Austin College 2023 Commencement Approaches
Austin College announces the 2023 Commencement Exercises will be Saturday, May 20, at 8:30 a.m. on Clyde L. Hall Graduation Court, north of Caruth Administration Building. The Class of 2023 includes more than 270 bachelor’s degree candidates and 15 Master of Arts in Teaching degree candidates.
In the event of severe weather, the College will implement the rain plan to move Commencement indoors to Sid Richardson Center and allow four ticketed guests per graduate. Campus guests without tickets may watch video feed of the ceremony in several campus locations. The ceremony will be livestreamed, rain or shine, on the Austin College Facebook page.
President Steven P. O’Day, J.D., L.H.D., will officiate Commencement along with Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Gill, vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the faculty. Gill will present the student candidates for graduation, and Board of Trustees Chair L. Scott Austin will approve the conferring of degrees on behalf of the board. Austin, a 1983 graduate of the College, is a partner in the law firm of Hunton Andrews Kirth LLP in Dallas, Texas.
Student Assembly President Nia Carter begins the ceremony with the traditional ringing of the Sam Houston Bell, which hangs in the steeple of Wynne Chapel. The procession of faculty, seniors, trustees, the College Senior Leadership Team, and special guests is led by College Marshal Nate Bigelow, professor of political science. The processional will enter through Williams Founders Plaza and convene on Clyde Hall Graduation Court. Senior Committee co-chairs Shaina Banh and Carlos Estrada Jr. will serve as flag bearers. Reverend Cheri Harper will open the ceremony with the invocation. Harper, an alumna from the class of 1994, is a Mission Associate with Presbyterian Women, Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky.
Carolina Vazquez Saavedra ’23 was elected by her classmates to present the Student Address. Saavedra, from Austin, Texas, is the daughter of Jose G. Vazquez and Sandra E. Saavedra Gonzales. She is a Sumner Foundation Scholar, marketing chair for Students Today Alumni Tomorrow, co-founder of Women in STEM interest group, and affiliate member of Omega Zeta. Saavedra traveled to Costa Rica for JanTerm 2023 and served as a peer mentor for Dr. Frank Rohmer, associate professor of political science.
After graduation, she will continue full-time employment at the Texas Department of Transportation as an Engineer Technician within the Information Technology Department. She has applied to work as a research analyst with the Federal Reserve in Dallas.
President Steven O’Day will present the Commencement Address. In his sixth year of leadership as the 16th president of Austin College, O’Day has led the College to complete a record-setting $125 million fundraising campaign, implement curricular and co-curricular initiatives, and make crucial updates to campus buildings and grounds. Under his leadership, the College is launching the Master of Medical Science Physician Assistant program to help address the critical national and regional shortage of healthcare providers. This will be one of only 12 programs of its kind in Texas.
Following the speeches, President O’Day, Mr. Austin, and Dr. Gill recognize several graduating seniors for special academic honors, including 22 students who have completed departmental honors.
Recipients of the Kidd and Robinson Medals will be announced. These awards are earned by two outstanding graduates, with no distinction between them, based on the students’ entire academic records as reflected on the transcript, the balance in course distribution, cumulative grade point average, credits earned, and faculty decision.
Honorary Degree Recipients
Honorary degree presentations allow the Austin College community to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of leaders from a variety of backgrounds. The process also brings graduates into contact with distinguished recipients.
Rev. Dr. Robyn Byrd Michalove, 2023 Baccalaureate speaker, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Michalove is associate pastor for Mission and Family Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth, Texas where she has served since 2004. In that role she has led the congregation’s ongoing effort to serve the community and the larger church. She is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio with a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication and Spanish. She earned her Master of Divinity degree from Wake Forest University School of Divinity and her Doctor of Ministry degree from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.
Deborah Crombie, Austin College alumna from the Class of 1976, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Crombie is a New York Times bestselling author of the award-winning mystery crime series featuring characters Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaide and Sergeant Gemma James. She released the most recent novel, A Killing of Innocents, with William Morrow in February 2023 and is working on the 20th title in the series.
Crombie is an Austin College Distinguished Alumna, has served on the Austin College President’s Advisory Council, and is an honorary member of the Austin College Iota Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
After all degrees have been conferred and approved, Alumni Board President Jack Wylie ’87, M.A. ’88 will welcome the new graduates into the Alumni Association. Rev. Dr. John Williams ’84, Austin College Chaplain, will close the ceremony with a benediction followed by the traditional choral response, Lutkin’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” by members of the A Cappella Choir. The graduates will recess and then pick up their diplomas from the registrar tables outside Wynne Chapel.