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Young Harris College Confers 167 Degrees During Commencement Ceremony

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

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Media Contact: Krystin Dean
(706) 379-5237,

Young Harris College Confers 167 Degrees During Commencement Ceremony
Emmy and Grammy Award-Winning Artist and YHC Alumna Trisha Yearwood, ’84, Delivers Address to Graduates

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Young Harris College conferred 167 degrees on graduates participating in the College’s Commencement ceremony on May 10 in the YHC Recreation and Fitness Center. The College awarded bachelor’s degrees in art, biology, business and public policy, communication studies, education, English, history, mathematics, music, music education, musical theatre, outdoor leadership, psychology, religious studies, and theatre.

YHC alumna and Grammy and Emmy Award-winning singer, author, and actress Trisha Yearwood, ’84, delivered the Commencement address to the graduates, sharing with them the importance of following their dreams and finding happiness in their lives.

“The one thing I would say is to be happy. If you find something you love to do, you’ll be happy. Whatever that is inside of you, don’t be afraid. Don’t settle,” said Yearwood. “When you’re very young, you have the opportunity to go out and try anything. Do it now. That thing you want to do, go do it. If you’re happy in your life, you’re going to attract happiness into your life.”

YHC President Cathy Cox presented Yearwood with an honorary doctor of music degree. One of the highest-selling female artists in country music history, Yearwood broke onto the Nashville music scene in 1991. She has recorded 12 albums and has had nine No. 1 songs and 20 top 10 hits. She has won three Grammy Awards, three Country Music Association Awards, two Academy of Country Music Awards, an American Music Award and a Pollstar Industry Award for touring. 

Yearwood has also released three successful cookbooks, which earned her the status of two-time New York Times bestselling author. She currently hosts “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen,” a culinary series on Food Network that earned her an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Culinary Program.”

While at YHC, Yearwood participated in musical ensembles, chorus, plays and operettas. She and her sister, fellow YHC alumna Beth Yearwood Bernard, ’81, of Tifton, Ga., who attended the ceremony, were both members of the Dorcas Society and each served as president of the Sigma Beta Sigma sorority.

“I made the best friends of my life at YHC. We have stayed connected to Young Harris; we haven’t always been on the campus, but we have gotten together almost once a year since we graduated,” Yearwood said. “There’s a bond, and it’s really hard to describe. People ask, ‘What is so special about Young Harris?’ It’s the people who are here.”

The Young Harris College Medallion, the highest honor bestowed by YHC to alumni and friends who have made extraordinary contributions, was awarded to Richard and Shirley McGinnis of Johns Creek, Ga. Richard joined YHC’s Board of Trustees in 2004, and the couple has enhanced campus programming and student experiences for more than a decade by supporting the College in many ways. They recently expressed their enthusiasm for the fine arts with a $4 million gift that is serving as seed money for the development and design of a new performing arts center.

YHC is among an elite group of Southeastern colleges and universities who annually bestow the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation Awards on outstanding male and female graduating seniors. President Cox presented this year’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to David Atwood of Waynesville, N.C., and the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award to Alyssa Lowery of Conyers, Ga. Created nearly a century ago to honor the service leadership of their namesakes, the awards are given annually by the Foundation to individuals whose nobility of character and dedication to service sets them apart as examples for others.

President Cox also presented three special awards to 10 outstanding students during the ceremony.

The Dr. Charles R. Clegg Outstanding Scholar Award, which was named in memory of a beloved past president of the College and recognizes graduating seniors with the overall highest grade point average, was presented to Sara Beaster of Murphy, N.C., Tiffany Goebel of Murphy N.C., Mark “Aaron” O’Tuel of Hartwell, Ga., Sarah Puett of Warne, N.C., Jacqueline Tallman of Hayesville, N.C., and Jeffrey Stewart of Young Harris, Ga.

Ashley Cross of Murphy, N.C., and Emily Espy of Cumming, Ga., were presented the Zell B. Miller Leadership Award for significant contributions to campus life at YHC as outstanding leaders and role models. The award’s name honors former U.S. Senator and Georgia Governor Zell B. Miller, ’51, a YHC trustee and distinguished alumnus. Miller was in attendance at the ceremony to personally congratulate the recipients along with his wife and YHC alumna, Shirley, ’54.

