Candler Celebrates, Bids Farewell to Class of 2023

May 8, 2023

Emory University’s 178th Commencement Exercises spanned from May 5 to May 8, culminating in the traditional degree-conferral ceremony on the Quad. In all, Emory awarded 5,538 degrees to graduates from 54 U.S. states and territories and 67 countries.

The highlight for Candler’s Class of 2023 was the morning of May 6 in Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on Emory’s campus, where the school’s Graduate Recognition Ceremony took place. Candler conferred 141 degrees, including 77 Master of Divinity, ten Master of Theology, 15 Master of Theological Studies, four Master of Religion and Public Life, 30 Doctor of Ministry, two Master of Divinity/Master of Business Administration, and one each in three categories: Master of Theological Studies/Juris Doctor, Master of Theological Studies/Master of Public Health, and Master of Divinity/Master of Social Work.

In her opening remarks, Dean Jan Love recognized William “Bill” Boyd and Robert Windom, 1973 graduates of Candler celebrating their 50th graduation anniversary as part of the university’s Corpus Cordis Aureum.

Love also recognized three faculty members who are retiring this year: Timothy P. Jackson, Bishop Mack B. and Rose Stokes Professor of Theological Ethics, after 28 years; John Snarey, Franklin Nutting Parker Professor of Human Development and Ethics, after 36 years; and Noel L. Erskine, Professor of Theology and Ethics, after 46 years.

The dean noted Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible Joel B. Kemp as the Candler honoree for the Provost’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Education, which recognizes outstanding scholars who excel as teachers within formal and informal educational settings.

Cindy Sanborn 87C, a retired chief operating officer of Norfolk Southern Corporation and a member of the Emory Board of Trustees, was present to bring greetings and to authorize the conferral of degrees on behalf of the board, while Emory Berry, Jr. 06T, a member of the Candler Alumni Board, welcomed the graduates to their new status as alumni.

In her formal address, Dean Love read selected verses from Matthew 28, reminding the graduates of Christ’s “Great Commission” to go and make disciples of all nations, and his own reminder of his constant presence.

Love noted that the graduates were the first class to enter Candler in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to take their first year of courses predominantly online, which students referred to as “Zoominary.” She referenced the ongoing racial violence and the sharp political and cultural divisiveness the Class of 2023 has dealt with, praising their action and resilience.

In addition, Love drew attention to pieces of art by John August Swanson and Sadao Wantanabe that depict Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and encouraged the graduates to both care for others and be unafraid to ask for help and grace when they themselves are in need of it.

“Go now with diploma in hand to your next great adventure. Go, change the world in Jesus’ name, and live into the vision God has laid on your heart. Go spread the good news of love, grace, hope, mercy, justice, and restored relationships. Go, even though you may waver even as you worship. Go, even though some parts of the world are in worse shape now than they were when you started your education here. Go and teach. Go and continue to learn. Go and revel in the joy of a job well done here, knowing that you are equipped to lead and transform the world.

“Go knowing that we will miss you and that the Candler community will support you all along the way. And go with the assurance that, in times when you flourish and in times when you flounder, you always are held close in God’s loving arms. God is with you, indeed with us all, to the end of the age.”