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Fall 2015 Convocation Honors

Last updated June 9, 2015

By News administrator



SEPT. 3, 2015


Doctor of Humanities

Robert H. Buckman, MBA

In a culture of “disruption,” it is the innovator who is venerated for seizing the moment and charting new pathways of achievement. Often overlooked, however, is the innovator’s obligation to pair disruption with those timeless values of integrity, compassion, generosity, and fairness—qualities that prevent innovations from becoming empty vessels.

In Robert (Bob) H. Buckman, we see the full expression of innovation and enduring values. When Bob succeeded his father, Dr. Stanley Buckman, at the company Dr. Buckman founded in 1945, many believed Buckman Laboratories would not survive. Bob transformed his father’s chemical manufacturing company into a global leader, leveraging nascent technology tools such as laptop computers and email networks to enable what he termed “knowledge transfer,” and doing so long before the explosion of the knowledge economy itself.

But Bob also achieved something even more prescient. He built at Buckman an architecture of values. He emphasized listening as integral to communication; he exhorted the enduring over the expedient; he insisted that ethics stand alongside entrepreneurialism and that leadership be informed by service.

Throughout his life, Bob has encouraged the old to embrace the new, and kept the new guided by the old. In short, he has made the revolutionary abide.

Furman University has been a great beneficiary of Bob’s quiet genius. A longstanding member in Furman’s leadership donor group, the Richard Furman Society, Bob has also supported 55 Furman Fellows. These young men and women have been able to follow their passion for conscientious innovation in a range of fields, old and yet emerging. And Furman’s Center for Teaching and Engaged Learning, an outgrowth of Bob’s forward thinking, fosters critical collaborations across campus—brick-and-mortar as well as digital—that ensure Furman’s pledge of engaged learning remains meaningful.

For continuing to “disrupt” the status quo with integrity, and for forever renewing the conscience of this institution with his leadership, Furman University is proud to confer upon Robert H. Buckman the degree of Doctor of Humanities.

Richard Furman Baptist Heritage Award

James Russell Dean II ’86, D.Min.

Faith is what’s left when everyone, and everything, has walked out. James Russell (Russ) Dean understands this more than most. When the other boys on the playground were planning to be firemen or football players, Russ aspired to be a preacher. Ever since those sandbox days, “walking in” has been Russ’s default gesture.

In 2000, Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte asked Russ and his wife, Amy, to become co-pastors. There, they set out to create what they call a “progressive theology.” We might translate that as the faith of “walking in.” Walking into the suffering of the homeless, walking into the struggles of the hungry, walking into the lives of impoverished schoolchildren. These are not easy entrances, not least because of the courage it takes to show up at those thresholds, but even more to take that next step and cross them. This is “church” for Russ—not a room, not a building, but acts. Acts of kindness, acts of service.

The people at Park Road Baptist Church have made it their mission to “do good work that restores, creates, and sustains the world.” That work has recently extended into racial reconciliation, a subject that cries out for the empathy, humility, and curiosity that are at the core of Russ’s spiritual vocation. Russ has even opened the doors between religion and science—hostile fields to some, but to Russ, as with all perceived polarities, an invitation for brave and thoughtful reconciliation.

Putting himself in the way of hardship and in the midst of the sacred is the type of faith that may not make Russ a celebrity, but it is the type of faith humanity needs. Indeed, Russ’s spirit of “walking in” saves our own spirits from walking out.

For his compassionate ministry, his guidance at life’s pivotal moments, and his restorative work in the broken places that find every lifetime, Furman University is proud to recognize James Russell Dean with the 2015 Richard Furman Baptist Heritage Award.

Furman Fellows, Class of 2016

Jordan Brown of Gastonia, N.C., is a team player who is helpful, supportive, inquisitive, and always positive. A mathematics major who is also working toward his teaching certification, Jordan’s strong performance in the Mathematics Department has been lauded, particularly for his understanding of complicated material and his eloquent presentation of written and oral work. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, he is also a recipient of numerous honors, including the Wylie Mathematics, Mock Trial, and Duke Energy scholarships. Working with a Title 1 school, Jordan has gone above and beyond requirements for the Education Department simply because “he wanted to help the students succeed.” His work helping others extends to his hometown where he works as an emergency medical technician. Jordan’s leadership abilities are demonstrated by his work in the Wesley Fellowship, as an Eagle Scout, as president of Furman’s Omicron Delta Kappa Circle, and in his participation in Mock Trial (where he serves as vice president), Student Government Association, Student Conduct Board, Student Conduct Appeals Board, and the Shucker Leadership Institute.

