University of Mobile December Graduates Encouraged to Fulfill God’s Purpose for Their Lives

Kathy Dean News

MOBILE, Ala. – University of Mobile graduates were urged to “tap into the speech that is already written in your own heart” for inspiration in their journey ahead in life, as diplomas were awarded to 101 graduates during commencement held on campus.

Baldwin County Presiding District Judge the Honorable Michelle Manley Thomason delivered the fall commencement address Saturday, Dec. 15, at the outdoor ceremony on the Dr. Fred and Sue Lackey Great Commission Lawn. Thomason is a UM alumna and serves on the University of Mobile Foundation Board of Directors. Dove Award-winning Christian musician and executive Don Moen sang “Thank You Lord” and Voices of Mobile performed as the ceremony began.

“As you leave here today,” Thomason told graduates, “pray about what God has laid on your heart about your future; make choices and decisions that you know align with what Jesus would do if He were in your shoes; work hard then a little bit harder, confident in your potential because it is not of you but a gift from God, and strive to live up to His expectations, then serve God and others in whatever profession you choose.”

Noting students were graduating from a Christian university, Thomason said the graduation processional “symbolizes this basic truth – you are walking out of the safe confines of this Christian community and into the world. And I can promise you this: it is a different place, a place where your faith will be tested.”

She continued, “When you leave today, you’ll take with you the book knowledge you learned here. That’s not the hard part. This morning I’d like to talk about how to take God with you in a way that can help you reach your fullest potential and be a light in the world.”

First, she said, remember four little letters: WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? She said while the trend of wearing WWJD bracelets and t-shirts faded years ago, the concept never will because, in the end, it’s about how to make the right choices.

“In your life, in your careers going forward, you are going to be faced with ideals that conflict with your own…When that happens, remember this: don’t gauge your measure of right and wrong on someone else’s perspective, no matter who that person is. Measure it against Jesus.”

Second, live up to God’s expectations of you.

“God created you with a purpose, and because He did, then there is no doubt that He instilled in you from birth the absolute potential to fully realize that purpose,” Thomason said. “My prayer for you today is that you strive to achieve the greatest possible dream that your Creator dreamed when He created you.”

Finally, if your occupation fulfills God’s purpose, then it should be your ministry.

“If God created you for a purpose and gave you every single talent and gift you need to fulfill that purpose, then that purpose is necessarily godly. And if your occupation is godly, then that is a ministry,” she said.

“Every one of you, regardless of your future profession, is called to make your occupation your ministry,” she said. “Maybe you are thinking, ‘but you are a judge. You have to deal with separation of church and state. How can what you do be a ministry?’

“What more important place to minister to people and show God’s love to others than in family court, when families are at the very worst place in their lives; than in criminal court, when people are at their very lowest; than in Veterans Court, when men and women who served our country are fighting an inner war and don’t know where to turn.

“If my job was just a job, I promise you there would be no way that I could get up every morning and do it – it would be too hard. If your job is a ministry, then it never feels like a job at all. It feels like God’s work. Because it is,” she said.

Thomason graduated with a Bachelor of Science in business administration in 1992. Her son and two stepsons, as well as all three daughters-in-law, are also UM graduates.

Thomason went on to graduate from Tulane School of Law in 1995, before practicing law in south Alabama and becoming a judge in Baldwin County. She has 10 years of banking and business experience and 11 years of trial court experience in addition to 12 years on the bench. She has one of the busiest dockets in the state, having handled over 13,000 circuit court family law cases and over 88,000 district court cases (civil, criminal and traffic) since taking the bench in 2006.

