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Lees-McRae Selects Trustee Thomas Brigham and Former Trustee Jane Stephenson as Commencement Speakers

April 24, 2014. Lees-McRae College will hold its annual commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 10 at 11 a.m. on Tate Lawn. As the culmination of the academic year, commencement is a special time for students, faculty, staff, families and the community to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates. Lees-McRae College Board of Trustees member and former chairman, Thomas H. Brigham, Jr. ’72 has been chosen as the 2014 Commencement speaker along with the former Board of Trustees chairman Jane B. Stephenson ’57.

Brigham will present his keynote address titled “Pursuing Your Passion and Living Life for Significance,” and then Stephenson will present her address titled “Leap into Life and Make a Difference.”

“I am happy to announce that Jane Stephenson and [Thomas] Brigham have been chosen as co-speakers for the 2014 Commencement Ceremony,” said President Barry M. Buxton.

“They have each had such an impact on our campus and each is richly deserving of our praise and gratitude for their years of service to the College as students, alumni and trustees.”

Brigham, a 1972 graduate of Lees-McRae College, is the Chairman of ARC Realty and President and CEO of ARK Real Estate Strategies, LLC located in Birmingham, Ala. After Lees-McRae, Brigham attended Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va. However, he is no stranger to the Blue Ridge having grown up in the resort business where his father developed Beech and Sugar Mountains in North Carolina and Snowshoe in West Virginia.

In addition to serving as a trustee and former chairman of the Lees-McRae Board of Trustees, Brigham also serves on the Furman University Advisory Board, the Board of Directors for the Center of Executive Leadership and the Advisory Board of the Cornerstone Schools of Alabama. He also serves as Chairman of the Capital Campaign Fund for Mountain Brook Community Church and is the former chairman of the Board of Directors for the Ugandan American Partnership Organization. Brigham’s wife, Cecile, also attended Lees-McRae. They have three children and four grandchildren.

Jane B. Stephenson, a 1957 graduate of Lees-McRae College, is the former Appalachian Director for the Steele-Reese Foundation and founder of the New Opportunity School for Women. She remains on the board of both programs and teaches several classes as well. The New Opportunity School for Women is a highly recognized program that was featured on Oprah’s Angel Network Program and the Use Your Life Award was given to Stephenson in 2003.

Other awards and honors received by Stephenson include the Martha Layne Collins Leadership Award, Honorary Doctor of Humanities from Eastern Kentucky University, an appearance on the Unsung Heroes segment of the John Walsh Show, the Smith-Breckenridge Distinguished Service Award, the Woman Advocate for Women Award, and Distinguished Service Awards from the Alumni Associations of both the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Lees-McRae College.

She has also been the subject of feature articles in PEOPLE magazine and is the author of Courageous Paths, stories of nine Appalachian women. She served on the Board of Trustees at Lees-McRae College for nearly a decade, spending a portion of that time as chairman of the Board as well as chairman of the Advancement and Trusteeship Committees.

After Lees-McRae, Stephenson continued her education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She holds a master’s degree from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Kentucky.