University of Montevallo Fall Commencement Ceremony Honors Class of 2023

Published 4:21 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2023

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MONTEVALLO – The University of Montevallo celebrated the academic achievements of 156 graduates as they received their degrees during the Fall Commencement ceremony on Dec. 8 in the McChesney Student Activity Center.

“You graduate today from a very special university — one that has placed an indelible mark on you during your years here as a student and will remain in your heart for the rest of your lives,” said President John W. Stewart III. “We are proud of you, and we wish you every success in your future endeavors. Wherever your journey takes you, please know that we are honored that you chose the University of Montevallo as the place to begin your life’s journey.

Allison Stephens, a philanthropist and member of the Lakeshore Foundation Board of Directors, served as the commencement speaker. In her address to the graduating class, the Samford University alum shared wisdom passed on to her by her late husband, Michael Stephens ’73, for whom UM’s College of Business is named.

“Mike always used to say to me, ‘Allison, you never grow until you are in an uncomfortable situation,’” Stephens said. “Consider getting really comfortable with being uncomfortable, because it is in that space and in those organic moments that you’ll grow beyond what your imagination can conceive.”

Noting UM’s marketing campaign tagline, “You Belong at Montevallo,” Stephens explained the importance of belonging to yourself before going out into the world to serve a greater purpose.

“No doubt the culture and the environment on this campus is one of true belonging,” Stephens said. “My question for you to consider is this — do you also belong to yourself? Do you know your self worth? Do you recognize and appreciate your value?”

Stephens closed her speech with some words of encouragement for the graduates.

“Take a deep breath and be present in the moments of your life,” Stephens said. “Tune into that internal compass. Search your heart and find your passion. Ask yourself the hard questions and discover what inspires you. I wish you all the very best of what life has to offer, and I look forward to seeing the bridges you will build.”

Following her address, Stewart presented Stephens with the President’s Award, referring to the speaker as a “dear friend and builder of bridges.”

The ceremony continued as Stewart, assisted by Professor of History Dr. Jim Day and Registrar Amanda Fox ’04, M.Ed. ’10, conferred 98 candidates for bachelor’s degrees and 58 candidates for graduate degrees. Once all the graduates had crossed the stage and accepted their degrees, Stephanie Baugh Shaw ’93, president of the UM National Alumni Association, inducted the graduates into the UMNAA.

“I am pleased to welcome you, the Class of 2023, into our alumni family,” Shaw said. “Many of us attended this university because it felt like home when we first visited. As such, we alumni protect our home. We nurture her growth through our giving. We visit her when we can. We sing her praises wherever we go. As you prepare to leave, we hope you know that Montevallo will always be your home.”