Kris Kirchner reflects on his time at Spalding University as one of accomplishment, affirmation, service and personal growth.

The 2021 Spalding Creative Arts graduate and a three-year leader of the Sexuality and Gender Acceptance (SAGA) student organization said he is proud of how he has helped bring students together to find community and better understand LGBTQ issues.

Kirchner, who identifies as pansexual and transmasculine, said he also has been personally supported by Spalding faculty and staff and built meaningful friendships with classmates and others in the Louisville community.

“I was lucky to have so many friends, and the queer community, even outside of SAGA, is really amazing,” Kirchner said, adding that Spalding’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center has supported him throughout his college journey. “Living on campus was great because I could kind of learn to be myself and have that space. I found a community of friends, and they helped me just let me be me.”

Kirchner said he has grown more confident in his art, including bringing more of himself and his identity into his work, as opposed to painting only exterior objects or scenes he observed in the world. His experience and emotions as a trans person were the subject of his senior thesis.

“It took me forever to get to a space where my interior thoughts were worthy of the gallery space,” he said, “and I got to create this work that I’m really happy about and that I really think is an interesting dialogue that people should hear about.”

CREATIVE ARTS  | BFA program overview

A mural that read "Change the World, Change One Mind" in the Spalding art studios
Kris Kirchner painted this mural in the hallway of the Creative Arts studio spaces in the south wing of Morrison Hall.

Kirchner served as the social media manager for SAGA. He made graphics and flyers and created the organization’s Instagram account – @SAGA_Spalding – as a way to raise its prominence and promote events. He also helped organize a SAGA informational event for any student on campus – including those who knew little about LGBTQ terminology or issues – in order to increase understanding and promote inclusiveness.

“I enjoyed being able to give back and create an environment where I made these cool friends,” Kirchner said. “SAGA allowed me to educate people. … I came from a town where not many people knew about LGBTQ issues, and I had to do all my own research. I was still learning when I came to college. Providing that (informational session) so that we could have better allies and have people understand (was rewarding).”

Kirchner’s involvement in SAGA led to him getting to know members of other Recognized Student Organizations across campus as well as non-Spalding organizations around Louisville. He said Spalding’s location in downtown Louisville made Pride and other LGBTQ events easily accessible.

SAGA was limited in its activity since spring 2020 due to the pandemic, but Kirchner encouraged underclassmen to step in to help organize events next school year when on-campus activities will be more prevalent. He said involvement in SAGA was an extremely valuable part of his college experience.

Kirchner was among the Creative Arts students who painted murals in the hallways of the student studio spaces in the south wing of Morrison Hall earlier this month. In Kirchner’s mural, the phrase “Change the world” is repeated over and over in black paint, with the phrase “Change one mind” written out in golden in the center.

He said changing the world by changing one mind at a time had been his goal with SAGA to increase understanding and acceptance.

“I hope I left a mark there,” he said.

Spalding’s Mother Rose Meagher Senior Award – one of the university’s two highest undergraduate honors – goes to a graduating student who has proven to be a “mature leader and member of the campus community.”

That description fits this year’s recipient, Kristen Garren, who by all accounts, has embodied maturity and determination while achieving overall excellence in completing her Bachelor of Science in Social Work.

Garren, a 45-year-old former transfer student, is set to begin a career in social work after earning a near-perfect GPA and earning high marks for her work in her practicum placement at Frazier Rehabilitation Institute.

A former teacher’s assistant and substitute teacher in Jefferson County Public Schools, Garren was a nine-time Dean’s List selection in accomplishing her longtime goal of getting her bachelor’s degree, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, including a sudden shift to all online classes. She also worked, including as a work-study in the Spalding Library, raised a 12-year-old son and helped him excel at virtual school, and coped with the difficulty of losing a parent and a classmate.

“I don’t want to cry, but (this degree) has been something I’ve been working toward and something I’ve always wanted,” said Garren, who received the Meagher Award at Commencement on Saturday, June 5. “Years ago, I started out and went to school, then I quit. I had kids and life and family and everything. It’s something I’ve always wanted. It’s always been a goal for me, nobody else. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for myself.”

Garren has helped plenty of people along the way, including during her meaningful practicum at Frazier Rehab, where she helped with case management for patients with spinal cord injuries and illnesses.

*Home page for info and links to ceremony replays and programs
*Bios of all university award winners
*Read President McClure’s Commencement address and top 10 list
*Tons of photos on Spalding’s Commencement Facebook album
*Graduate features and Q&As

Garren’s practicum supervisor praised her for her work ethic, kindness and empathy.

She helped arrange for patients to get durable medical equipment, including sometimes from the Project CARAT library of Spalding’s Kosair Charities enTECH assistive technology resource center. She helped answer patient questions about accessibility and care issues at their home and helped locate resources.


As a former education major, being in the hospital was a brand-new experience for Garren, and she said was proud that she succeeded and helped others in a fieldwork setting that was out of her comfort zone. On top of studying for her classes, she devoted time to learning medical terms and healthcare computer systems.

“I feel like I needed to do that to give them the best care,” she said. “Whether I was an intern or not and no matter how many hours I spent there, I wanted to make sure I could answer questions and be able to help them.”

Garren hopes to land a job as a social worker in a medical setting.  At Frazier and through her studies at Spalding, she has developed an understanding and appreciative for trauma-informed care.

“No matter what field of social work you go into, I think trauma-informed care is probably one of the biggest things we need to consider post-COVID,” said Garren, who earned a minor in addiction studies from Spalding.

Garren said she “can’t gush enough” about the support she received from the professors in the School of Social Work, who were flexible with students during the pandemic.

Garren said her cohort was a close-knit group who supported each other when a classmate passed away last year. Garren’s father also died in the past year.

