FPU celebrates fall 2022 commencement

Graduate has unique life-saving connection with FPU dean

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FPU President André Stephens, who joined the university in July after 30 years of experience in Christian higher education in California, awarded diplomas at the Fall 2022 Commencement held Dec. 17. Photo: FPU

Fresno Pacific University December 2022 graduate Marie Celine Roque received an Outstanding Graduate Award for her academic efforts. But for Gary Gramenz, dean of the FPU School of Education, Roque will always be more than a awarding-winning student.

Roque, who received her Master of Science in Nursing Dec. 17 as a nurse practitioner, was part of the team that saved Gramenz’s life four years ago.

FPU dean Gary Gramena and fall 2022 graduate Marie Celine Roque have a unique connection. Photo: FPU

Emergency services were called when Gramenz passed out on a couch February 18, 2018. “I coded on the way to the hospital,” he says. In all, he was in Community Regional Medical Center four months with a complex lung infection. He spent the first month in a coma, also battling the flu, pneumonia, an auto-immune reaction and kidney failure.

Unsure what else to do, doctors turned to the ECMO machine, a “last resort” for respiratory and cardiac cases. Roque was part of that ECMO team—the team that saved Gramenz’s life.

Roque was one of around 400 students eligible to participate in the morning commencement event at Selland Arena, including 214 from the bachelor’s degree completion program, 122 from master’s programs, 59 from traditional undergraduate programs and two from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.
Graduates from traditional programs and the seminary attend classes at the main FPU campus in Fresno. Degree completion and master’s students attend regional campuses in Merced, North Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield.

Fresno Deputy Mayor Matthew Grundy gave the commencement address. His message in a nutshell was life happens, but God has a plan that to help you even—and especially—when it doesn’t seem that way.

Grundy passionately mixed the words of the Bible—Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you I the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart,” and 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”—with his own experience of seeming failure that led to greater success.

“If I wasn’t homeless, I wouldn’t have had the experience to build the necessary compassion needed to one day take the job of CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater Fresno,” he said, voice rising. “And without that experience at Habitat, it would not have prepared me for the day when a stranger named Jerry Dyer (mayor of Fresno) would reach out to me asking me to join this city as deputy mayor to lead this city’s housing strategy.

“I’m here to tell you that your mess is meant to become your message, that your test is intended to be a testimony. That one day you would stand here just like I am today, telling a group of strangers that yes, God’s plans are for good,” he said.

As CEO for Habitat for Humanity Greater Fresno Area, Grundy drove expansion projects and helped lead strategic vision for 1,200 Habitat operations across the U.S. As deputy mayor, he works closely with the mayor and his staff to crystallize the “One Fresno” mission—both within the walls of Fresno City Hall and throughout the community. Grundy has expertise in organizational development, real estate, finance and capacity building. Grundy and wife Jocelyn have six children.

Fall 2022 Commencement was the first for FPU President André Stephens, who joined the university in July after 30 years of experience in Christian higher education in California, most recently as vice president for student development at Biola University.

Other speakers included Joshua Wilson, J.D., chair of the FPU Board of Trustees, and Gayle Copeland, provost/vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer. Students and faculty provided music. Participate in commencement virtually at fpu.edu/commencement

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