Kentucky pastor who missed University of the Cumberlands commencement gets big surprise


COVINGTON, Ky. (KT) – Work prevented Ashland Avenue Baptist Church Pastor John Haller from making the trip to the University of the Cumberlands on Saturday to receive his master’s degree, so the Southern Baptist institution came to him.

Haller is a bivocational pastor who also serves as a mail carrier in northern Kentucky, which led to him missing the commencement exercises.

So, when Haller finished his sermon Sunday morning, University of the Cumberlands administrator Rick Fleenor surprised him by presenting him with the master of arts degree in Christian studies.

“I didn’t expect that,” Haller said. “It meant a lot to me. To have somebody to be willing to do something like that says a lot about the University of the Cumberlands. It tells me they care about their students.”

The University of the Cumberlands is one of the largest and fastest growing Baptist universities in America with an enrollment of nearly 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Besides being assistant to the president for church relations at the university, Fleenor also taught a couple of Haller’s graduate courses.

“That made it extra special,” Haller said.

Haller’s wife, Angie, and a couple other church leaders secretly arranged the surprise for her husband, inviting Fleenor to present the degree.

“I was thrilled to get to do it,” Fleenor said. “It was pretty unique. We don’t get those requests a lot.”


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