The Path to Success

Kentucky Wesleyan class of 2017 graduates at convention center

By James Mayse Messenger-Inquirer | 

Jennifer Walker-Crawford was an Indiana high school basketball player who was being sought by at least one Division I Kentucky college when she received a call from the women’s basketball coach at Kentucky Wesleyan College.

Photo by Greg Eans,
Erin Dorn, left, and Jennifer Walker-Crawford, roommates for four years at Kentucky Wesleyan College, talk together before having their photographs taken on Saturday before graduation ceremonies at the Owensboro Convention Center. Walker is an accounting major and Dorn is a biology and chemistry major.

Since Walker-Crawford was already planning to visit the Division I school, the Warsaw, Indiana, native decided to also swing by Owensboro and visit KWC. The first trip to Wesleyan impressed her so much that the other colleges she was considering paled in comparison, Walker-Crawford said.

“I decided to come down for a second visit, and it was just as awesome as the first time,” Walker-Crawford said Friday. On her second visit, not only did people recall her, one stopped to give her a hug.

“(I thought), ‘this is so nice and so welcoming here,’ ” Walker-Crawford said. “… I have met some of the most awesome people here, people who genuinely care about what you’re doing. It goes all the way from our maintenance people to the president. I’m just so grateful for the people here, because I know they’ll be friends for life.”

Saturday morning, Walker-Crawford and 125 other Kentucky Wesleyan students received their diplomas during the school’s 149th commencement ceremony at the Owensboro Convention Center.

“This is a great day,” KWC president Barton D. Darrell told the audience of graduates, their family members and their friends in the convention center’s exhibition hall. “It’s a tough day for me to see some of these students leaving.

“You’re amazing people,” Darrell told the graduates. “You have set the bar high” for younger students to follow, he said.

Walker-Crawford came to Kentucky Wesleyan on a basketball scholarship and said some of her fondest memories are of road trips with the team and of winning the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament her freshman year. Walker-Crawford said other things stand out as well — being a student ambassador for the school, being involved in campus ministries and even the giant water balloon fight students organized via Twitter near the end of her freshman year.

“I’ve absolutely loved the experience,” Walker Crawford said. “I’ve had great experiences and memories.”

Andrew Martin’s senior year at Kentucky Wesleyan was also his first year at the college. Martin, of Louisville, spent the first three years of college at another private school, but when that school closed suddenly, Martin “had to find a new home,” he said.

Martin found it at Kentucky Wesleyan. After one visit, Martin said he didn’t really need to see anywhere else.

“Here on campus, it was such a friendly environment,” Martin said. “People were so loving and friendly and caring.”

Martin, a member of the track team, may have had only had one year at KWC, but he made the most of it by taking a role in campus ministries. Martin made such an impression that he was one of six students to receive the Oak and Ivy Award, the college’s top annual award for campus leadership and inspiration.

“To be inducted was very touching to me, because it was unexpected,” Martin said. Although Martin majored in criminal justice with the intention of going into forestry, his experience at Kentucky Wesleyan changed his direction.

“Shawn Tomes (director of campus ministry) has been a huge role model for me in my faith,” Martin said. ” … My desire was to go into forestry and management, but through the impact Wesleyan has had on me through the year, I’ve had a dramatic shift. My plan after graduation is to get my Master of Divinity to become a high school or college youth minister.

“I’ve told people through the past couple of weeks me coming to Wesleyan has been one of the greatest things that happened to me,” Martin said Friday. “It’s going to be hard for me to walk (at graduation), because I’ve made Wesleyan a home and family … To be here a year and have to say goodbye to my friends and family, it’s hard.”

Commencement speaker Brian Kelley, former CEO of Keurig Green Mountain and an executive at corporations like Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, General Electric and Ford Motor Co., told graduates the world faces challenges, particularly because people have lost trust in institutions like media, government and religion. But Kelley said the graduates should not be pessimistic, and said the world has improved greatly in his lifetime, with higher life expectancy globally, fewer child deaths due to the prevalence of vaccines and a global decline in poverty.

Kelley urged the class of 2017 to develop in their professions, as leaders and as people of character, to embrace change, be humble and to “redefine failure” as a necessary step sometimes on the path to success.

“The single most successful people I know are the people who have gotten up more often” after suffering a setback, Kelley said. “I wish each of you success as you stumble and fall on your way to your great achievements.”

James Mayse 270-691-7303,, Twitter: @JamesMayse