Montreat College honored its largest graduating class at its 2023 Commencement on a humid afternoon on Saturday, May 13.

In front of a packed Anderson Auditorium that required overflow seating in two additional areas, 236 graduates walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. The Class of 2023 was compiled of 142 students from Montreat’s School of Arts and Sciences. In addition, 94 recipients earned degrees from the School of Adult and Graduate Studies, including graduates from seven master’s programs. The master’s programs of Mental Health and Wellness, Organizational Leadership, and Public Administration honored their inaugural classes of graduates.

In total, Montreat’s graduates hailed from 19 states and eight foreign nations, including Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom.

“Graduates, today you join over 13,000 alumni who have preceded you,” President Paul J. Maurer said. “You are blessed to be a part of a large and wonderful Montreat College community. They have prayed for you, supported you, and look forward to how you will use your lives as an offering to God.”

In his welcome address, President Maurer reminded students of Montreat College’s commitment to a Christian liberal arts education that recognizes the supremacy of God above human reasoning and in doing so, prepares graduates to be employees of knowledge, trust, and strong character.

“The term commencement means a beginning, a start. It does not mean to finish, so while we celebrate your academic achievement, we are here to mark a day of beginning for each of you,” President Maurer informed the graduates. “Our hope is that all of you will look back on your years at Montreat as a time when your life was shaped and changed in meaningful ways. We pray your experience has been one of creating foundations—for your life, for your work, perhaps even a season of transformation personally—and that you will leave this place as a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ.”

Caitlin Minor, a Business Administration major from Tampa, FL, and the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Business Graduate, presented the valedictorian address, thanking the faculty for showing assistance and encouragement daily, urging her classmates to reflect on their memories from Montreat College, and advising them to build strong relationships and keep learning.

“A great friend has always reminded me that anyone can stand on top of the mountain and worship God,” she said while holding back tears. “It’s in your valleys where you grow closer to God. Learn in your valleys.”

Following “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” a musical benediction sung by an octet, Dr. Don King was introduced by President Maurer as this year’s commencement speaker. In his speech, Dr. King, an English professor who just completed his 49th year of teaching at Montreat College, challenged the graduates with a simple command: go deeper.

“I charge you to think deeply, experience deeply, love deeply, and care deeply,” Dr. King requested. “Now that you’ve completed your work at Montreat, go deeper in every area of your life. I say this because we live in a culture that is so very shallow. I invite you to be countercultural to the shallowness of our 21st-century Western culture.”

Reflecting on his personal journey from a struggling engineering student to an English major in college, Dr. King remembered one of his high school teachers with fondness and thanked her for teaching him how to dig deeply into a subject, a valuable lesson he still uses today in his editing, research, and writing.

“At the risk of simplifying those rather complex, scholarly activities,” he said, “I approach them now as a deep dive that combines aspects of an engaging detective novel, an exciting scavenger hunt, and a mind-teasing crossword puzzle.”

At the conclusion, Rev. Rachel M. Toone, Dean of Spiritual Formation, closed in prayer, thanking God for a great moment of joy and celebration. The ceremony officially concluded the 107th academic year at Montreat College.