ‘Knowledge is power.’
“It should be noted though, I think, that the implicit logic in this statement is that power derived from knowledge is dependent on what you know that somebody else does not. Knowledge gives you power, but only if it’s knowledge used for your own good. Dr. Gilgour is wearing his adorable little hat because he was given specific knowledge in a specialized discipline that in turn gives him power to get a certain kind of job that requires a particular knowledge the average Joe does not have. The more specialized and detailed that knowledge we know, the more opportunities we have to succeed. ‘Knowledge is power.’
Beaton went on to say that such a statement encourages the knowledgeable to be “shrewd” and “ahead of the game” in a way that advances oneself or one’s career.
“Now listen, I hope that the knowledge you have gained here at MAC helps you to get a good job or helps you to further your knowledge elsewhere. But I wonder how the world might be different if you used the knowledge that you have gained at MAC for something other than power. Can you imagine a world where knowledge is not for power, but knowledge is for the sake of kindness and justice? Can we picture a world where the knowledge we procure is not for yourself, but for the benefit of others?
“I wonder how different the world would be if we started to gain knowledge primarily so the world would be more loving, more compassionate, more righteous? What if we started with the premise that knowledge is to make the world a more beautiful place? A more just place? A more loving place? What if knowledge was not self-serving? What if the money that you had spent on an education was not an investment in yourself? Or rather your education is the means for you to begin investing in others?
“I wonder how different the world would be if you left Bob Sechrest Field House and took whatever power that this degree gives you and share it with the powerless? Or if you took whatever financial advantage this degree gives you to share it with the poor? If this degree puts you in some circle of influence, I wonder if you could use your newfound influence to widen that circle so that it embraces the despised, the rejected, those on the margins so that they might have a voice?”
Beaton concluded his address by telling the graduates that “when one takes on the mind of Christ, knowledge is not for power — it is for love.”
Following Beaton’s address, McMillian recognized student honorees and then presented the candidates for degrees and certificates to the college president. Gilgour concluded the commencement ceremony with the conferring of degrees and certificates.
“I wonder how different the world would be if you left Bob Sechrest Field House and took whatever power that this degree gives you and share it with the powerless?” – Rev. Ron Beaton, 2022 MAC commencement speaker
Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-783-9667 or firstname.lastname@example.org