The small class sizes and the supportive network were among Garren’s favorite aspects of the Spalding program. She envisions staying in touch with all her classmates and instructors and expects that they will be valuable resources to each other, offering perspectives from their respective social work specialties.

Garren said finishing at Spalding is bittersweet because she will miss the interactions with her classmates and teachers. She is eager to get in the social work workforce, but she expects that she’ll eventually come back for her Master of Social Work degree.

Commencement has represented a time for Garren to reflect on her accomplishments.

“Things happen and you may feel like you’re never going to be able to attain that degree that you always wanted because life kind of gets in the way,” she said. “Then you take a chance and you make lots of sacrifices. You end up telling people no to a lot of things because you have to write a paper, you have to study, you have to (prioritize) what’s most important, and it’s to get that degree. I made the choice to make it my priority, and I’m glad that I did.”

The stress of attending college during the pandemic and the national upheaval over racial injustice made for a heavy final year for Jaz’Myne Ware as a Bachelor of Science of Social Work student at Spalding University.

But Ware and her classmates persevered, celebrating the completion of their degree at Commencement on Saturday, June 5.

“All the hard work has paid off,” she said. “It’s been a lot of work.”

Through the struggle, Ware learned about herself and her desire to advocate for social change. She established herself as an exemplary student and student leader, and she was recognized at Commencement as the recipient of one of the university’s two highest undergraduate honors – the Mother Catherine Spalding Service Learning Award.

“I really just support the belief that everyone deserves the right to happiness and dignity of self, no matter their nationality or gender identity or race or where they’re from,” Ware said. Over the past year, “I learned this is where I need to be. This is what I’m meant to do.”


During her undergraduate career, Ware was a seven-time Dean’s List selection who was praised by faculty and staff for her intellect, contributions to class discourse and involvement in campus organizations and activities. Additionally, she proudly became a participant in the demonstrations for racial justice that took place in downtown Louisville last year.

She said the fact that the protests often took place near Spalding’s campus was an “eye-opener,” especially as a social work student.

“When everything first happened last year, I kind of felt a calling to protest,” Ware said. “Instead of ignoring that – I was very nervous and anxious because it was my first time protesting – I took that big leap. That kind of opened me up a little bit because I’d seen how a community can come together. Seeing that power and feeling that energy really kind of fueled me and my social work side. I was like, ‘OK, people care. It’s just a matter of getting people out there.’”

*Home page for info and links to ceremony replays and programs
*Bios of all university award winners
*Read President McClure’s Commencement address and top 10 list
*Tons of photos on Spalding’s Commencement Facebook album
*Graduate features and Q&As

Spalding has truly been home to Ware, who has lived in the residence halls year-round for four years. She excelled as a work-study in the Spalding Library, and she was a leader in Spalding’s Sexuality and Gender Acceptance student organization, among other leadership positions on campus.

Ware’s social work practicum at Family Scholar House, which supports single parents who are pursuing their educational and career goals, was so successful that it landed her a job with the organization as a case management specialist.

Ware plans to remain at Spalding through next year as a student in the Master of Social Work program. After gaining the one-on-one client experience at Family Scholar House, Ware said she would like to placed in a macro-level practicum in her master’s program.

Ware eventually hopes to work in development of low-income communities of color. She also wants to educate young people about the profession of social work and spread awareness about the need for more social workers as a way to bring about positive social change.

“At the heart of being a social worker is seeing problems, and one of my (CliftonStrengths themes) is restorative, so I see problems and want to fix them,” she said.

Ware said Commencement felt even more meaningful than usual this year because of what her BSSW cohort went through, including successfully adapting to three semesters of fully online classes. Tragically, her Class of 2021 was traumatized by the death of a classmate last year.

She was elected by her classmates to speak at Commencement on behalf of their cohort.

She said she was “really excited to show appreciation for everyone that, ‘You went through this, you got through this, and you’ll be OK.'”

Spalding safely returned to in-person Commencement activities Thursday-Saturday, June 3-5, 2021 in celebration of the classes of 2021 and 2020. For 2021, Spalding celebrated a total of 585 graduates who have earned or will earn bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees. The number of graduates in 2020 was 486.

Spalding also honored five individuals for 2021 with the university’s highest awards for faculty, undergraduate students, and alumni. Two retiring faculty members were also honored with the designation of professor emeritus. Here is a rundown of those awards and honors:

BOARD OF TRUSTEES’ OUTSTANDING FACULTY AWARD – Dr. Donna Elkins, Professor, School of Communication

In addition to teaching a range of undergraduate communication courses at Spalding and being an outstanding instructor, Dr. Elkins has been an invaluable resource to her colleagues on the faculty, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and as an expert in online and hybrid teaching, Dr. Elkins was instrumental in helping faculty who needed guidance in suddenly shifting their courses online at the onset of the pandemic. She conducted or arranged for multiple trainings for faculty and has been a constant, available resource over the past year.

Dr. Elkins’ helpfulness, compassion and positivity have earned her the admiration of her colleagues on the faculty, and she has helped build their confidence in learning new ways to teach.

In addition, Dr. Elkins teaches in the Master of Science in Business Communication program, chairs or serves on multiple important faculty committees on campus, and is a dedicated researcher and scholar who frequently presents at conferences and publishes journal articles.

*Home page for info and links to ceremony replays and programs
*Read President McClure’s Commencement address and top 10 list
*Tons of photos on Spalding’s Commencement Facebook album
*Graduate features and Q&As

Jaz'Myne Ware with Tori Murden McClure
Jaz’Myne Ware (blue), with President Tori Murden McClure, received the Mother Catherine Spalding Service Learning Award.

