A move indoors did not dampen the spirits of the 111th commencement of Tabor College held May 15, 2021. Richert Auditorium in the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts was home for this year’s ceremony honoring 123 undergraduate and master’s students.
Of the graduates, 31 earned a master’s degree and 92 received a bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, bachelor of science in nursing, bachelor of social work or associate of arts degree.
The commencement speaker was 1984 graduate Gary Speese, now serving in education after an award-winning career in business and real estate. Speese, describing himself as the graduates’ “Uncle Gary” who had some words of advice, spoke of three pillars: pillars of a godly life, pillars of an abundant life and the foundation of interacting with people in this world.
Speese began by highlighting the importance of loving God and having faith and hope in him—something Tabor instills in students. He encouraged the graduates to be aware of the subtle ways the devil will attempt to destroy them: doubt, discouragement, delay and distractions.
He invited graduates to believe in the dreamer-idea God has given each of them, saying one way to achieve those dreams and goals is to write them down.
Speese spoke of the importance of honoring every person one meets.
“As a 6 foot, 5-inch Black man, my exterior is judged before I even say a word,” Speese said. “When you validate someone, you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about the exterior—I want to get inside.’”
Speese concluded by telling graduates, “People need the Lord. You are Tabor-made, and people need what’s inside of you. So, validate every person. Honor and educate—and then repeat. Honor and educate—and then repeat—until the light of the world shines bright in their lives.”
Before signing off, “Uncle Gary” summarized his last point by singing “People Need the Lord,” a classic contemporary Christian song written by Greg Nelson and Phill McHugh and recorded by Steve Green.
The first presentation of the morning was the Fran Jabara Leadership Award, presented by President Jules Glanzer. The award recipients, nominated by faculty and staff, were Alyssa Matney, Hutchinson, Kan., and Wyatt Bell, Cimarron, Kan. Recipients of the annual award receive a $1,000 gift and their names are engraved on a campus plaque.
“They have not only demonstrated their capacity for future leadership, but they’ve demonstrated their leadership for students of Tabor College,” Glanzer said.
Parker Folks, Clay Center, Kan., gave the undergraduate address and spoke of his experience of seeing the Lord work in his life through his time with Share, Prayer & Dare, the student-led worship service that is held weekly on campus.
“I needed more, and I couldn’t rely on myself,” Folks said. “I needed to seek someone who had more power than I did. On my 23rd birthday, I went to (SP&D), and it was the first time I had been in my four years. I actually cried because of what was going on. The music and testimonies hit me personally, and from that day forth, I needed it to be a part of my life more than it was at that time. Even though it took me so long to see that I needed it, I’m happy it happened before I was going to leave Tabor.”
Kassandra Drewitz, Rapid City, S.D., who spoke on behalf of the graduate and online students, talked of her calling to nursing and how it influences her interactions in the profession.
“Our job, calling and purpose is to create a connection with those we serve despite the industry,” she said. “Ministry, business and nursing graduates…, if we can’t connect with someone, we won’t have the opportunity to share the gospel. As a follower of Christ, we’re not meant to simply carry the message, but to show the love of God with those around us by connecting with them.”
Madison Johnson, Littleton, Colo., senior class president, provided the final speech on behalf of her classmates.
“A Tabor degree is different,” Johnson said. “It is more than just a piece of paper. It is a community and family that we are going to be able to hold on to years after we graduate. We have created so many memories together that are going to be remembered for a lifetime.”
Pastor and graduate Roosevelt DeShazer gave the invocation and Jim Paulus, assistant professor of psychology, gave the benediction.
The Tabor College Concert Choir performed “Celebrate” by Keith Hampton. Graduate Anna Glanzer, Hillsboro, Kan., read Scripture.
Hooding ceremonies were conducted by the director of each program: Mark Posson, director of nontraditional & business programs, assistant professor of business; Rick Bartlett, director of theological education and associate professor of ministry; and Tammy Stefek, director of nursing programs and associate professor of nursing.
Chris Dick, professor of English and faculty chair, presented the honor cords. President Glanzer presented diplomas and Rod Hamm, director of alumni relations, gave each graduate a Bible.
To see the 2021 Graduate Spotlight and recipients of each degree, click HERE.
Tabor College is the Mennonite Brethren college located in Hillsboro, Kansas. The mission of Tabor College, founded in 1908, is to prepare people for a life of learning, work and service for Christ and his kingdom.