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456 MVNU graduates step out to leave a legacy of changed lives

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Mount Vernon Nazarene University celebrated 456 graduates during the university’s 64th commencement ceremonies in the R.R. Hodges Chapel/Auditorium on May 4, 2024. Graduates included traditional on-campus students plus those completing online programs through the School of Graduate and Professional Studies. Graduates represented the U.S., as well as the countries of Bermuda, Costa Rica, Lithuania, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad and Tobago.

“Today, remember that you are not just graduates but ambassadors of knowledge, compassion, and faith. May you be beacons of hope, agents of positive change, and ambassadors of God’s grace in a world that yearns for light and love,” said MVNU President Dr. Carson Castleman. “Remember the words of Proverbs 16:3, ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.’ Surrender your dreams, aspirations, and fears to God, and He will guide you on the path to fulfillment and purpose. May the blessings of peace, strength, and courage accompany you on your journey. Congratulations, Class of 2024. May you leave here knowing you are now a significant part of a family serving the world. Never forget that you are divinely destined for greatness.”

Commencement speaker Rev. Andrew J. Monnin, Northwestern Ohio District Superintendent, encouraged both traditional graduates and GPS graduates to live the life God created them to live, to discover and develop their God-given superpower, and to embrace the difficulties in life.

“God has a plan for you and our prayer for this class is that you will become a holy movement that is so needed where God is sending us now in our world, in our cities, and in our nation. God has a purpose for your life. It’s not about you,” Rev. Monnin said. “We don’t know where you’ll end up, we don’t know what you’ll be doing in five, 10, 15 or even 20 years from now, but we do know this — God has plans for you to change the world wherever you land.”

He emphasized the importance of realizing and growing not only the callings in one’s life, but also the God-given gifts and talents that are necessary to embrace the purpose for which they were created. It is in living this life where each graduate will make significant impacts on the lives of others. Graduates, he said, must also welcome the hard and painful moments in life because “reluctance to do hard in your life is your greatest limitation.”

“May God grant you success. May you discover that God-given superpower that he’s crafted inside of you,” said Rev. Monnin. “…  And may the Class of 2024 of Mount Vernon Nazarene University change the temperature of our cities, our state, and our world, because God is going to use you in amazing ways if you let him. Leave a legacy of changed lives wherever you go.”


Brookstyn Black, a Social Work and Intercultural Studies major, and Zach Ballenger, a Religion major, were presented the Service Above Self award. The award recognizes graduating seniors who have distinguished themselves in their college journey through service to others both on and off campus. Recipients represent the university’s motto: To seek to learn is to seek to serve.

Black was nominated for consistently giving her time and talents in serving others. She was a Resident Assistant for three years, served as a library assistant for four years, and a tutor for the Center for Student Success. She also was a part of the CoSMO group, SMILE, has served on service-learning trips to Guyana and Iceland, and has served children and families with World Vision in Ecuador.

Ballenger was acknowledged for being a consistent and faithful leader on campus. He served as a Resident Assistant for two years, and was an Academic Peer Mentor, Writing Coach, and SI Instructor through the Center for Student Success. He also served in the Office of Spiritual Life as Faith Works Global Coordinator and became the first intern to serve in the Fairbanks Center for Global Engagement.


Dr. Carrie Beal, MVNU Professor of Biology, was presented the 2023-24 Excellence in Teaching Award. Faculty receiving this honor are selected by MVNU students and faculty and have distinguished themselves for their dedication to excellence in, and out of, the classroom.

“Learning happens through encouragement, and from personal experience, I can assure you that Dr. Beal has a spirit of encouragement. Learning also happens when that encouragement is used to hold others to standards of excellence, and Dr. Beal does just that,” said Dr. Amy Kovach, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer. “Dr. Beal, thank you. Thank you for your dedication to excellence in the classroom, for doing what God created you to do and helping students find what God has created them to do.”


Rev. J. Kevin Dennis, District Superintendent, West Virginia North, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree, for his “unwavering dedication and exemplary leadership” within the Church of the Nazarene.

“Your profound connection to Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a testament to your deep-rooted passion for your alma mater and the Church,” said Dr. Castleman. “As a distinguished alumnus, you embody the core values, teachings, and spirit that define the essence of MVNU and its graduates.”

“May this honorary degree symbolize our deep appreciation for your exceptional leadership, unwavering commitment, and profound impact on the community,” said Dr. Castleman. “Your legacy will endure as a source of inspiration and guidance for generations.”


The Baccalaureate Worship Service was held Friday and featured a sermon from Dr. James Smith, MVNU’s Vice President for University Relations.

He reminded graduates that they earned everything they worked for and that “if you combine that academic rigor of seeking to learn, with the radical love of Jesus which compels you to seek to serve, then the world will be changed by you because they know you by your love.”

He challenged the graduates to go to their limits of longing to embody Christ and through it all, “don’t let yourself lose Jesus, or his community, or his love. Give him your hand.”

“Goodness, I want this for you,” said Smith. “I want this for the world. To receive from you, to notice in you, to sense and know that you are different. By this, all people will know that you are his disciples… if you love one another.”

For photos of all of MVNU’s commencement activities, visit

A full program, including a list of graduates and degrees, and a link to view on demand, is available at

Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a private, four-year, intentionally Christian teaching university for traditional age students, graduate students, and working adults. With a 327-acre main campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio, MVNU emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service to community and church. MVNU offers an affordable education both in-seat and online to nearly 2,000 students from 25 states and 11 foreign countries.


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