MOUNT OLIVE – The University of Mount Olive will graduate approximately 220 students at its summer commencement on Saturday, Aug. 23. Graduation exercises are scheduled for 2 p.m. in the George and Annie Dail Kornegay Arena.
Sarah Merritt, executive director of the Arts Council of Wayne County (ACWC), will be the commencement speaker. Since assuming the role in 2006, Merritt has been dedicated to increasing the organization’s presence in the community. In 2011, she led the organization in a bold move to a relocate the Arts Council to Goldsboro’s historic downtown. With a goal of developing more diverse and active audiences, the organization has since increased annual participation and attendance for its programs by 200 percent. In addition, the Arts Council has increased its programmatic offerings to include a studio artist program, First Fridays, the Wayne County Jazz Showcase, scholarships for k-12 art students, open mic nights, gallery talks, and Sunday in the Park.
Through Merritt’s leadership, the organization has developed partnerships with community organizations formed to provide a number of annual programs and projects including Wayne County Reads with the Wayne County Public Library, Sunday in the Park with Goldsboro Parks & Recreation, Fall Arts Festival, Jazz on George with the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation, arts programming with the Wayne County Public Schools, the African American Music Heritage Trail with the North Carolina Arts Council, art exhibits with the University of Mount Olive, school programs with the Paramount Theatre, and humanities programming with the Wayne Community College Foundation.
Merritt is dedicated to community serving on the Board of Directors of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation for nine years and the St. Francis Episcopal Church Vestry for six years. Professionally, in 2010 and 2011, she served on the North Carolina Arts Council’s Community Arts Grant Panel. From 2007 to 2014, she served on the Board of Arts North Carolina and is currently involved as chair of the organization’s Strategic Planning Committee.
Merritt is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College with a bachelor of arts in art history. She holds a master of science in arts administration from Drexel University. Her awards include; Goldsboro Jaycees 2009 Distinguished Service Award, Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation 2011 Board Member of the Year, Drexel University 2011 Arts Administration Scholarship Award, and North Carolina Department of Commerce 2102 Main Street Champion.
The Rev. Bryant Hines, Jr. will be the baccalaureate speaker. Hines has been an ordained minister for 35 years. He is currently serving as pastor of Rose of Sharon FWB Church in Bear Grass, NC. He is a graduate of Mount Olive College where he earned his associate’s degree in religion and theology. He graduated from Atlantic Christian College with his bachelor’s degree in religion and theology. He has held several positions within the Free Will Baptist denominational ministries including serving on the Eastern Conference Board of Ordination, the Board of Directors at Cragmont Assembly, as president of the Ministerial Association, and as moderator of the Central Conference of OFWB.
The baccalaureate service will be held at 10:30 a.m. in Southern Bank Auditorium located in Raper Hall.