28 seniors turn tassels at MACU
By Reggie Ponder
Saturday, May 12, 2018
For Joseph Hill, Mid-Atlantic Christian University was not just a place to get an education — it was also somewhere he could grow closer to God.
“I got a better relationship with God,” said Hill, one of 28 seniors who received their degrees on Saturday at MACU’s 69th annual commencement in the Chesson Gymnasium.
Reflecting on his time at MACU, Hill, 25, of Creswell, said he enjoyed playing basketball for the university and the fact he got to spend time with his younger brother, who also attends the private Christian university in Elizabeth City.
Hill, who earned a degree in business administration, said he plans to continue his work with at-risk juveniles at the Methodist Home for Children following graduation.
Giving the valedictory address at Saturday’s ceremony was Emily Nicole O’Connor. Matthew Todd Cooper gave the salutatory address.
Michael S. Prior, president of Financial Planning Ministry, gave the commencement address. Based in Irvine, California, Financial Planning Ministry is the nation’s leading nonprofit planned giving partnership.
During Saturday’s ceremony, Prior was awarded an honorary doctorate in business. MACU professor Ronnie J. Woolard, who’s been on the university’s faculty for 44 years, was also awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity.
Graduates were presented a spike and towel, the spike representing Jesus’ sacrifice and the towel representing the humble service to which they are called.
Flags in the commencement processional represented 20 foreign mission fields on which MACU graduates are currently serving.
Graduates said in interviews that they plan to serve in a variety of capacities.
Chris Cephus, 46, retired from the Navy in 2014 after 26 years of working in Navy logistics, settling down with his wife in Moyock. Cephus said he became interested in MACU the first time he visited Elizabeth City and discovered it was home to a Christian university.
The Georgia native worked in ministry in Japan from 2008-12 and has been an associate minister at Christian Home Baptist Church in Moyock since moving there. Cephus majored in youth and family ministry at MACU.
“I’m looking at doing some social work here in the area,” he said, adding he plans to continue his ministry work with Christian Home.
Cephus said it didn’t take him long to choose MACU, even though he also had an offer from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.
“It really wasn’t a tough choice,” Cephus said. ”It was just a matter of coming down here and visiting the campus. This was the place for me.”
Cephus said he appreciated how accessible the professors were at MACU and respected their professionalism and work ethic.
“And you can just see the love of Christ in them,” Cephus said, explaining he could see it in how they did their work and how they lived their daily lives.
Thomas Kilian, 22, of Columbia, graduated with a degree in Christian ministries. He has already been working as an evangelist and fill-in pastor at area churches, but now he’s submitting a number of applications in search of a pastorate of his own.
“My heart’s here in North Carolina so I’d like to stay local,” Kilian said, though he added he would go wherever the Lord leads him.
Kilian, whose home church is Cabin Swamp Christian Church in the Columbia area, said he was attracted to MACU because of the solid biblical teaching and the well-rounded education it offers. He said he also appreciated the convenience of its online classes.
Kilian said he liked the genuineness of MACU’s professors, the individual attention he received from professors and the sense of community among the student body.
Allie Morris, 23, of Timberlake, whose home church is Mt. Tirzah United Methodist, earned a degree in youth and family ministry and biblical exposition.
Morris said she met “Pop” Lewis at a college fair at her high school and was persuaded to come for a campus visit.
“I absolutely fell in love with it,” she said of her visit to MACU.
Morris said she appreciated the family-like environment at MACU. “You’re not just a number,” she said.
Morris said she’s searching for a children and youth ministry position at a church.