Graduates by degrees and hometowns, including honors earned, are:

College of Health Professions

School of Allied Health

Master of Arts, Marriage and Family Counseling

Fairhope, AL –Lauren Audrey Fobes; 

Fort Worth, TX –Cody Claud Lockhart; 

Mobile, AL –Brandie Foster Hopkins; 

Wilmer, AL –Christie Smith; 

College of Health Professions

School of Nursing

Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner

Bay Minette, AL –Stacey Marie Lanham;

Dauphin Island, AL –Deanna Leigh Montieth;

Eastaboga, AL –Tiffany Waugh;

Lincoln, AL –John Rice Loper;

Mobile, AL –Ashley M. Acosta; Cameka Funches Evans; Chastity D. Huguley; Charisse LaShaune Johnson; Nakia Ann Rankin; Sarah Scott West; Anganatte Nicole Williams; Amelia G. Williamson;

Phenix City, AL –Africa Olympia Todd;

Prichard, AL –Ashley Nicole Hughes;

Saucier, MS –Rhonda Foles;

St. Stephens, AL –Sallyanna Paige Silveria;

Master of Science in Nursing

Mobile, AL – Judith Marie Harris;

School of Business

Master of Business Administration

Bay Minette, AL –Anetria Danielle Thomas; 

School of Education

Master of Arts and Master of Education 

Grand Bay, AL –Symone Marie Mixon, M.Ed., higher education and policy;

Milton, FL –Kirstyn Dakota Joiner, M.Ed., higher education and policy; 

Mobile, AL –Kia Ross Adams, M.A., alternative early childhood education; 

Mobile, AL –Brittley Marri English, M.A., elementary education;

Mobile, AL –Laura Olivia Hollins, M.Ed., higher education leadership and policy;

Mobile, AL –Charity Pierce Wittner, M.Ed., higher education and policy;

Alabama School of the Arts

Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Science 

Ellisville, MS –Kayla Rae Patterson, B.S., worship leadership;

Gretna, LA – Allison Hailey Forbes, B.S., worship leadership;

Navarre, FL –Blythe Hamilton Greene, B.A., music;

College of Arts and Sciences

Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Science

Alabaster, AL –Harmon Derek Acker Jr., B.S., psychology, cum laude; 

Athens, AL –Sydney Christina McConnell, B.S., biology;

Atmore, AL –Steven A. Livingston, B.S., organizational leadership, cum laude; 

Citronelle, AL –Caroline Olivia Flint, B.S., psychology;

Cullman, AL –Derrick Jayden Sloan, B.S., history, summa cum laude; 

Eight Mile, AL –Seadeas Montiksha Crum, B.S., history;

Fairhope, AL –Courtney Lynn Ellis, B.S. history, President’s Scholastic Achievement Fort Payne, AL –Lauren Anne Story, B.S., biology; 

Jasper, AL –Braxton P. Rhodes, B.S., biology, cum laude;

Lakeview, AL –Leanna Faith McDill, B.S., sociology; 

Los Angeles, CA –Tyshianna Hall, B.S. sociology;

Mobile, AL –Erin Monaye Bennet, B.S. organizational leadership; Josanna Renee Cathcart, B.S., organizational leadership; Nicholas Duncan Calametti, B.A., English, summa cum laude; Delaney Marie Dodson, B.S., sociology, summa cum laude; Meredith Holm, B.S., communication; Hannah C. Wentland, B.S., communication; Kimberly G. Mitchell, B.S., organizational leadership;

Panama City, FL –Karlenna Esther Owsiany, B.S., communication;

Pascagoula, MS –Abigail Mackenzie Yount, B.S., psychology;

Pensacola, FL –Kaitlyn Myette Tillman, B.S., political science; 

Robertsdale, AL –James Garland Presley, B.S., political science; 

San Angelo, TX –Mary Ann Shaw, B.S., sociology; 

Semmes, AL –Kaitlyn M. Holderfield, B.A., political science; 

Vancleave, MS –Susan Shattles Bourgeois, B.S., organizational leadership, magna cum laude;

College of Health Professions

School of Health and Sports Science

Bachelor of Science

Corpus Christi, TX –Victoria Alexandra Gonzales, B.S., human performance and exercise science; 

Dothan, AL – Caitlyn R. Boley, B.S., kinesiology; 

New Orleans, LA –Jeanee Nicole Romero, B.S., kinesiology;

Panama City Beach, FL –Magdalena Rachel Tajchman, B.S., kinesiology, magna cum laude; 

Saraland, AL –Joshua Eugene West, B.S., kinesiology;

Stapleton, AL –Jasmine Cheyenne Moody, B.S., kinesiology;

