Award-Winning News Journalist Inspires Graduates at Commencement


There was a packed house at Tree of Life Ministries on Friday, May 30 as friends and family members gathered to watch 65 graduates in the $$Lynchburg Campus’s class of 2014 receive their diplomas, associate’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees.

[img]Of those graduating, four were the honored recipients of ANU awards. Kevin Burley, an information systems engineering associate degree graduate, was presented with the Achievement Award, which is awarded to a graduate who overcame obstacles to achieve success.  Medical assisting associate’s degree graduate Lekeshia Morris received the Leadership Award; you can read more about Lekeshia’s story: (  Dominique Hilliard, also a medical assisting associate degree graduate, was presented with the E. M. Coulter Award for high academic achievement in health care programs; you can read more about Dominique’s story:  (  Information systems engineering associate degree graduate Katherine DeLoach received the M. A. Smythe Award, which is awarded for high academic achievement in technology programs.  Ryan Kuenzi, a 2012 graduate who is now a system administrator for Liberty University, was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Achievement.

Prior to accepting their degrees and diplomas, the graduates received encouraging words from commencement speaker Pierre Thomas.  Mr. Thomas, an Amherst County, Virginia native, was a journalist for the Washington Post and CNN before joining ABC News in 2000.  He is currently the senior justice correspondent for “World News with Diane Sawyer,” “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” and other ABC News programs.  Mr. Thomas has contributed to team news coverage that has earned Peabody, Murrow, and Emmy Awards, among others.

Mr. Thomas began his commencement address with inspiring quotes on education from important historical figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Aristotle, and Albert Einstein.  He acknowledged the hard work and determination that brought the graduates to where they are, saying, “Try going to school; try going to school while raising kids; try going to school while raising kids and working full-time.  Many of you have, and no one said it would be easy.” He inspired the graduates to recognize that change was within them and that it’s up to each individual to tap into their internal drive to push forward.  And finally, he encouraged the graduates to make education a continual part of their lives.

A-Pierre Thomas was the commencement speaker for the $$Lynchburg Campus graduation.  Mr. Thomas is an Amherst County, Virginia native and is currently the senior justice correspondent for several news programs for the ABC Television Network.  He is pictured with Nina Wood, a medical assisting graduate who also happens to be his niece. 

B-The $$Lynchburg Campus Class of 2014.

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