Congressman John Lewis and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett will address the graduating class along with their faculty and invited guests at Berea College’s 2017 Commencement and Baccalaureate ceremonies, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Congressman Lewis will speak at Commencement, which begins at 2:00 p.m., in the Seabury Center, Main Arena. Tickets must be obtained in advance and are required for main arena as well as overflow seating for Commencement. Bishop Wallace-Padgett will speak at the Baccalaureate ceremony, which begins at 10:30 a.m. in Phelps Stokes Chapel. No tickets are required to attend this service.
Rep. John Lewis of Georgia’s 5th District was born outside of Troy, Alabama and holds a bachelor’s degree in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University. He is also a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary. At Sunday’s Commencement address, Rep. Lewis will receive an honorary degree from Berea College. Rep. Lewis is widely known as one of the “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement (the other members being Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, A. Phillip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young). He most notably helped organize one of the most pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1965 march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama. Rep. Lewis led around 600 peaceful protestors at the march, demanding an end to discrimination in voter registration. Despite being brutally attacked at the march and enduring more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries over the years, Rep. Lewis remains a dedicated advocate for nonviolent, peaceful demonstrations. During his time in Congress, he has used his platform to speak out about the need for accessible education for everyone, health care for all and equal civil rights for all disenfranchised groups.
Reverend Dr. Debra Wallace-Padgett is an elected Bishop of the United Methodist Church serving the North Alabama Conference. Bishop Wallace-Padgett is a Berea College graduate, holding a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education. She also has a master’s degree in Christian Education from Scarritt College and Graduate School, a Master of Divinity degree from Lexington Theological Seminary and a Doctorate of Ministry from Asbury Theological Seminary. Before being elected a Bishop, Rev. Dr. Wallace-Padgett served as Lead Pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Bishop Wallace-Padgett has served the church for many years, including six years as District Superintendent of the Prestonsburg District and two years as Dean of the Cabinet of the Kentucky Conference.