Jennifer Duer is a psychology major and poverty studies minor from Edison, N.J. A promising young scientist who possesses an exceptional combination of ability, creativity, and drive, Jennifer has been a strong research contributor. Her work as a research assistant through her Furman Advantage fellowship has been lauded and is culminating in her co-authoring a manuscript for a peer-reviewed journal. Recipient of Furman’s Cover Award for the best poster presentation at the Furman-Davidson summer conference, as well as an award for her presentation skills at the annual Society of Southeastern Social Psychologies meeting, Jennifer accepted a coveted position at Yale University’s Mind & Development Lab directed by Dr. Paul Bloom, one of the foremost psychologists in the world. She also serves as a teaching assistant, president of the Psychology Club, and is a member of the Psychology Department’s Student Advisory Council. In her role as president of the Psychology Club, she worked to bring Dr. James McGaugh, researcher and past APS (Association for Psychological Science) president to campus for a colloquium. Jennifer has also dedicated herself to tutoring children at YouthBase.

Samuel Hill, a computer science major from Richmond, Va., is recognized for his research and the ability to integrate his work in computer science into a variety of other academic fields. Sam’s passion for seeking out challenges has extended into data analysis for his senior thesis and a subsequent follow-on study, which will be presented at the top Human-Computer Interaction conference. In addition to his research talents, Sam’s natural ability to help others manifests in his work as a teaching and laboratory aid, where he is highly respected and appreciated.  Sam’s maturity, compassion, and determination coupled with his strong work ethic, scientific curiosity, and attention to detail continue to allow him to be successful. Sam is a Furman Teaching Fellow, editor for the Homer Multitext Project, and founder and president of the Furman Maker’s Club. He has also served as vice president and religious council representative for the Secular Students Alliance, and has been a member of the Furman Singers, Bell Tower Boys, and the marching, symphonic, and pep bands. In addition, Sam has participated in numerous research projects and academic conferences.

Jonathan Kubakundimana is a political science major from Rwanda. His sense of compassion, respect for others, work ethic, and commitment to improving the lives of those in disadvantaged circumstances was inspired by his family’s experiences as survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Jonathan has delivered powerful testimony at Furman about these events and has seized opportunities to raise awareness on genocide and reconciliation abroad through various workshops and as a member of the Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company. As a professional actor and dancer with Mashirika, Jonathan has participated in 10 major productions, including Pambazuka (Rwanda’s Hope), an original production on the Rwandan genocide, which toured the United Kingdom and included a performance for members of the British Parliament. He was also featured in the French film Lignes de Front about the Rwandan genocide.  Jonathan’s work as an intern at the Riley Institute, as a mentor through the Heller Service Corps, and with Furman’s NAACP chapter illustrate his dedication to the good of the greater Furman community. He is also a member of Furman’s Mock Trial Team.

Kristen Marakoff, an English major certified in secondary English Language Arts, hails from Fort Mill, S.C.  She stands out as a leader who promotes the ideals of fellowship, leadership, creativity, and a desire to serve.  As a Teaching Fellow, Kristen dedicates herself to serving with Bridges to a Brighter Future.  In addition, she works tirelessly as a volunteer for the Julie Valentine Center and serves in the Heller Service Corps.  As an event coordinator for Furman Engaged, she raised funds of more than $20,000 and brought Harvard Physics Professor and award-winning author Lisa Randall, Ph.D., to speak on campus.  Kristen’s ability to think broadly, to understand the interconnectedness of social and environmental issues, and to seek out what’s next is respected by her professors.  Her genuine commitment to service and education, as well as her dedication to others, has made a positive impact on peers, the University, and the broader community.

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