MOTHER CATHERINE SPALDING SERVICE LEARNING AWARD – Jaz’Myne Ware, Bachelor of Science in Social Work

This award is presented to a graduating senior who embodies the spiritual values of faith, hope and charity, which emulate the university’s founder, Mother Catherine Spalding.  Ware was chosen for having made a mark on the Spalding community as well as the greater community of Louisville through her service, intellect, and passion for social justice.

Ware completed her senior practicum at Family Scholar House, contributing more than 460 hours of unpaid service in support of single parents and their children as the parents pursue their educational and career goals.

In addition, she has been a work-study in the Spalding Library and is heavily involved in campus organizations and activities.

Ware has been praised by faculty for her deep critical thinking and desire to make connections and integrate her classroom experiences. She made the Dean’s List seven times while maintaining an excellent GPA.

An advocate for equity and social justice, Ware participated in demonstrations last year in support of racial justice, and she is a leader in Spalding’s Sexuality and Gender Acceptance student organization.

Ware has been described as, “cheerfully involved in everything, deeply giving of herself, and a strong advocate for those who have been underrepresented and historically oppressed.”

Ware’s long-term goal is to work in low-income communities of color. She also aspires to raise awareness about the need for social workers and improve young people’s understanding of social work, in order to grow the profession and foster systemic change.

Kristen Garren
Kristen Garren, recipient of the Mother Rose Meagher Senior Award

MOTHER ROSE MEAGHER SENIOR AWARD – Kristen Garren, Bachelor of Science in Social Work

The Mother Rose Meagher Senior Award is presented annually to a member of the senior class who has performed well academically and has a proven record as a mature leader and member of the campus community.

Garren was an exemplary student who earned high praise for the meaningful, diligent work she did during her senior practicum at Frazier Rehabilitation Institute. During 475 hours of unpaid service, she supported patients with spinal cord injuries and illnesses with their cases, helping them attain durable medical equipment and receive appropriate care.

Garren’s practicum supervisor described her as a joy to work with and someone who is kind, respectful and empathetic.

In having developed an understanding of trauma-informed care, Garren would like to pursue a career in social work in a medical setting, advocating for patients and families who are navigating the complex health care system. Her effectiveness in social work and understanding of others’ needs is deepened by her background teaching and working in public schools.

Ware, who also earned a minor in addiction studies, is a nine-time Dean’s List selection who has achieved a near-perfect GPA. She has been praised by faculty for her valuable contributions to class discourse.

Her professionalism, helpfulness and proactive approach as a work-study in the Spalding Library and at the enTECH assistive technology resource center have also been praised.

Spalding Alumna of the Year Vicki Hines Martin with Tori Murden McClure at Spalding Commencement
Caritas medalist Vicki Hines-Martin

CARITAS MEDAL (Alumna of the year No. 1) – Vicki Hines-Martin

At a time when the nation and world continue to celebrate the contributions of nurses during the pandemic, School of Nursing graduate Dr. Vicki Hines-Martin, who received the degrees of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (1975) and Master of Arts in Education (1983) from Spalding, was one of two School of Nursing graduates this year to be presented with the Caritas Medal. It is considered the university’s highest honor.

An educator and researcher who is acclaimed for her work focused on health disparities, access to care and healthcare needs of minority populations, Hines-Martin serves as Associate Dean for the University of Louisville School of Nursing’s Office of Community Engagement and Diversity Inclusion, as well as Director of Community Outreach for the U of L Health Sciences Center’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Hines-Martin has been on the full-time faculty at U of L since 1998. She has also taught at the University of Kentucky, Indiana University Southeast and Jefferson Community and Technical College and served on a range of national journal editorial boards, advisory panels and peer review boards.

In addition, from 2019-20, she was President of the International Society of Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses, and she has served in a variety of roles since 1980 with the Kentucky Nurses Association, including Co-Director of the Kentucky Nurses Helping Nurses Project in 2020.

In addition to her Spalding degrees, Hines-Martin earned a PhD in Nursing from the University of Kentucky (1994) and a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Cincinnati.

Spalding Alumna of the Year Mary Romelfanger with Tori Murden McClure
Caritas medalist Mary Romelfanger 

CARITAS MEDAL (Alumna of the year No. 2) – Mary Romelfanger

The other School of Nursing graduate to be honored with the Caritas Medal was Mary Romelfanger (BSN, 1976), who has been a longtime leader, administrator and consultant in geriatric and senior care who recently became the Director of Operations for Hildegard House.

Romelfanger, who received the degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Spalding in 1976, has been a longtime leader, administrator and consultant in geriatric and senior care who recently became the Director of Operations for Hildegard House, Kentucky’s first and only comfort care home. Hildegard House provides a home and compassionate care for individuals at the end of life who have no home or loved ones to care for them so that they may die with dignity.

Romelfanger previously served as Associate Director for the University of Louisville School of Medicine’s Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging (2013-16), and she was Vice President for Clinical Services for Presbyterian Homes and Services of Kentucky (2008-09). From 1994 to 2005, Romelfanger was Director of the U.S. Office of Health Services for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, and before that she spent 14 years as Deputy Executive Director of the Kentucky Board of Nursing.

Romelfanger’s civic service includes membership on the Board of Directors of ElderServe since 2016. She also served on the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission Alzheimer’s and Dementia Workforce Assessment Task Force, the Kentucky Council on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the U of L Department of Family and Geriatrics Advisory Board and the Spalding School of Nursing Advisory Board.

She has recently served as a COVID-19 testing and vaccination volunteer.

DESIGNATION OF FACULTY EMERITUS – Dr. Joseph Maloney, Professor, School of Nursing

Maloney was one two retiring faculty members from the School of Nursing to be honored by the trustees, who deemed that they have left a lasting mark on the university by displaying an intense love of learning and teaching, a powerful dedication to their students and a strong loyalty to Spalding that will be remembered and appreciated for years to come.