Wilmer, AL –Kaitlyn Denise Wood, B.S., kinesiology;

School of Business

Bachelor of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science

Atmore, AL –Hunter Nicholas Dettling, B.S., business administration;

Dortmund, NRW, Germany –Marcus Vincent Lotte, B.S., business administration, magna cum laude 

Dothan, AL –Christopher Cody Cox, B.S., accounting;

Eight Mile, AL –Donald Jerome King Jr., B.S., business administration; 

Grand Bay, AL –Shameka Maria Harris, B.S., business administration;

Hosford, FL –Madison Grace Peddie, B.S., business administration;

Mobile, AL –LeShantel Monique Wright, bachelor of business administration; Carl Edward Reese Jr., B.S., Business Administration;

Stockton, AL –Dorothy Elizabeth Moorer, bachelor of business administration, cum laude; 

Shalimar, FL –Sydney Paige Oliver, B.S., business administration, cum laude; 

Union Springs, AL –Flora Vail-Lopez, B.S., business administration;

Wuppertal, Germany –Sebastian Sven Glowatzki, B.S., business administration; 

School of Christian Studies

Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science

Ascutney, VT –Cortni Lynn Rochon, B.S., Christian leadership and ministry, cum laude; 

Lewisville, TX –Abbigail Laign Owens, B.A., theological studies; 

Mobile, AL –Olga R. Antoine, B.A., intercultural studies, cum laude; 

Semmes, AL –Aaron Matthew West, B.S., theology; 

Smiths Station, AL –Anna Lea Maries Wrenn, B.A., theological studies, magna cum laude; 

Spanish Fort, AL –Alana Beth Greenlee, B.A., intercultural studies, summa cum laude; 

Taft, TN –Brooke Renee Lineberry, B.S., Christian leadership and ministry, President’s Scholastic Achievement Award, summa cum laude; 

School of Education

Bachelor of Science

Dothan, AL –Courtney Lyne Dorminy, child and social development; 

Fort Walton Beach, FL –Brandee Lea Reyna, elementary education;

Gulf Shores, AL –Misha Kay Buckelew, elementary education;

Jackson, AL –Maggie Ruth Jackson, elementary education and early childhood education; 

Loxley, AL –Britthany Danielle Mitchell, child and social development; 

Lucedale, MS –Lindsey Beth Johns, elementary education, summa cum laude; 

McDonough, GA –Meagan Jade Pair, early childhood education;

Milton, FL –Shelby Lee Willet, elementary education, magna cum laude

Mobile, AL –Savonia Anderson Daniel, child and social development; Kristen Rae Key, early childhood education, magna cum laude;

Saraland, AL –Jessica Matherne McAuley, elementary education;

Semmes, AL –April Lynn Okrzesik-Weitz, elementary education, summa cum laude; Kayla Joy Williams, elementary education, summa cum laude; 

Sulligent, AL –Montana Payton Hollis, early childhood education, cum laude;  

Tuscaloosa, AL –Karley Lang Sanders, elementary education;

Wicksburg, AL –Kylee A. Cox, child and social development, magna cum laude; 

College of Arts and Sciences

Associate of Science, General Studies

Grand Bay, AL –Ethan Lee Williams; 

Mobile, AL – David Markel Hale; 

Mobile, AL –Kimberly Michelle May; 

About University of Mobile

University of Mobile is a Christ-centered liberal arts and sciences institution with a vision of higher education for a higher purpose, founded to honor God by equipping students for their future professions through rigorous academic preparation and spiritual transformation. Core values are: Christ-Centered, Academically-Focused, Student-Devoted and Distinctively-Driven. The university offers on-campus and online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs in over 90 areas of study. Founded in 1961, University of Mobile is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention and is located 10 miles north of Mobile, Alabama on a campus of over 880 acres. 

For more information about University of Mobile, visit the website at www.umobile.eduor call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.

About the Author

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean is assistant vice president for university communications and has helped tell the University of Mobile story since 1993. She is an award-winning public relations professional and former journalist. Her husband and daughter are UM graduates. She loves playing in the yard – planting flowers, picking blueberries, pulling weeds and petting her two mini-schnauzers.