A historic commencement ceremony was held on Friday, December 8, 2017, by Dr. Michael J. Brown the 19th president of Payne Theological Seminary located in Wilberforce, Ohio founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1844 name after Bishop Daniel Payne, who was the 6th elected and consecrated Bishop of the AME Church.
Dr. Brown blazed a brand new trail graduating the first historic off-campus commencement ceremony for the online degree for four students from the Georgia Conference and Savannah North District: Reverend McRae Mangum, Reverend Akia White, Reverend Ernest William and Reverend John Henderson.
This first historic ceremony was held at the historic St. Philip Monumental AME Church, Dr. Bernard Clarke, pastor. This event will go down in history as the first legacy of Payne and Savannah State University partnership where Dr. Cheryl Davenport Dozier, the 13th president and the first permanent female president of Savannah State University which was established in 1890 and is the oldest historically black public college in Georgia. Without Dr. Dozier and Dr. Brown’s vision, willingness, and creativity this would not have come to fruition. This partnership between Savannah State University and Payne Theological Seminary provided an opportunity for local clergy and Coastal Georgia clergy and surrounding areas to meet the demands of distance learning and post graduate degree programs through providing the venue and support for students to have class instruction time required for the program, while lessening the need to travel long distance to Ohio to complete their coursework. Instrumental in the growth and success of this program has been its Director Reverend Dr. Daniel Stevenson who serves as Presiding Elder of the Savannah North District under the leadership and guidance of Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Presiding Prelate of the 6th Episcopal District of the AME Church.
Dr. Stevenson spearheaded the program, seeing a need for local clergy to meet the requirement of seminarian education, but unable to travel long distance to do so. The partnership between the two historic institutions and commitment of the two presidents in working with Dr. Stevenson to provide accountability to academic growth and excellence has served to meet that need and it was on this evening on December 8, 2017, that the fruit of the collaboration is now being harvested in the successful advancement of stellar seminarians, and the cultivation of many more as enrollment to the program grows exponentially and as a brand new horizon comes into view for local clergy equipped with the tools necessary to become better servant leaders in ministry. Reverend Akia White Reporter