Maloney served and taught for 18 years in the School of Nursing. In recent years he has taught in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in the areas of medical/surgical nursing and pharmacology. His tenure at Spalding followed a 27-year career in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. In addition to teaching, Dr. Maloney has published more than 30 scholarly articles.

Spalding Faculty Emeritus Brother Ignatius Perkins and Tori Murden McClure
Faculty Emeritus Brother Ignatius Perkins

DESIGNATION OF FACULTY EMERITUS – Brother Ignatius Perkins, PhD, Chair and Professor, School of Nursing

Brother Perkins has been a key figure in nursing education at Spalding during its century-long history in downtown Louisville, having served two separate stints as Nursing Chair during more than a decade of total service on the faculty. In addition, Brother Perkins is one of the country’s leading scholars on bioethics and medical ethics, as well a leader in Catholic health care who has held numerous leadership roles within the Dominican Friars. Brother Perkins was Chair of the School of Nursing from 2003 to 2005 while dually serving as Dean of the College of Health and Natural Sciences. He returned to the role of Nursing Chair in 2019. Brother Perkins, who is a graduate of the nursing school and the College of Education, is a past recipient of the Caritas Medal as Alumnus of the Year.

At Commencement, it was also announced that the conference room in the Republic Bank Academic Center will be renamed in honor of Perkins.


In 2020, the Caritas Medal was awarded posthumously to the late Dr. Perry Sangalli (Doctor of Education, ’98), who was the longtime President at St. Xavier High School and a longtime Spalding trustee. Last year’s Outstanding Faculty Award recipient was Dr. Brenda Nash of the School of Professional Psychology. Psychology Professor Dr. Kenneth Linfield, who retired last year, received the designation as Faculty Emeritus. The undergraduate student award winners were Sally Rother, BFA in Creative Writing, Mother Catherine Spalding Service Learning Award; and Kasim Alsalman, BS in Business Administration, Mother Rose Meagher Senior Award.

MORE | Learn about 2020 honorees

Spalding University held its annual Commencement ceremonies June 3-5, 2021, with President Tori Murden McClure delivering an address to the graduates. Her speech also included her annual list of maxims titled, “10 Things That I Think I Know.” Here are her full remarks:

What a strange time this has been. People talk about the return to normal. Normal is a fantasy. There is only change. Resistance to change, and, later, more change. There is a saying, “The only creature who welcomes change is an infant with a dirty diaper.” Nonetheless, change is constant. And at this moment in time, change is necessary.

The world we are giving to our graduates is broken. Look around at people with gray hair … we broke it. When I finished college, we talked about polarized sunglasses not polarized positions, polarized news outlets, or polarized people. Life at the polar extremes is cold, desolate, and best avoided.

Thirty years ago, I skied 750-miles across Antarctica to the geographic South Pole. The average temperature was minus-25 degrees. It was a land of ice, wind, and hardship, but I submit to you that it was warmer and more welcoming than some of the polar extremes of our modern discourse.

Demonizing those with whom we disagree demonstrates a failure of imagination and a stunting of our empathy. Abraham Joshua Heschel observed: “To be or not to be is not the question. The vital question is how to be and how not to be … .”

When I am asked to speak to groups of elementary age children, I love to say, “Raise your hand if something bad ever happened to you.” Then, to all the children who raise their hands I say, “Good for you!” Those children respond with confusion, “WHAT?!” I go on to explain that what we learn from hardship, from failure, and from tragedy informs our character. I tell children, the bad things that happen to you are not your story. What you do with the bad things that happen that is your story. When we use our experience with “bad things” to assist others when they are in distress, we are making good out of bad.

COMMENCEMENT | Hundreds of photos on Spalding’s Facebook page | Links to individual school celebrations, replays, programs | Graduate features

In the past eighteen months, we have endured some measure of a shared global crisis. We must ask ourselves whether we will allow the experience to alter are characters for good or for ill. The ill effects are plain. It seems as if our ears have become fragile, our tempers are on a hair trigger, and that our favorite pastime has become passing judgment on other people.

“How shall we be, and how shall we not be?”

To answer this question, I bring to mind people whom I admire. People I consider my mentors. The teachers, coaches, and friends who stood at the forks in the road of my life. Graduates, perhaps some of the people sitting nearby stood at the forks in the road of your lives.

While I was in Divinity School at Harvard, I worked with homeless people. One afternoon, in a particularly rough part of Boston, one homeless man stabbed another. I was the first to respond. I will spare you the gory details, but when I left that chaotic scene, I was not aware of the blood-soaked towel that I had thrown over my shoulder. When got on the subway to make the journey back to Harvard I was fuming with anger. No one looked in my direction.

It was as if I was invisible. Before long, I noticed the towel and I assumed that it was the bloody towel that had made me invisible. I my fury grew. I got off the train at Harvard Square. Harvard … one of the most privileged places on the planet. I remained invisible. Fury turned to rage, and I crossed Harvard Yard like a bowling ball. Students and faculty got out – of – my – way. As I approached Memorial Church on the far side of Harvard Yard, the Reverend Doctor Peter J. Gomes was coming down the stairs.

Peter knew me. This was not the first time Peter Gomes witnessed my brokenness. He placed himself directly in my path. Peter saw me. He was black. He was gay. He was an ordained minister. He was a Republican. In short, he was not like other faculty at Harvard University. Peter asked, “What’s up with the towel?”

Growling with rage, I sputtered the details of what had happened. I ended with, “The towel makes me invisible.” Peter smiled. His was a smile filled with sadness and with empathy. Then, he told me, “It is your anger that makes you invisible.” Each time I find it difficult to navigate the rage, I am reminded of Peter Gomes, “It is your anger that makes you invisible.”

