Faculty, staff, trustees, families, friends, and Golden Grad representatives joined the 131 graduates receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees on Saturday, May 5, 2017.
University President, Dr. Todd Williams, opened the ceremony with prayer. He was then followed by a Scripture reading by Elizabeth Joy Hartzler ’18/G’18, two musical selections by the Cairn Chorale, and Dr. Benjamin Harding leading the audience in singing the senior class hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
This year’s senior class reached substantial academic achievement. Of the 131 graduates, 69 students received master’s degrees, and 48 undergraduate/dual-level students received Latin honors for maintaining a GPA of 3.5 or higher. The class salutatorian was music performance major Amy Crocker (3.98) and the valedictorian was Amanda Kloth (3.99), a secondary English education major and honors student.
After all degrees were awarded, Robert Doll, a Cairn Board of Trustees member, took the podium to introduce Dr. Williams as this year’s speaker. Doll commented that he has known Dr. Williams for over 10 years and seen him fulfill five different roles with excellence: friend, brother in Christ, teacher, husband and father, and leader.
Following the warm introduction, Dr. Williams took center stage and began speaking to the graduates, what he considers to be his “favorite part” of his role as president. He began by telling the students that although they come “from different states of mind and points in your faith journey . . . we are one—bound together through Jesus Christ. Bound together through a love for His Word. . . .We walk a different path together.”
Dr. Williams then explained that the University’s tagline was drawn from Ephesians 4:1, where Paul urges the church in Ephesus to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (ESV).
He told the students that to walk worthy and “live out the mission of that has shaped your education, you have to do quite a bit. . . . As followers of Jesus Christ, you are necessarily pointed upstream, and everything around you will be counter to what you believe. We know that because Jesus said it would be so.”
To further his message of being all-in, convicted individuals for Christ, Dr. Williams points to the story of the widow’s mite in the Gospel of Mark. This woman gave two copper coins. They did not amount to much, but they were all she had. Most times, she is portrayed as poor and lowly widow, but Dr. Williams believes that she is instead “a woman of epic courage and conviction. She has a courage and conviction that is wrapped up in her faith. She is a poor widow and is in a place where she is extremely out-of-place. . . . yet it’s the substance of her offering that Jesus called attention to.”
Dr. Williams implored graduates that “we must do more than simply exist, more than simply survive. . . . we must expend our times, talents, and our very lives in service to the Lord Jesus. We must give it all and hold nothing in reserve. . . . regardless of the context in which you find yourself.”
Congratulations, Class of 2018!