May 7, 2024

University of Montevallo Celebrates Class of 2024 at Spring Commencement

A student smiles holding their degree at Commencement. A student smiles holding their degree at Commencement. A student smiles holding their degree at Commencement. A student smiles holding their degree at Commencement.




See the full Spring Commencement photo gallery.

The University of Montevallo honored 297 candidates for bachelor’s degrees and 99 candidates for graduate degrees during the Spring Commencement ceremony May 4, on Flowerhill Lawn. Students, faculty, staff, family, friends and members of the UM community gathered on the sunny Saturday morning to celebrate the Class of 2024 — the majority of whom began their college journey in fall 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Starting [college] during a pandemic is rather brave,” said Student Government Association President Colton Rodano ’25 during his address. “These graduating seniors braved these adverse conditions and found success. They have both struggled and shown great resilience. I look forward to seeing what all of you accomplish.”

Outgoing Senior Class President Abigail Heuton explained in her speech that the University would always be home to the graduates, saying, “You belong at Montevallo, whether you stay here for the rest of your life or come back in 10 to 50 years. It’ll feel like you never left.”

This year’s keynote speaker was alum Dr. Lewis Brooks, superintendent of the Shelby County School District. Brooks earned three degrees from UM — a Bachelor of Science in 1988, a Master of Education in 1999 and an educational specialist degree in 2003. He holds a doctorate in instructional leadership from Samford University.

“In my tenure as president, there hasn’t been a single occasion I can remember where I’ve had the honor of introducing a triple graduate of the University of Montevallo,” said UM President John W. Stewart III in his introduction of Brooks. “Today we celebrate your accomplishments and perseverance, and Dr. Brooks knows and exemplifies both of those characteristics.”

Brooks, whose career in public education spans 33 years, has served as superintendent since 2018 and has led Shelby County Schools through several challenges, including a worldwide pandemic and the aftermath of a tornado. He delivered his words of wisdom to the graduating class in the form of an acronym, FREE, which stands for faith, relationships, education and economics.

“Faith is the knowledge that deep down inside, things will get better and brighter days will come amid challenges,” Brooks said, providing a breakdown for each point. “Relationships allow you to have a lasting impression on others, and them on you. An education opens your eyes and ears to the great wealth of opportunity that is available to you. And ultimately, the secret to understanding economics and money is to spend less than you make for a very long time.”

In closing, he said, “Class of 2024, I believe that you have been given the best FREE advice that you can have. This is your moment, enjoy and celebrate this accomplishment. Now is the time for you to go out into the world and be great. Congratulations, and best wishes to you for a bright and prosperous future.”

Following Brooks’s speech, Stewart presented him with the President’s Award. The ceremony continued as Stewart, assisted by Professor of History Dr. Jim Day and Registrar Amanda Fox ’04, M.Ed. ’10, conferred the degrees. Afterward, Eddie Baker III ’04, president of the UM National Alumni Association, inducted the new graduates into the UMNAA.

“I am pleased to welcome you, the Class of 2024, into our alumni family,” Baker said. “Today, you join us in our dedication to serve this institution, its faculty, its staff and its students. We welcome you to visit often, serve faithfully and give how you are able. You always belong at the University of Montevallo.”

Stewart also recognized those earning a diploma from the Falcon Flight program, which allows Shelby County students with learning disabilities to attend classes at UM and learn essential life and jobs skills that will allow them to continue their journey into adulthood after finishing high school.