It is OK, even admirable, to have a fire in your belly. I have had one there most of my life. Take care how you put that fire to use. Fire as a tool is neutral. We can use it to warm the chill of a cold world, we can use it to cauterize a wound, or we can use it to torch our world to cinders. If you use your fire in the spirit of the Spalding University Mission “to meet the needs of the time,” you will be using your fire for good.

You have graduated. A few of you might be just a little bit proud. I am okay with that. Pride is not a bad thing. I had a Buddhism Professor who taught that “If you must have an ego, have an ego as big as the Himalaya Mountains.” I thought my professor was wrong, and I thought he was wrong because he was a man. Women are not allowed to show ego. We display too much pride, people knock us down. (To be fair, it is usually other women who knock us down.) Nevertheless, I learned the truth of my professor’s words when I went to work for Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali had an ego as big as the Himalaya Mountains.

In 1954, a twelve-year-old Cassius Clay rode his red Schwinn bicycle to this building, which is now Spalding’s Columbia Gym. He was upstairs eating hotdogs and popcorn when someone stole his red bicycle. He said, “I’m gonna wump somebody up.” Bystanders sent young Cassius Clay to report the crime to a police officer in the basement. “I’m gonna wump somebody up. He stole my bicycle.” Joe Martin, the police officer, was a boxing coach. Officer Martin explained to this young man that if he wanted to beat someone up he should learn to box.

White policeman. Black boy. Happy ending. Too many encounters between white police officers and black boys are more ending than happy, but these are not stories for today.

“How to be, and how not to be.”

Muhammad Ali had an ego as big as the Himalaya Mountains. He also had a special kind of humility. He was the greatest, and wherever he went, he lifted others up. Muhammad was not perfect. No one is perfect. Muhammad could be cruel. In his younger years, he occasionally used the fire in his belly to scorch others. But in his later years, when I knew him, he was magnificent.

I went to work for him shortly after I had failed to row a boat alone across the Atlantic Ocean. I had rowed 3,000 miles when I got hit by a hurricane. There is nothing special in this, all of us face storms. All of us tangle with waves. The point is, when I went to work for Muhammad Ali, I believed myself to be a monumental failure.

Muhammad Ali lifted up. He reminded me that a failure is not someone who falls. A failure is a person who does not get back up. When he judged I was ready, he told me, “You don’t want to go through life as the woman who almost rowed across the ocean.” He was right, I went back and I completed that journey.

Graduates, you have completed your Spalding journey. You have earned your degree. I will not begrudge you the power and privilege that come with this achievement. I challenge you to use these gifts to imagine a better world and to work toward achieving it. I challenge you to close the gap between the promise of humanity and the performance of human beings.

Extend your empathy and your grace to others. Share your passion and knowledge in ways that include rather than exclude. Exclusion breeds resentment, bitterness, and self-doubt among those we leave out. Inclusion creates hope and it opens opportunity, and it builds the bridges of friendship and love.

One of the greatest gifts an educated person brings to a community is the ability to imagine a better world, a kinder reality, a more perfect union. You cannot build what you cannot imagine. Imagination allows us to empathize with people whose experiences we do not share. Imagination helps us to learn and to understand by projecting ourselves into the place of another. It does not take an education to see the pain on our streets, but I hope that as Spalding graduates you will use your education to do something about that pain.

You have worked hard to reach this milestone. You have won this honor for yourselves. Hellaire Belloc wrote, “Nothing is worth the wear of winning but laughter and the love of friends.” I hope you will take time to enjoy laughter and the love of friends.

I am proud of you. And you look GOOD today!


As I wind this up, it is my job to fill your head with platitudes one or two of which you might actually remember. Socrates said, “All I know is that I know nothing.” I will freely admit don’t know anything for sure, but, I will end with ten things that I think I know:

1. Silence is golden and if silence fails you, remember that duct tape is silver. I wish real life came with a mute button.

2. If the carrot is big enough you can use it as a stick.

3. Road blocks only block the road … they do not block the grass, the path, the water, or the way less traveled … road blocks just block the road.

4. This one of for those of you who identify as male. Gentlemen, a recent study found that women who carry a little extra weight live much longer than the men who … mention … it.

5. It is never too late to have a happy childhood … I have had several … I have many more planned. Or the corollary, I may grow old, but I will never be old enough to know better.

6. Learn from the mistakes of others; you cannot live long enough to make them all yourselves.
a) Or the corollary, it is difficult to become old and wise if you are not first young and stupid.

b) There are gradations of stupid: stupid, level one gets you heart, stupid level two gets others hurt, stupid level three involves police and lawyers and you might never own your own home.

c) Avoid all levels of stupid that begin with the phrase, “Hey hold my beer ‘nd watch ‘his.”

7. Do not burn bridges. Just loosen the bolts a little each day.

8. If you have to keep something that you are doing a secret … then perhaps you should not be doing it.

9. Is an important one for and university presidents, don’t take yourself too seriously … no one else does

10. Do not believe everything you think. Or as Socrates said, all I know is that I know nothing.

I have tremendous confidence that when you leave Spalding as alumni you will go out. You will teach, heal, feed, and build. You will inform, advocate, comfort, and guide. You will criticize, organize, contribute and in a hundred other ways you will serve people and causes.  When this commencement service ends let your service to the world begin anew. I know you will make Spalding proud. You will make your friends and families proud.

In the words of Seneca: “As is a tale so is life, it is not how long it is, but rather how good it is that matters.” Your lives need to matter.

Spalding University is highlighting graduates from a range of academic programs during Commencement season. Ahead of our last day of ceremonies (Business, Communication, Psychology, Social Work), we wrap up our Commencement Countdown with 2021 Master of Science in Business Communication (Organizational Leadership concentration) grad Jillian Boehmann, who came back to get her master’s to supplement her professional retail, sales and marketing experience.

How do you feel about your accomplishment of completing your degree and graduating?

It definitely felt odd at first to return to school at 37, after so many years away. However, it wasn’t long before I realized how much I really enjoyed writing and presenting, especially when the topics were so applicable to my career. It went by so quickly, but I feel that I learned and accomplished a lot during my time at Spalding and feel proud to be graduating.

What was it like to finish your degree during the pandemic?

Certainly strange, as I was only able to have one course in the classroom before the pandemic hit. However, it just shows how adaptable and resilient both the faculty and students were.

COMMENCEMENT 2021 | Schedules, livestream links and more info

What is something specifically about your academic program that you liked or that stands out about Spalding’s program/system that may not be the case at another school?

I liked the practical approach of the MSBC program. It was not driven by test scores or regurgitating information, but rather on how the materials in each course could be applied in real-life business situations. It helped me to hone both my written and oral communication skills, especially in a time when in-person interactions were very limited, both academically and professionally.

MS IN BUSINESS COMMUNICATION | Overview  | Why an MSBC vs. MBA? | Faculty 

Describe something you have done or accomplished at Spalding that you are proud of.

I am proud that a professor chose to use my presentation as an example for future students, and that I finished with a 4.0 and was invited to be a member of the Sigma Beta Delta Honor Society.

What does it mean to you to become a graduate of Spalding University? What do you think you will take with you from your time at Spalding that will serve you well in your career or life?

It means an opportunity for advancement in my career and more confidence in my ability to advance. It means connection to a wonderful network of faculty and students that will exist for years to come.

What are your next steps with this degree?

My hope is to expand into a different role with my employer, and I also plan to continue with Spalding by pursuing my Human Resources certification in the fall.

As a longtime member of the Board of Trustees and a former board Chair, Paul M. Ratterman has for years been one of the most influential leaders of Spalding University, and the institution has become an important part of his life.

Now, when he advocates for Spalding in the community or when he votes on a board action, he’ll have the additional sense of purpose and pride that comes with being an alumnus of the university.

Ratterman earned the degree of Doctor of Education (EdD) in Leadership from Spalding’s College of Education and celebrated Thursday, June 3 on the first day of Commencement. Ratterman’s wife, Kim, a Spalding nursing alumna, performed the ceremonial hooding of her husband.

“It’s amazing,” said Paul Ratterman, who joined the Spalding board in 2007 and served as chair from 2014-18. “I never thought I would be a Spalding alum, but here I am. Doing the program changes a lot of how you look at life. It’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it.”

COMMENCEMENT | Schedule, livestream links and more information
PHOTOS | See hundreds of images and tag yourself and your loved ones in Spalding’s Facebook album

Spalding President Tori Murden McClure and trustees Paul Ratterman and John Malloy at Commencement
Spalding President Tori Murden McClure and trustees Dr. Paul Ratterman, left, and Dr. John P. Malloy at Commencement on June 3, 2021. Ratterman and Malloy both celebrated earning their EdD in Leadership.

Ratterman, who serves as Managing Director of Fixed Income Capital Markets for Stifel Financial, is one of three Spalding trustees who have recently earned their EdD from the College Education, along with Dr. John P. Malloy, who also participated in Thursday’s Commencement as part of the Class of 2020, and Dr. Rick Blackwell (2018).

As a veteran of banking and investment for more than 30 years as well as an instructor of the American Bankers Association’s Stonier Graduate School of Banking and the ABA International School of Banking, Ratterman was already well-equipped with professional and teaching experience before he sought his doctorate.

SPALDING’s DOCTORATE IN LEADERSHIP | EdD overview | Faculty bios | Videos and testimonials

But he was intrigued by the opportunity of the EdD program to build on his MBA and professional experience by conducting in-depth research and taking on the challenge of academic rigor.

Ratterman was part of an eight-person cohort for the 2021 EdD, and he said the small size of the cohort was valuable in offering a supportive network for the students. Making those friendships will be his favorite memory of the EdD process, he said.

“We all became very, very close, and that interaction was really where the learning takes place,” Ratterman said. “The faculty was also awesome and did a great job.”

He said the EdD program’s guest speakers and panel discussions on leadership topics – including those of the Abramson Leadership Exchange, which are moderated by Spalding Executive in Residence and former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson – were an enriching addition to the standard curriculum.

“I’d have to rate the quality (of the program) very highly,” Ratterman said. “The Spalding EdD program gave me the opportunity to go much deeper into a topic than I ever would have been able to. And the diversity of the program, diversity of the class allowed me to see things from many different perspectives that I would not have been able to before.”

The doctorate will help expand his opportunities to teach in higher education, said Ratterman, who plans to contribute to the Spalding EdD in the future and be an active alumnus.

Ratterman’s doctoral capstone project was titled, “An Exploration of Ethics Education in U.S. Graduate Banking Schools.”

He interviewed curriculum directors of banking schools around the country about how they teach ethics to students, and he said those banking schools are now eager to read his research conclusions in order to consider ways potentially to improve their programs. Ratterman hopes to publish his findings in a scholarly journal.

Ratterman said serving on the board and studying at Spalding have been rewarding and meaningful.

“It’s exciting to see the growth of the campus from when I started on the board,” he said.
We were much different back then. We’ve more than doubled the campus. We have exciting initiatives in healthcare and physical therapy. Talking to the outside community about Spalding and what it’s doing and how it’s changing lives and the diversity of the school is really powerful. It’s neat to be a part of that.”

Spalding 2021 EdD Cohort at Commencment
The entire 2021 EdD Cohort after Commencement Thursday, June 3, on the steps of Columbia Gym.


Spalding will celebrate graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 during Commencement this week, June 3-5, 2021. In the leadup, Spalding is featuring graduates from a range of academic programs. Today’s featured graduate is Dr. Sara Story, Associate Professor in Spalding’s Auerbach School of Occupational Therapy, who has earned the degree of Doctor of Education: Leadership from the College of Education. Dr. Story is now a three-time alumna of Spalding, where she also earned her bachelor’s in health science and master’s in OT. She also has a doctorate in OT. 

What was it like to finish your degree during the pandemic? 

I remember being in class the weekend the world shut down. With the unknown looming over us, my cohort and I spent our last “normal” weekend pushing through to learn the best methods for setting up our research studies. Little did we know that weekend would be our last in-person event and we would be tasked with additional obstacles as we began our capstones. The unknown of the world and the unknowns of research were stressful. However, my cohort, “The Great 8” (our group nickname) stayed connected and pushed through. In a time where stress and worry could’ve overtaken us, we linked arms (virtually) and continued to hold each other up. We agreed we to cross the finish line together, and that is exactly what we will do on June 3.

MORE | Learn about Spalding’s Doctor of Education (EdD) in Leadership

Describe something you have done or accomplished at Spalding that you are proud of:

I’ve been able to make lasting friendships and strong community connections with agencies that I knew nothing about before the EdD program. My new connections to community members, agencies, and even my cohort mates have helped me become a stronger educator and influence the students I’m privileged to teach with amazing ways to help serve and access community resources.

What is something personal about your journey to graduating from Spalding that people may not know but that you’d like to share and that you are proud of? 

After accepting my seat in the EdD program, I found out I was expecting my third child. My daughter was born during the launch week of EdD 902. I was proud to have this moment and show my children that no matter your goals in life, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. I was able to virtually participate in class and continued to progress through the curriculum. Regardless of the circumstances, my family was always there to help see me through. I’m proud my children were able to see me accomplish something for myself, even when it required a lot of hard work. It was great for them to see how a family bonds together to help support someone they love. So this degree is for me, but it wouldn’t be possible without my husband, three kids (A,E & I), and my parents.

What are your next steps with this degree – job, pursuit of another degree, etc.?

Celebrate with a trip to a Disney World! My parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and my EdD degree completion occurred in the same week. So we are going as one big happy family to Disney.


Spalding will celebrate graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 during Commencement, June 3-5, 2021. In the leadup, Spalding is featuring graduates from a range of academic programs. Today’s featured graduate is Felicia Graham, who is earning the degree of Master of Education in Instructional Leadership as part of the first cohort of Spalding’s Aspiring Leaders principal preparation program with Jefferson County Public Schools. Graham is a third-grade teacher at JCPS’s Dunn Elementary School. 

How do you feel about your accomplishment of completing your degree and graduating?

There are not enough words to accurately describe how I feel about completing my program and graduating, especially during a pandemic. I feel so much pride and joy in my dedication to finish this commitment. Spalding certainly prepared me for my next step in my career.  I am excited to know what my future holds after completing this milestone!

What was it like to finish your degree during the pandemic? 

It was extremely difficult to balance work, school and other commitments. Truly, I contemplated stopping and pursuing this opportunity at another time. However, I was able to prioritize my responsibilities to make it easier to embrace all of my roles that I maintain on a daily basis. In addition, my cohort members and instructors were a great support system that helped me along my journey. I found out what I was truly made of. I pushed myself to new limits and accomplished my goal of completing my degree and graduating.

SPALDING COLLEGE OF EDUCATION | Overview of all bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral programs
JCPS ASPIRING LEADERS PRINCIPAL PREP | Spring 2020 press release | Fall 2020 update

What is something specifically about your academic program that you liked or that stands out about Spalding’s program/system that may not be the case at another school? 

I liked the hybrid format offered by Spalding because of the flexibility we had in attending both online and in-person classes. I also loved how personable my instructors were. If I needed any assistance, they were readily available at any time. Most importantly, my academic program was an established partnership with the local school system, Jefferson County Public Schools. It was amazing and so powerful to have guest speakers from the district because it made the work that I will be doing very realistic! It was so powerful to hear and learn from local leaders who are experts at their positions for the district I work for. The commitment of Spalding to the community is evident as they are preparing future leaders to lead and improve issues faced in schools. I feel these reasons support why Spalding was the perfect fit for me.

SPALDING COMMENCEMENT | 2021 schedule and information

Describe something you have done or accomplished at Spalding that you are proud of:

Receiving my degree is the best accomplishment that I am most proud of at Spalding. I am a proud alumna and look forward to supporting the school in any way possible in the future. I would like to continue to see Spalding work more with the schools in the community.

What does it mean to you to become a graduate of Spalding University? What do you think you will take with you from your time at Spalding that will serve you well in your career or life?

Being a graduate of Spalding is one accomplishment that I am very proud of! Out of all of my degrees, this one feels different because it was very relatable to the career I am pursuing currently. I grew more as an individual and enjoyed learning so much from people who are acutely aware of what it takes to be an effective administrator. By Spalding incorporating local guest speakers along with readings help make the learning so personable for me. With my degree from Spalding, I know that I will be able to take what I have learned and apply to become a leader of change in Jefferson County Public Schools and also positively affect our communities.

What are some of your favorite aspects and favorite memories bout attending Spalding? 

My favorite memories will be all of my instructors that I had this year:  Dr. Glenn Baete, Mr. Kirk Lattimore, and Dr. Tracy Barber. They were all very passionate about educating aspiring leaders and sharing valuable lessons that they learned from their experiences. They are still active and aware of the needs of the district, and they truly take pride in sharing their knowledge and helping to prepare others to continue the necessary work to create equitable, high-performing schools. In addition, it was an honor to have my principal, Dr. Barber, to encourage and support me throughout my graduate education and also apply my learning experience at our school. She is a great leader who is dedicated to helping others thrive and succeed!

What is something personal about your journey to graduating from Spalding that people may not know but that you’d like to share and that you are proud of? 

In graduating from Spalding, I was able to overcome my negative experiences that I have had relating to racism and equity and actually pursue a career in which I can attempt to change this for others. Students need a school leader who believes in the potential for all students to be successful while doing whatever it takes to provide equitable opportunities to guide and assist them throughout their education. I am so passionate about this work that is needed to make our communities better while creating influential and successful citizens. I am so grateful that Spalding believes and supports making the necessary changes to make the world a better place for all people to be accepted and live in.

Share some information about academic work and capstone project.

My group and I were so honored to present our Capstone project to Dr. Barber and Mr. Lattimore. It was a great culminating activity that encompassed everything we learned. We were able to apply our knowledge while analyzing a Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP), which is actually the work of a school leader. It was very relatable and a great experience to actually lead the work as if we were administrators. This opportunity also provided ways for us to prioritize, collaborate, guide and lead others, just as we would have to do if we were a principal. Presenting this project allowed for us to work on our public speaking skills while creating an engaging presentation to accommodate the research we conducted. It was a great and useful learning experience!

What are your next steps with this degree?

My next step is to pursue a job as an assistant principal or seek other leadership opportunities within the district. Eventually, I can see myself attending Spalding to seek a Doctorate of Education in Leadership.

Spalding will celebrate graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 during Commencement, June 3-5, 2021. In the leadup, Spalding is featuring graduates from a range of academic programs. Today’s featured graduate is Haley Nestor, who earned the degree of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 2020 and who just began her second term as President of the Student Government Association. She is currently enrolled in Spalding’s Master of Science in Business Communication program. She is also a former track and field and cross country athlete.

Which years have you attended Spalding University, and which degree are you earning? 

I began my journey at Spalding in 2017 and completed my bachelor’s in business administration with a concentration in finance and a minor in psychology in 2020. I loved it so much, I came back for my master’s and will complete that at the end of 2021.

How do you feel about your accomplishment of completing your degree and graduating?

To me, I am taking away so much more than just a degree. When I graduate, yes, I will have a degree. But I will also have great friends, great connections with effective leaders, a fiancé who I met at Spalding, a father-figure who was once my coach. I am extremely blessed to be at this point in my life. The hard work is finally paying off, and I couldn’t be prouder of myself and excited to provide for a family one day.

COMMENCEMENT 2021 | Details and schedule for graduation
LEARN ABOUT THIS GRAD’S PROGRAM | BS in Business Administration

What was it like to finish your degree during the pandemic?

I have an unpopular opinion about finishing my degree during the pandemic. For me, the pandemic helped me hold myself accountable more. There are many lessons you learn during your college career, accountability being one of them. The pandemic forced many students to be held accountable and stay on top of their responsibilities. The pandemic also forced me to connect with individuals on a totally different platform and made me so resilient to what life wants to throw at me. The pandemic made things more challenging, but at the end, it made me resilient, and it made Spalding University resilient, and that is a great thing.

What is something specifically about your academic program that you liked or that stands out about Spalding’s program/system that may not be the case at another school?

Something that has always stood out to me is the fact that Tori McClure is the President. I love being a leader, I love being able to help and advocate for students, staff, and faculty. To see a woman be such an influential and effective leader has led me to where I am today. I was told in high school that women cannot be successful in the business world or be taken seriously as a leader. Seeing President McClure work and being able to have great conversations with her showed me that is not the case.

Describe something you have done or accomplished at Spalding that you are proud of:

By the time that I graduate from Spalding with my bachelor’s and master’s, I will have served in student government as a Senator, Secretary and two-time President of the Executive Board. This is something that I am proud of because a goal I live by is to leave something better than the way you found it. I love that students, staff and faculty have been able to count on me to be an advocate for them. It has been the leading factor in choosing to pursue an MSBC in Organizational Leadership, and it will continue to be the leading factor in developing myself as a leader for the rest of my life. During my time at Spalding, I was able to be a part of the Cross Country and Track and Field teams, SGA and Residence Life, while maintaining a full-time job and being a full-time student. I am proud to become a Spalding alumna. My time at Spalding is something that I will forever remember.

What has been your favorite thing about attending Spalding, and why?

My favorite thing about attending Spalding was meeting my fiancé. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was during his Engage event when I was a Resident Assistant (RA) volunteering to help with the Rock, Paper, Scissors battle. After many rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors – I won, of course – I knew his smile and competitiveness would be one that I wanted to remember forever. I never expected to find the love of my life so early in my life, but I have been so fortunate. Spalding will always have a special place in my relationship and in my life. Another great person I met at Spalding was our former cross country coach, Bradley Sowder. He will be the one who marries us when the time comes, and to meet someone who we trust to guide our marriage is so big. I am so blessed to have found these wonderful people at Spalding.

What is something personal about your journey to graduating from Spalding that people may not know but that you’d like to share and that you are proud of? 

When people see me or my accomplishments, they have always believed that I was a 4.0 student and have everything figured out. What people do not know is that Spalding offers a great resource that I took full advantage of. I was able to do a full assessment of my mental health, learning ability and more. I found out very early that I struggled with my vocabulary, retaining information, sleep, anxiety, etc. I did not start out figuring everything out, and I still do not have everything figured out. But there are people at Spalding that you find who will have a huge impact on you and keep you on track. I have had many conversations with professors on how I can better retain information, whether that was recording lectures, staying after, going to study groups, etc. I have had conversations with people who have told me to slow down and to enjoy the moment. I have always said that life is all about connections, and Spalding has brought me great connections. I can say that I have never failed a class, and I have made it to the Deans list more than once. At the beginning, I did not think college was for me, but once you find the people who want the best for you as much as you do, they really do make an impact.