News Item

More than 200 students receive degrees at Lander University’s 154th commencement

December 14, 2016

Nearly 2,000 people packed Finis Horne Arena on Dec. 14, 2016, to see 222 graduates receive degrees at Lander University’s 154th commencement.

Representing the fall class were students from China, Germany, Canada, South Korea and British Virgin Islands – and nine U.S. states including Florida, Illinois and Ohio. 

“My experience here at Lander has been like nothing else,” said senior Chelsea Hall, who came from her hometown in Canton, Ohio, in 2011 to see the campus, and then pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Lander’s Nursing program. “And after all the hard work, it just feels so rewarding to finally graduate.” 

Delivering the commencement address was world rodeo champion and motivational speaker Amberley Snyder, who urged the new graduates to ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­“keep going – no matter what.”


Snyder, who was introduced by Lander equestrian team member Macy Reuss, was paralyzed from the waist down at age 18 in a tragic automobile accident. But she found a way to continue to ride horses and compete in rodeos, using a special saddle and belt.

Now at age 25, Snyder uses her story to inspire others and help them overcome daily obstacles by speaking across the country and addressing a Facebook fan base of 200,000 in a video series called “Wheelchair Wednesdays.” 

“There is going to be a time in your life when the odds are against you – when you won’t know what you’re capable of,” she told the graduates near the end of her address. “Those are the times you have to trust in God … and in yourself. So don’t be afraid to push yourself beyond your limits.” 

University President Richard Cosentino called for a second round of applause for Snyder, saying, “Thank you, Amberley. We are truly fortunate to have you here with us today.” 

Cosentino then recognized undergraduate academic honors, student veterans, student athletes, and the five finalists for the Thayer Award, lander’s highest academic honor.

Finalists included Myeongseok Simon Sim of Seoul, South Korea; Kay Wright Davis of Clinton, S.C.; and Dara Alexandra Neal, Melissa Williams Moore, and Jennifer Carolina Mull, of Greenwood, S.C. 

“Having five finalists for this honor shows the high academic caliber of this graduating class,” Cosentino said, adding, “I hope all 222 of our fall graduates will distinguish themselves in their chosen field.” 

Once all degrees were in hand and the commencement ended, the graduates and their parents and friends erupted in celebration with shouts, smiles, hugs, tears, picture taking – and above all, excitement that this part of their journey was successfully completed. 

“I’m going to miss being at Lander,” said Tripp Guinn, of Elberton Ga., who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems, “but it’s also exciting to be able move onto something new and go into the adult world.” 

Kristin Hess, a mathematics major from York County, S.C., added that while she too finds it hard to leave, she isn’t the only one in her family to feel the relief of earning a degree. 

“I know my dad’s ready for me to graduate,” she said, “because now he gets a raise.”

December 2016 Graduation.