Commencement features spokesperson for Christian higher education
FPU news story
Fresno Pacific University (FPU) Spring 2016 graduates were urged to look to “Hall of Famers” to find God’s direction as they plot their futures. FPU is the Mennonite Brethren university headquartered in Fresno, Calif.
Commencement ceremonies took place May 6 in Fresno’s Selland Arena following hooding ceremonies for students receiving master’s degrees that were held in two locations. The estimated 544 new graduates included 220 from traditional undergraduate programs, 216 from bachelor’s degree completion programs, 90 from graduate programs and 18 from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.
The call came from featured speaker Shirley V. Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, an international, nonprofit association of 180 Christian institutions. Hoogstra also spent 15 years as vice president for student life at her alma mater and CCCU member, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., after four years on Calvin’s board.
Not far from her Washington, D.C., office, Hoogstra said, are statues of great Americans who help us remember national milestones, such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Graduates could also look to family, professors and even basketball standout Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors for inspiration and examples.
Like them, biblical “Hall of Famers” put their preparation into action. “Moses believed God and argued with Pharaoh to let the Israelites go,” she said. “Abraham believed God and relocated his family to Canaan. Rahab believed God and she risked her life hiding the Israelite spies. Peter believed God and preached to the Gentiles. Where will God ask you to go?” she wondered. “What will he ask you to do?”
Awards given to faculty, graduates
The Nickel Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 2004 to recognize excellent professors teaching in traditional undergraduate programs. Recipients are nominated by alumni and students. The 2016 award went to Jay Pope, associate professor of psychology.
The Highest Grade Point Average Award was given to Reilly Elizabeth Reis, a bachelor degree graduate in Liberal Studies. Her 4.0 GPA is the highest possible.
The Harold H. Haak Academic Achievement Award was presented to Alexander Taj Hussain, a double major in contemporary Christian ministries and business administration—management and organizational studies emphasis. Betty Haak and the family of the late president Harold H. Haak, created the award for a member of the university’s Alpha Chi honor society.
The Seminary Service Award went to On Ramps Covenant Economic Development Corporation. A part of On Ramps Covenant Church, the EDC sponsors social enterprises and other activities in support of Fresno’s Lowell Neighborhood. On Ramp pastors Philip (M.Div. ’06) and Mauricia (BA ’02, MA ’05) Skei accepted the award.
One award brought the crowd of 7,000 family members, friends and loved ones to their feet, along with the graduates, faculty and official guests. A posthumous degree went to the family of Bryan Cheatham, a business administration student who died March 15, 2016, at age 28.
“He is remembered as an outstanding, highly motivated student who enjoyed learning,” said President Richard Kriegbaum, who presented the degree to Cheatham’s parents, brother and fiancé.
Golden Graduates honored
This commencement also honored the 50th anniversary of the Pacific College Class of 1966, as well as those who graduated from Pacific College, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary and Pacific Bible Institute from 1944, when PBI was founded, through 1965.
A dozen graduates were present: Wilfred Derksen, Lloyd Gardner, John Janzen, Donald Knaak, Adonijah Pauls, David Pauls, Gloria (Tillinghast) Reimer, Gary Schmidt, Lillian (Unruh) Klassen Schwartz, Sandra (Fullmer) Trapp, John Wall and Robert Wiens.
“All of these Golden Grads helped lay the foundation for what Fresno Pacific University is today,” Kriegbaum said.
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