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Trailblazer, Author, and the First Female Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Vashti Murphy McKenzie to be the Guest Speaker at the 2020 Virtual Baccalaureate Service and 30th Annual Honors Program Capstone Ceremony

The traditional service will be virtual and will air on Benedict’s website and YouTube channel on Friday, August 7th at 3 p.m.

Columbia, SC – July 29, 2020- Dr. Vashti Murphy McKenzie will be the guest speaker for Benedict College’s Baccalaureate Service on Friday, August 7, 2020 at 3 p.m. Due to COVID-19 safety measures, the traditional church service will be virtual and air on the College’s website and YouTube channel.  The Baccalaureate Service viewing links will also be provided on Benedict’s social media pages.

The Baccalaureate Service is a traditional and religious service which celebrates the academic achievement of the class of 2020. During Commencement graduates in the Honors Program will be adorned with gold stoles and bronze medallions engraved with the “Lamp of Knowledge” symbol that distinguishes them as scholars.

“Bishop McKenzie is a national voice for women who has used her platform for social justice,” said Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, President and CEO of Benedict College. “She is a calm voice in the midst of a storm and the perfect person to speak to our scholars during this time of unrest and uncertainty.”  

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie serves as the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Her historic election in the year 2000 represents the first time in the over 220-year history of the AME Church, a woman had obtained that level of Episcopal office. She is honored to serve as the presiding prelate of the 10th Episcopal District, which is the state of Texas. She also serves as the Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. McKenzie was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the inaugural President’s Advisory Council of the White House Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She also preached at the Annual White House Easter Prayer Breakfast at the invitation of President Obama.

Dr. McKenzie is the author of six books. The first two books, Not Without a Struggle and Strength in the Struggle address leadership and professional growth for women. She revised Not Without A Struggle, in 2012, as it remains a staple at seminaries and schools of religion. Journey to the Well helps women seek new directions for personal growth and transformation following the footsteps of the biblical Samaritan woman. Swapping Housewives tells the stories of Rachel, Jacob and Leah and shares the 21st century implications for married and unmarried love. Those Sisters Can Preach is an edited anthology of sermons from twenty-two outstanding preachers. Her latest work, The Big Deal of Taking Small Steps to Move Closer to God, shows how to develop a stronger relationship with God and a more effective spiritual lifestyle by taking small steps that lead to big changes.

Dr. McKenzie, well known as an electrifying preacher, is also in demand as a leadership lifestyle coach and seminar/workshop facilitator. She has presented to diverse corporations and audiences including Wal-Mart, Aetna Insurance, BET’s Leading Women Defined, Black Enterprise Women of Power Conference, Essence Music Festival, Diversity Woman Conference, the Congressional Black Caucus, Hampton’s Minister’s Conference, Wake Forest University, Spelman College, Howard University, Colgate-Rochester, University of Missouri, University of North Florida, Southern University, Bethune-Cookman and the national conventions of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., 100 Black Men, National Dental Association and The Link’s Inc.

She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Howard University School of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from the United Theological Seminary. She has also been honored for her leadership, community service, and outstanding achievements by a number of diverse civic, educational, business, and governmental organizations and leaders. She was named in 2015 by Huffington Post as one of the 50 most powerful women religious leaders in the world.

She is married to former NBA player, Dr. Stan McKenzie. They are parents of three adult children and two grandchildren.


About Benedict College

Founded in 1870 by a woman, Bathsheba A. Benedict, Benedict College is a private co-educational liberal arts institution with over 2,100 students enrolled in its 25 baccalaureate degree programs. Defying trends, Benedict College maintains an equal male and female student population. This Midlands HBCU welcomes students from all 46 counties in South Carolina, 30 states across America, and 26 countries around the world. 

Benedict offers several high-demand fields of study in STEM, Cyber Security, Mass Communication, Sport Management, Business Administration, Engineering, Computer Science, Biology, and Education. The College also has a diverse faculty of which 80 percent are full-time, and 60 percent hold doctorates or the equivalent. 

Over the past ten years, three out of five Benedict College graduates have attended professional or graduate schools. There are over 17,000 proud Benedict Tigers throughout the nation. Benedict College has been a community leader for over 150-years and is a significant contributor to South Carolina and the region. Contributing $130 million and 1,218 jobs in total local and annual economic impact, a Benedict graduate working full-time throughout his or her working life can expect to earn $1.1 million in additional income because of their Benedict College degree. 

The College made front-page news in the spring of 2018 when it became the first South Carolina college to lower its tuition by 26 percent. Cutting tuition drew praise from the Commission on Higher Education, South Carolina’s education oversight body. The commissioner noted that the move Benedict College made should be applauded because it offers families affordability and students greater access to higher education. 

Benedict College has been highly regarded and exceptionally ranked for its programs by several academic and traditional publications.  For example, Benedict College was ranked as one of the top baccalaureate colleges in the nation by Washington Monthly magazine for creating social mobility and producing cutting-edge scholarship and research.  In 2019, Benedict College received the 2019 ACE/ Fidelity Investments Awards for Institutional Transformation and was named the HBCU of the Year by HBCU Digest

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