Brian Walker, of Powder Springs, Ga., and Carol Raterman of Lawrenceville, Ga., received the Young Harris Spirit Award, which recognizes the students who best demonstrate outstanding levels of personal integrity, friendliness and engagement with the campus community.

Many members of the senior class will go on to begin graduate programs and careers, including:

  • David Atwood, who will pursue a doctorate of physical therapy from Louisiana State University;
  • Ashley Cross, who was accepted into Emory University’s doctorate program in microbiology and molecular genetics;
  • Katie Earle of Blairsville, Ga., who will pursue a master’s in education leadership and management from the University of Roehampton in London, England;
  • Emily Espy, who will pursue a master of arts in teaching from the University of Georgia;
  • Breanna Gleeson of Adelaide, Australia, who will serve as director of the summer mission program at the Hinton Rural Life Center in Hayesville, N.C., and was accepted into the College of Charleston’s M.B.A. program with a concentration in revenue management;
  • Bowen Klosinski of Augusta, Ga., who will pursue a juris doctorate from Mercer University’s School of Law;
  • Alyssa Lowery, who will enter the doctorate of philosophy program at Vanderbilt University with a full scholarship;
  • Jordan Meeks of Lawrenceville, Ga., who will lead wilderness programming for international youth as a field instructor for Higher Ground Group, a leading provider of outdoor education and experiential learning based in Queensland, Australia;
  • Sarah Puett, who is working as a legal assistant at Schklar & Heim, LLC, a civil litigation firm in Buckhead, Ga.,
  • Jessie Robinette of Madison, Ga., who willteach Pre-K and kindergarten at Middle Ridge Elementary School in Newton County;
  • Daniel Sowell of Atlanta, Ga., who was accepted into the master of divinity program at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology;
  • Phil Uys of Gainesville, Ga., who was accepted into the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine’s doctor of osteopathic medicine program; and
  • Renita Kay Wilcox of Blairsvile, Ga., who was accepted into the University of Florida’s doctorate program in soil and water science.

About Young Harris College
Young Harris College is a private, baccalaureate degree-granting college located in the beautiful mountains of north Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires and empowers students through the highest quality liberal arts education. The College currently has more than 1,100 students across five divisions—Education, Fine Arts, Humanities, Mathematics and Science, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. The historic campus in Young Harris, Ga., is currently undergoing major campus improvements to accommodate the College’s growth, including recent completion of a 226-bed residence hall that is expected to earn LEED certification, a 248-bed, apartment-style residential village and a 57,000-square-foot, LEED-certified recreation center. In 2011, the College was granted candidacy for NCAA Division II athletics, and in 2012, was invited to become the 14th member of the Peach Belt Conference. YHC is among fewer than 300 colleges and universities nationwide named to the 2013-2014 list of Colleges of Distinction. For more information, visit 

 Young Harris College awarded 167 bachelor’s degrees during its 2014 Commencement ceremony on May 10.

Several members of the Class of 1964 participated in the Commencement ceremony in celebration of the class's 50th reunion including (front row, left to right) Wanda Hopper Ragan, Ann Parker Parsons, Cheryl Dunbar Ivey, Barbara Talley Smith, (back row, left to right) Charlotte Sparks McCloskey, Phil Hope, Linda Smith Jenkins, Gerald Baggs, Jan Devereaux and Allen Harris.

 Emmy and Grammy Award-Winning Artist and Young Harris College Alumna Trisha Yearwood, ’84,addressed graduates during the College’s 2014 Commencement ceremony.

Young Harris College Commencement speaker Trisha Yearwood, ’84, (fourth from right) and YHC President Cathy Cox (fourth from left) mingled with several students prior to the ceremony, including (from left to right) Lauren Chamblin of Cumming, Ga., Brian Walker, of Powder Springs, Ga., Will Skelton of Hayesville, N.C., Emily Espy of Cumming, Ga., Travis Donahoo of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sarah Puett of Warne, N.C.

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