Emory University’s 177th Commencement Exercises spanned from May 6 to May 9, culminating in the traditional degree-conferral ceremony on the Quad for the first time in two years. In all, Emory awarded 5,091 degrees to graduates from 54 U.S. states and territories and 60 countries.

The highlight for Candler’s Class of 2022 was the morning of May 7 in Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on Emory’s campus, where the school’s Graduate Recognition Ceremony took place. Candler conferred 146 degrees, including 84 Master of Divinity, five Master of Theology, 18 Master of Theological Studies, four Master of Religion and Public Life, four Master of Religious Leadership, 26 Doctor of Ministry, and one each in five categories: Master of Divinity/Juris Doctor, Master of Divinity/Master of Development Practice, Master of Divinity/Master of Social Work, Master of Theological Studies/Master of Public Health, and Doctor of Theology.

In her opening remarks, Dean Jan Love recognized Fred Zeigler, a 1972 graduate of Candler and a retired elder in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. As one celebrating his 50th graduation anniversary, Zeigler joins the university’s Corpus Cordis Aureum.

Love also recognized two faculty members who are retiring this year: Anne Burkholder 77T 92G, associate dean of Methodist studies and professor in the practice of ecclesiology and church leadership, after 15 years, and Timothy E. Albrecht, professor of church music (Candler), professor of music (Emory College of Arts and Sciences) and university organist, after 40 years.

The dean noted Associate Professor of Religious Education and Director of Candler’s Doctor of Ministry Program Jennifer R. Ayres as the recipient of two major teaching awards: the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry Exemplary Teacher Award, which recognizes remarkable teaching, leadership, and commitment to education; and 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.

Sue Haupert-Johnson 95T, resident bishop of the North Georgia Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church 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 Dedric Cowser 11T 17T, chair of the Candler Alumni Board, welcomed the graduates to their new status as alumni.

In her formal address, Dean Love read selected verses from Isaiah 43, reminding the graduates that God has called them by name, and is with them through all of life’s storms. Referencing the pandemic,  the continuing racial violence, and the sharp political and cultural divisiveness the Class of 2022 has dealt with, she drew attention to The Storm by artist John August Swanson, pointing out that the wave-tossed boat was crowded, but the people were focused and determined.

“You are religious leaders who will go now into communities that need your guidance and wisdom about how to cope with the storms in their lives and the lives of the people they love,” she said. “God never promised that we would be free from disease, evil behavior, war, flood, fire, or any kind of disaster. What God has always promised is that we will not go through these terrors alone.

“Through all the trials and tribulations of your experiences at Candler, God has stood by you—and by all of us. The evidence of God’s goodness is all around us today. Like the people crowded onto John August Swanson’s boat, you worked hard together with many others—including your family and loved ones—to arrive at this glorious destination, your graduation. With God’s help and the support of this strong and compassionate community, your resilience, tenacity, dedication, shared commitment, and courage brought you to this place.

“We are proud of each and every one of you. We will, indeed, call your name to mark your special achievement today, and we will give thanks to God for charting a path through the mighty waters of some very fierce storms that beset us all.”