Winthrop University student gets sweet surprise during graduation

Tessa Benoit joined more than 700 Winthrop University students walking across the graduation stage Saturday.

She did not know when the ceremony began that a special guest was in the stands.

Benoit thought her brother, Navy Chief Petty Officer Anthony Benoit, was overseas. Instead, he was in Winthrop Coliseum to watch her graduate.

A video from the moment shows Benoit, tears in her eyes, run into her brother’s arms afterward.

Benoit, a Cayce resident, majored in fine arts with a focus on commercial photography, according to Winthrop.

Winthrop also gave out faculty awards during the graduation ceremonies.

State Rep. Gary Simrill, Winthrop class of 1991, delivered the address for the 10 a.m. ceremony Saturday.

Graduates in the 3 p.m. ceremony heard from Cara Peters, marketing professor at Winthrop. Peters has been named the 2019 Distinguished Professor, the highest honor the university awards a faculty member, according to Winthrop. She also earned the 2010 LaRoche Graduate Faculty Award and the 2009 Kinard Award for excellence in teaching, according to the university.

Winthrop’s Stephanie Lawson, an assistant professor in the marketing department, received the Outstanding Junior Professor Award, according to a release from Winthrop.

Laura Gardner, professor of fine arts, was awarded the LaRoche Graduate Faculty Award during the Thursday graduate ceremony. The award recognizes someone who has significantly contributed to graduate education at Winthrop.

Gardner has worked as an illustrator in New York and the Carolinas and has directed two Winthrop graduate programs related to art, according to the university.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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