MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. – Kornegay Arena was filled to capacity for the University of Mount Olive’s spring commencement ceremony featuring football legend and philanthropist Tim Tebow as the guest speaker.
“It is with great pride and joy that I welcome you to the 2023 Spring Commencement Ceremony,” said UMO President Dr. H. Edward Croom. “To our students, today is your day and we are so thankful that you chose the University of Mount Olive to pursue your education. To our guests, I appreciate the support that you have shown these students throughout their career. It is our pleasure to have you with us today. This is a great occasion, on a day, that God has given us! Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
In bringing greetings to the crowd, Board Chair and UMO Alumnus Earl Worley said, “As a graduate, I appreciate the kind of education that I received here: an education that prepared me for my career, but most importantly, an education that prepared me for life. It is my hope and prayer that you are leaving this University well prepared intellectually, morally, and spiritually to face the world. I trust that you will take with you wonderful memories of your experiences. In addition, be grateful to those who have helped make your journey possible. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, as you prepare to leave the University of Mount Olive, go with our richest blessings. We wish you Godspeed.”
President Croom, then introduced guest speaker Tim Tebow as a two-time national champion, Heisman Trophy winner, first-round NFL draft pick, and a former professional baseball player. “By every account, Tim Tebow has achieved success,” Croom said. “But if you ask him, he’ll probably tell you that his most meaningful success has been achieved through his Foundation, which serves children and shares God’s love. The Tim Tebow Foundation is serving individuals who cannot fight for themselves in more than 70 countries with 4 primary ministry focuses and 16 initiatives,” Croom added.
Tebow approached the podium and expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to speak to UMO’s graduating class.
“I’ve got to tell you, it’s an awesome honor to be here,” he said. “Thank you so much for having me.”
During the 9:30 AM ceremony, Tebow mixed humor and words of encouragement to challenge graduates to live their lives with meaning and purpose.
In his speech, Tebow talked about the charitable works of his family and his foundation. He talked about his Christian faith and the good that comes from committing to a life lived by following Jesus Christ.
Tebow said, “Wherever you go, you’re gonna have a lot of different voices that are calling out to you. You’re gonna have voices at times of pride; like, dang, I’m somebody. You’re gonna have voices calling out to you of guilt and shame. You’re gonna have voices calling out to you that say, ‘oh, I’m not enough.’ But, none of those voices are the truth. What is the truth? The truth is that you are one of one. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, that you were created in love, by love, and for love.”
“I hope today that you’re encouraged,” Tebow said, “ but so much more, I hope that you’re inspired, filled with the urge to truly know who you are, to listen to the voice of truth, to find those people around you, that when it gets hard, they’re gonna lift that weight, and you are gonna run after things that last.”
“Make your life something that what you run after, that what you chase, that when you get there, it is worth it. To the 2023 graduates, congratulations on a job well done! But, know, there’s so much more in front of you. Go freakin’ crush it, guys. God bless you,” Tebow concluded.
Following Tebow’s address, President Croom thanked him for his inspiring message and called Board Chair Earl Worley to the stage to assist with presenting Tebow with the Doctorate of Humane Letters degree. Croom indicated that Tebow was receiving the honorary degree because of his faith, leadership, and sportsmanship both on and off the field; for his commitment to improving the lives of others; and for his belief in the power of faith and positivity, as well as helping people reach their full potential.
Following Tebow’s hooding, Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Todd Telemeco presented the Thomas R. Morris Awards for Academic Excellence to the traditional and non-traditional baccalaureate graduates with the highest academic average. Based on the greatest number of credit hours, Lyndsay Kaitlyn Underhill of Mount Olive and Lindsay Paulette Johnson of Smithfield, both of whom had a 4.0 GPA, were this year’s award winners. They each received a check for $1,500.
Graduates then took to the stage as their names were called. This year’s spring graduating class represented students from 3 continents, 7 countries, and 24 states in America. Of the 320 graduates, 26 received associate degrees, 238 received bachelor degrees, and 56 were awarded master’s degrees.
President of the UMO Alumni Association Julie Graham welcomed the class of 2023 to the family. “During your time as a UMO student, no matter how much ‘what’ you’ve learned, it’s ‘who’ you’ve known that has impacted you the most,” She said. “I promise you that as you walk off campus today, you’re not leaving those ‘whos’ behind. You are taking them with you. So, welcome to the UMO Alumni Family. We’re so glad you are part of our ‘who’.”
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.