Grinder encourages 2016 grads to serve others

Grinder encourages 2016 grads to serve others

May 15, 2016

“Cultivate a heart of humility and build a legacy of service. Find your passion and your talents, and then figure out a way to put them to work for those in need.”

Those were messages Many-Bears Grinder passed along to members of Maryville College’s Class of 2016 during Commencement exercises on May 15. Grinder, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services, was also presented the College’s honorary doctor of public service degree during the ceremony.

Her address to the approximately 225 graduating seniors was titled “Call to Serve.”

Grinder, who in 2011 retired from the Tennessee Army National Guard as a colonel with more than 35 years of experience, talked about her career that has allowed her to serve her state, country and fellow soldiers. The Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran served in Afghanistan as the Head of Secretariat for the International Police Coordination Board, and her military awards include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal.

“This journey allowed me to seize incredible opportunities to develop leadership by growing my heart to serve,” Grinder said.

Grinder told graduates that both she and her husband, who also retired from the Tennessee National Guard, have found that troops – as well as citizens they serve – are much more open to partnerships when they can “hear, see and feel your compassion.”

“People are not looking for sympathy that actually makes them feel weak and their circumstances hopeless,” Grinder said. “They are looking for empathy from those who have either walked in their shoes or who are willing to put those shoes on … to find out how to be of service in a way that can change lives.”

Grinder talked about those who have inspired her along her journey, and the challenges she has faced. She also offered encouragement to the Class of 2016.

“You are not your childhood, but you can build on those lessons and experiences,” Grinder said. “You are not the battles you fight, but you can build on those courageous moments and the bonds of brotherhoods. You are not the sum of the set-backs you suffer, but instead I would encourage you to learn from failure. Cultivate a heart of humility and build a legacy of service.

“Not everyone can serve in the military, and not everyone should,” she continued. “Only 1 percent of U.S. citizens wear the uniform today. However, all of us can serve in our communities. While doing so, real-life education is gained and can be life-changing!”

Grinder suggested ways that graduates could put their passion and talents to work for those in need, including tutoring, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, going on mission trips, making lap quilts for patients at the VA Medical Center, sharing musical talents at nursing homes or helping train service or companion dogs.

“Volunteer work helps you learn about yourself, and you’ll be surprised to learn that you get more out of it than what you give,” she said. “You all have special gifts – tapping into them to serve others is a sure-fire way to love your volunteer work!

“Serve your families, serve your neighborhoods, find a way ‘to serve the least of these,’ and you will find that no matter what battles or challenges you face in life, the reward that comes from blessing others will carry you through to the next mission,” Grinder concluded. “And please don’t forget to thank those who have served or are serving in the Armed Forces and offer them a handshake of gratitude that shows them you care.”           

Maryville College Faculty recognized

During commencement exercises, recognition was also given to faculty members for outstanding service during the 2015-16 academic year.

Mark Hall, professor of art, was recognized for his retirement and election to the status of “professor emeritus” at the College.

From the Commencement stage podium, Dr. Barbara Wells, vice president and dean of the College, praised Hall’s service to the College over the past 15 years, including his nine-year tenure as chair of the Division of Fine Arts.

“During his time at MC, Mark has served on several committees and taught courses in art history, drawing, printmaking, design, introduction to fine arts and senior ethics,” the dean said.

“He has exhibited his work nationally. Recently his set of wood engraving prints, titled ‘The Domestic Violence Valentines,’ was exhibited in the Clayton Center’s Blackberry Farm Gallery. He partnered in this exhibition with Haven House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, to draw attention to this issue.

“He established our annual artist-in-residence program that brings nationally acclaimed artists to campus each March,” the dean continued. “Mark Hall is known as a knowledgeable and helpful teacher who supports his students personally and academically.”

Wells also recognized Dr. Sherry Kasper, professor of economics, for her retirement and election to the status of “professor emerita” at the College. Wells praised Kasper for her 26 years of service to the College, which included five years as chair of the Division of Social Sciences.

“As a teacher of economics, Dr. Kasper has specialized in money and banking, American economic history, government policy toward business, and history of economic thought,” Wells said. “She has also made strong contributions to her field, in scholarly research in the areas of recent history of economic thought and the scholarship of teaching economics, as well as in leadership on national boards related to her discipline.

“Dr. Kasper is known for making economics accessible to students,” the dean continued. “Students finish her classes ready to apply conceptually and theoretically challenging concepts and terms to their daily lives.”

The Outstanding Teacher Award, the recipient of which is nominated by juniors and seniors at the College, went to Shara Galloway, visiting instructor of accounting and previous runner-up for the award. In presenting the award, Wells described Galloway as a faculty member “whom students view to be a very effective teacher.”

“They respect her knowledge, intelligence and passion for her field of study. But they love how she helps them understand and master very difficult material in what may be the most challenging courses in their majors,” Wells said. “She pushes them to learn and then supports them in that learning by providing additional assistance in the form of materials such as work sheets and chapter notes. And she is always available to help.

“Furthermore, students report that she makes their business classes fun and interesting with the enthusiasm and high spirit she brings to the classroom every day,” Wells said.

Dr. Bill Meyer, professor of philosophy and the Ralph W. Beeson Professor of Religion, was recognized as the runner-up for the Outstanding Teacher Award. Wells described Meyer as a faculty member whom students respect as a professor and person.

“He creates an atmosphere in the classroom in which everyone’s opinions are welcomed,” Wells said. “One student said, ‘He doesn’t bring the material down to his students. Rather, he brings students up to the level of the material.’ Another said, ‘He has a way of helping students understand themselves better, just by the way he asks his questions.’”

Charge to the Class of 2016

In his charge to the Class of 2016, Maryville College President Dr. William T. “Tom” Bogart told the graduates to depart from the College with more than a diploma.

“Leave here transformed by your experience and dedicated to following and demonstrating the will of God through your thoughts and actions,” he said. “As you continue in your journey, please remember that you always have a home here ‘where Chilhowee’s lofty mountains pierce the Southern blue.’ Come back and share with us your successes and struggles, as you have done during your time here. Be the inspiration for the next person, the way that others have inspired you. Say ‘thank you’ to those who have helped you during your time here, and let us thank you for how you have helped us.

“The Lord bless you and keep you as you continue your journey,” the president said as he concluded his remarks to the new graduates.

By Chloe Kennedy, Assistant Director of Communications


Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”