It was an evening of celebration for UMO President and First Lady Dr. and Mrs. Philip Kerstetter as nearly 200 people attended the retirement dinner hosted by the UMO Board of Trustees,
Dr. Hope WIliiams, President of the North Carolina Independent College and Universities, read a letter from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper .
UMO Board Chair Earl Worley listed accomplishments during Kerstetter’s presidency including an increase in traditional student enrollment launching new academic and graduate programs, starting online degree programs, expansion including the construction of three new residence halls, a state-of-the-art track and field/lacrosse complex, expansion of the arts, and the renovation of Rodgers Chapel and the addition of the E. Lee Glover Center for Religious Studies.
John Clifton, accompanied by Franklin Gross, sang Fill the World with Love from the movie Goodbye, Mr. Chips. The University of Mount Olive Chamber Choir, under the direction of Jonathan Saegar, sang four selections including an Irish Air titled Quick, the UMO Alma Mater, For the Beauty of the Earth, a song composed by John Rutter and specifically requested by the Kerstetter family.
For the finale, the Chamber Choir sang a selection titled Irish Blessing. “This song was sung as a prayer for the Kerstetters as they venture off to their next phase in life,” said Saeger. “The final passage of the song states, ‘and until we met again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.’”
Vice President for Institutional Advancement Teresa Hines announced the Kerstetter name will forever be etched on the Mount Olive campus. “Because of Phil and Mary’s unfailing love of students, the University of Mount Olive Board of Trustees has proclaimed that the student apartments which have been known to date as the Station Street Apartments shall henceforth be named the Kerstetter Commons.”
Mary Kerstetter noted that she and Phil were looking forward to the next phase in their lives: focusing on family, leisure, and travel.
Phil also thanked those in attendance. “I cannot express how overwhelmed I am by your presence here this evening,” he said. “This means so much to me. Serving in higher education is such a rewarding experience. We have been able to meet and get to know so many students, faculty, and staff. We will treasure this moment always. May God bless each and every one of you, and may God continue to bless the University of Mount Olive.”