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Cumberlands confers 285 degrees and two honorary degrees


George HeeKyung Hong receives Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree.

Williamsburg, Ky.—On May 9, 239 University of the Cumberlands seniors received baccalaureate degrees, and 46 scholars received masters degrees during the annual Commencement ceremony. Among the graduating seniors were 13 who graduated cum laude, eight who were magna cum laude and 17 who were summa cum laude. Each graduate received from the Alumni Association a nickel, bearing the image of Thomas Jefferson, one of the original "Patriots," as a token remembrance.

All Cumberlands students are required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of community service before graduation, and those who choose to complete a minimum of 200 service hours are named Hutton Scholars at Commencement. The class of 2009 contributed a total of 23, 945 hours of service to the Williamsburg community, and 52 graduating seniors were designated Hutton Scholars.


Jean Ritchie receives Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree.

Four students were named Presidential Scholars for their accomplishments in research: Meagan Aiken, from Jacksboro, Tenn.; April Carman, from Corbin; Lindsy Hidgon, from Louisville; and Dustin Ursrey, from Beechmont.

Aiken also received the George S. Munro Memorial Prize in Pre-Medical Studies, which is awarded, in recognition of academic excellence and effort, to the graduating senior pre-medical student who has achieved the highest grade-point average through his or her college career.

The H. N. and Frances Berger Awards for the outstanding female and male members of the graduating class went to Lesley Roberts, from Connorsville, Ind., and Dustin Ursrey. Each year, these awards honor students who have exhibited sound academic achievement combined with superior leadership and service to the college community and the larger community as a whole.

The University recognized two individuals with honorary degrees: Jean Ritchie, 1944 Cumberland graduate and renowned song-writer, performer and author, and George HeeKyung Hong, businessman and engineer. Richie received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree, and Hong received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree. Ritchie spoke of her joy in being at Cumberland again, and her regret that she had not been in an actual graduation ceremony because she was teaching school at Leatherwood School. She shared a song that she wrote, which she has used as a kind of benediction in her performances through the years. In her clear, beautiful voice she sang a cappella, “In the Cool of the Day,” and briefly, the standing-room-only crowd in the Rollins Center was completely quiet, except when she asked the audience to join her in the chorus.

During the ceremony, Dr. Billy Kim, senior pastor of the 15,000-member Suwon Central Baptist Church in Suwon, Korea, as well as the president of the Far East Broadcasting Company, representing many Christian friends in Korea who could not be present, spoke touchingly of Hong and his living testimony. He also presented Hong with a plaque in honor of his receiving the honorary degree. The plaque’s inscription included a Biblical passage, Daniel 12:3, which states, “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”

Jean Ritchie, a native of Viper, Kentucky, has been a significant influence in the recognition of traditional music in America. Throughout her varied, influential career as performer, composer and author, she has raised awareness of the people, music and culture of the southern Appalachian Mountains.

A 1944 graduate of Cumberland College, which was then a two-year educational institution, Ritchie went on to the University of Kentucky, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1946, with a degree in social work.

Ritchie’s background as a Kentuckian who grew up in the mountains, where she built a repertoire of songs that included hymns, mountain ballads, love songs, and pieces by popular American composers, suited her well to serve as a representative of Appalachian culture. While she may be best known for reviving interest in the mountain dulcimer, Ritchie’s greatest achievements may well be her lasting influence on performers and composers, now and in the future, and an increased appreciation for this region of the country.

Ritchie lives in Port Washington, New York, with her husband of 59 years, photographer George Pickow. They are the parents of two adult sons, Peter and Jonathan Pickow.

George HeeKyung Hong, a native of South Korea, is a naturalized American citizen who has more than 23 years experience in facilities management and engineering. He has been the chief executive officer of Meridian Materials, Inc. since 1986. With revenues of seven million dollars and 500 employees, Meridian Materials provides facilities services to federal, state and local governments, as well as private industries in the Washington, D.C. area.

Hong holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Yonsei University in Korea; a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from King College in Bristol, Tennessee; and a Master of Business Administration in Finance from East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee.

During 1977 and 1978, Hong traveled on world mission tours as a member of the Korean Singing Ambassadors, sponsored by Dr. Billy Kim’s Far East Broadcasting Company. Currently, he serves as a church elder at Fairfax Korean Church.

He has served several business, civic and political organizations and currently is honorary co-chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee.