Emory & Henry College has equipped its graduates well with the tools to lead lives of integrity, according to the founder of the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tenn., the largest primary care health services provider of its kind in the nation.
Dr. G. Scott Morris, the keynote speaker for the College’s commencement Saturday, reminded 187 E&H graduates that the quality liberal arts education they have received at Emory & Henry has provided lessons in honesty, kindness and service. But, he said, “From this point forward, you will be your own moral compass.”
The Church Health Center cares for more than 58,000 low-income and uninsured patients annually without relying on government funding. Fees are charged on a sliding scale based on income, and no one is turned away.
As a physician and the chief executive officer for the Center, Morris works and interacts with many of the poorest people in the nation, for whom he provides health care, as well as many of the wealthiest individuals, from whom he seeks support.
“I have learned much from both groups, but the people I admire most are the people who exhibit the greatest integrity,” Morris said.
Integrity reveals itself in the way individuals spend their money and their time on behalf of others, Morris added. It means doing the right thing “when we know no one is looking.” And it means being flexible enough to be prepared to admit mistakes.
With the help of St. John’s United Methodist Church, where Morris serves as associate pastor, and the Plough Foundation and Methodist Hospital, the Church Health Center opened in 1987. Since then, more than 1,200 congregational health promoters have been trained to be health leaders within their congregations.
Morris was joined in delivering messages to the E&H graduates by two student orators: Elizabeth Gentry, a sociology and psychology major from Millboro, Va., delivered the senior oration. Sarah Jenkins, a graduate student in the master of education program, delivered the master’s oration.
Gentry spoke of the value of relationships formed by E&H students with other students as well as E&H employees. Those relationships “will be the most important things we take with us,” she said.
Jenkins referred to her fellow graduates as “God’s masterpieces” and, as such, have been formed by the challenges and joys they have known until this point. “Nothing in your life is wasted,” she insisted.
In addition to the conferring of degrees, numerous awards were given to current graduates as well as a former E&H president and a long-serving professor.
Awards given to recent graduates included the following: The Byars Medal of Science, which was awarded to Nick Dowdle of Meadowview, Va.; the Eleanor Gibson Via Science Award, which was given to Evelyn Hill of Charlotte, N.C.; the Senior Service Award, which was presented to Gentry; and the Snavely Senior Scholarship Prize, which was awarded to Stacy Sivinsky of Massanutten, Va.
The William and Martha DeFriece Award was given this year to two individuals: Dr. Samir N. Saliba, the founder of the E&H Department of Political Science who has taught at the institution for 50 years, and Dr. Charles W. Sydnor, a 1965 E&H graduate, former president of the College, and a nationally recognized expert on the Holocaust.