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ABILENE, Texas – Bishop D. Max Whitfield, who serves the New Mexico and Northwest Texas conferences of the United Methodist Church, will be the featured speaker McMurry’s 2011 Fall Commencement at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at Radford Auditorium. Seventy-nine students are expected to receive degrees.

Rev. Ross Whiteaker, associate pastor at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Abilene, will give the Baccalaureate Service at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, at Aldersgate United Methodist Church.

Bishop Whitfield has served as the presiding bishop for the Northwest Texas and New Mexico annual conferences for 12 years. His educational background includes a BSA from Arkansas State University, a Master of Divinity degree from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from McMurry University in 2001.

He entered college with a determination to work in agricultural business and earned his bachelor’s degree in that field. While still in college, he heard and responded to God’s call to enter ordained ministry. Upon finishing his seminary degree, he returned to his native state of Arkansas to carry out his ministry. He served congregations in Eureka Springs, St. Paul’s Parish in Harrison, Cherry Valley-Vanndale change, First UMC, Bella Vista, First UMC, Russellville, and First UMC, Springdale before being appointed District Superintendent in the North Arkansas Conference. He served on the General Board of Global Ministries, the National Shalom Committee, as chair; and the General Commission on Religion and Race, both as a member and later as Vice President of the Commission.

Previous to his Episcopal election, Whitfield served on various Annual Conference Boards and Committees in the North Arkansas Conference. He also served on the board of directors of Hendrix College, Mount Sequoyah Conference and Retreat Center, and Mount Eagle Christian Center. In 1992, 1996, and 2000, he was a General Conference delegate.

Whitfield presently serves on the General Board of Discipleship and the Inter Agency Task Force on Sexual Ethics. He also serves on the Board of Trustees at McMurry University, Lydia Patterson Institute, and Southwestern University. He and his wife, Valerie, have five adult children and eleven grandchildren.