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News from the Hilltop

May 30, 2017

Lessons from Michelangelo: Dr. Tim Smith gives Class of 2017 a new take on an old master

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--Birmingham-Southern College’s spring Commencement ceremony celebrated more than 260 members of the Class of 2017 on Saturday, May 27, in Bill Battle Coliseum.

students throwing mortarboards

The featured speaker was Dr. Tim Smith, BSC associate provost and professor of art and art history. Smith took the Class of 2017 back some 500 years in history to share Michelangelo’s inspiring story of painting the Sistine Chapel.

“We all know the end result of Michelangelo’s efforts on that ceiling--one of the most significant visual creations of all time,” Smith said. “But what can be gleaned from the artist’s lesser known personal struggles that led to such a great accomplishment?"

He imparted four significant lessons he learned from studying Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling experience:

  • Never, ever shrink from a challenge;
  • Be prepared for moments of self-doubt and do not let a lack of confidence paralyze you into inaction or complacency;
  • Embrace opportunities for self-reflection and be open to the possibility of change prompted by such introspection; and
  • An ounce of humility and the ability to laugh at yourself will serve you well in the toughest of times.

“The environment you are about to enter is very different from our ‘bubble’ on the Hilltop,” Smith added. “Out there is a world fraught with instability...but I invite you to look to the past...for there are comforting, universal truths to be found in our history.” (Full commencement speech here.)

The Commencement ceremony was the final event of a weekend that celebrated the achievements of the graduating class. Other events included a Capping ceremony for graduating seniors and the annual Baccalaureate service, both on Friday.

BoggsCommencement also featured performances by the BSC Concert Choir, recognition of this year’s record-breaking student participation in the Senior Gift Campaign, and BSC President Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith’s presentation of honorary degrees to three outstanding leaders: William “Bill” Raines Battle III, former BSC trustee, businessman, and college athletics director; Henrietta Boggs-MacGuire ’40, the former First Lady of Costa Rica who helped lead that country’s 1948 revolution; and Derry Brice Bunting ’69, BSC trustee and philanthropist. (see full bios).

At the ceremony, BSC’s Interim Provost Dr. Susan K. Hagen named Professor of Spanish Dr. Janie Spencer as Birmingham-Southern’s Outstanding Educator of the Year. Hagen credited her professionalism, dedication to her students and the study of language, her life-changing study-travel E-Term projects, and her encouragement of new faculty members as key factors in the selection. Spencer, who has been teaching at the college since 1986, will serve as commencement speaker in 2018.

Other platform participants included David M. Smith ’79, chair of the BSC Board of Trustees, BSC Chaplain Rev. Julie Blackwelder Holly ’01, and outgoing SGA President Caroline Irby ’17.

About Birmingham-Southern College:
Birmingham-Southern College is a four-year, private liberal arts institution in Birmingham, Ala., founded in 1856 and affiliated with the United Methodist Church. It enrolls about 1,300 students from more than 30 states and 15 foreign countries. Learn more online at www.bsc.edu.