UNA Pressroom

Rainwater ’97 and Stewart to Provide Commencement Addresses

Apr. 25, 2022



Michelle R. Eubanks , UNA, at meubanks@una.edu, 256.765.4392

FLORENCE, AL – The Spring Commencement Ceremonies at the University of North Alabama are set for Friday, May 6, and Saturday, May 7, with all ceremonies set to take place in Norton Auditorium. Two women have been tapped to provide this year’s commencement addresses. Author, alumna, and Miss UNA 1994 Jacque Rainwater ’97 will speak at both ceremonies on Friday evening. Sarah Stewart, Associate Justice, Alabama Supreme Court, will provide the address for the three Saturday ceremonies.

“As we approach the conclusion of the Year of the UNA Woman, it is fitting that we do so with women at the podium for commencement, providing remarks for our graduates as they consider their next steps, whether those steps are an additional UNA degree or filling one of the many roles in today’s workforce,” said UNA President Dr. Ken Kitts. “Both of our speakers bring a wealth of knowledge from their lives and professional careers that will provide valuable insight.”

During the devastating ice storm of February 1994, the reigning Miss UNA, Jacque Rainwater, nearly lost her life when her car was crushed on Walnut Street by a falling ice-laden tree. She suffered a broken neck, a fractured skull, punctured lung, and injuries to her chest which literally exposed her heart. She proved to be a tenacious fighter through her injuries and eventually graduated from UNA in 1997. Rainwater now lives in Cullman, and her autobiography On a Limb and a Prayer is a recounting of her experience as well as what she learned throughout her journey.

Sarah Hicks Stewart was elected in Nov. 2018 to serve as an Associate Justice on the Alabama Supreme Court. Before her election, Justice Stewart served for 13 years as a Circuit Judge in Mobile, handling thousands of civil and criminal cases. As a Circuit Judge, she was active in the leadership of the Circuit Judges Association, serving as Education Chair for eight years, and she was elected by her fellow judges as the first female president of the Circuit Judges Association. She earned her Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt Law School in 1992. 

More than 700 students are expected to participate in the five Spring 2022 commencement ceremonies. Graduate students from the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions as well as the College of Education and Human Sciences will have their ceremony at 5 p.m. on May 6. The ceremony for the undergraduate students from those colleges will take place at 7:30 p.m. On May 7, the 9 a.m. ceremony will include graduate students in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering and the College of Business and Technology. Undergraduate students will graduate from CASE in the 11:30 a.m. ceremony. The 2 p.m. ceremony will include undergraduate students from CASE and the College of Business and Technology.

These ceremonies will not include previous Covid-19 restrictions, and graduates will be limited to six guests.

About The University of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama is an accredited, comprehensive regional state university offering undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs through the colleges of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering; Business and Technology; Education and Human Sciences; and the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions. Occupying a 130-acre campus in a residential section of Florence, Alabama, UNA is located within a four-city area that also includes Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia. UNA Athletics, a renowned collegiate athletics program with seven (7) Division II National Championships, is now a proud member of the NCAA Division I’s ASUN Conference. The University of North Alabama is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate in the admission policy on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, age, or national origin. For more: www.una.edu and www.una.edu/unaworks/