On Saturday, May 7, 2016, 140 students graduated in Cairn University’s spring commencement ceremony. Students earned degrees through traditional undergraduate, dual-level, degree completion, and graduate programs.
The ceremony was kicked off with the academic procession and a greeting and prayer from University President Dr. Todd Williams. He announced this year’s Alumni Recognition Award winners: State Representative Leslie Acosta ’96 and retired Colonel David Parramore ’88.
Following a musical selection by Cairn’s Chamber Singers and a Scripture reading by Collin Maina (MDiv candidate), 122 undergraduate and 61 graduate degrees were awarded. After a prayer of dedication by Dr. Jonathan Master and the singing of the senior hymn, “Be Thou My Vision,” Dr. Williams introduced Cherie Harder, president of The Trinity Forum, and invited her to deliver the commencement speech.
Harder began her address by congratulating the men and women in caps and gowns for graduating from a university committed to shaping students as faithful children of God:
Today is a day of great faithfulness, persistence, and a worthy pursuit, as well as the commencement of a new chapter…You are graduating from a university that has been dedicated not only to equipping you to be employable or certifying you as an educated member of a society, but one that has been committed to cultivating, educating, and ennobling the entirety of who you are — a person made in the image of God with talents, abilities, imagination, and curiosity; a culture-maker; someone with an inborn wiring for relationships; a capacity to love and to know truth, beauty, and goodness and their Author and Artist. To graduate from such a university is not merely to be equipped for a good job or for a good graduate school, but for a good life.
As Harder spoke on all that graduates have learned in the past several years at Cairn University, she offered one last encouragement: pay attention. Specifically, “pay attention to the content you consume, the friends you keep, and to what you love and prioritize,” Harder clarified. “What we pay attention to is freighted with moral, intellectual, and spiritual consequence, as it literally determines how you think, what you know, what you love, and thus, who you are and who you become.”
After noting frightening statistics on technology usage, Harder then spoke on the prevalence and consequences of distraction. “Distraction will keep you from what matters most,” she warned. “The content you consume will shape your mind.” As distractions can lead to broken relationships, feelings of loneliness, and an inability to focus, we need to pay close attention to the content we consume.
Harder reminded the graduates of Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” As believers, we are called to fix our minds on Christ and Kingdom work to combat the detrimental distractions in our lives.
Harder went on to advise graduates to pay attention to their friendships. This means paying attention to what kind of friends you have, as well as investing in the good friendships. “We are, after all, relational creatures formed for and by relationship,” Harder states. She explained that although people do not always pursue what will make them happiest, friendships are what help us flourish. “There are few joys that rival that of a long, seasoned, and rich friendship,” she declares.
Finally, Harder advises graduates to pay attention to their priorities. “What you love and prioritize will shape your life,” she states. Thus, good stewardship requires using our gifts and abilities to serve Christ as He calls us to serve. Sharing stories of how God used notable figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Florence Nightingale, Harder states that we all have God-given talents that we are to use to write our own stories of faithfulness.
Congratulations, Class of 2016!