Rainy weather couldn’t dim the joy on the York College campus Saturday as over 80 students graduated during the morning’s commencement ceremony.
Held in the Campbell Student Activity Center, the seats and bleachers were filled with proud parents, excited family members, and eager graduates ready to receive their degrees.
Mary Eisenhower, CEO of People to People International, gave the commencement address. Eisenhower is the granddaughter of U.S. President and First Lady Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower. Her father, John Eisenhower, was also an accomplished soldier, diplomat, and author.
Eisenhower’s professional experience includes work on Capitol Hill, managing an engineering firm, time as a fellow at Stanford University, and extensive travel around the world on diplomatic and humanitarian trips. She has worked for more than a decade with People to People International, the organization started by President Eisenhower to promote peace globally by connecting everyday citizens.
“Welcome to the world,” Eisenhower told graduates. “The best is yet to come.”
During her address, Eisenhower shared a very personal story of triumph through tragedy as she clung to her faith in the Lord through dark times in her life. After college, she told graduates, her plan was to marry, have six children, and a white picket fence around a country cottage.
The reality she was met with was not her idyllic plan. She lost four children due to miscarriage. Eventually she was blessed with one healthy baby boy; however, soon after she was diagnosed with cancer and was told she would not be able to have any more children. Her marriage deteriorated. At 26, she was a single parent with no picket fence in sight.
“I asked my Lord, how could it have worked out this way?” she recalled. “My love of God was what really pulled me through.” Later she recalled losing her job when the company she worked for was sold. “It was a scary time,” she said. “It certainly wasn’t Plan A.”
After that low point, Eisenhower moved on to a management position at an engineering firm. She eventually remarried and was blessed with three stepchildren to raise. While her life wasn’t like the original plan, “I wouldn’t trade anything about the way it turned out,” she said.
Eisenhower reminded students that it’s important to have plans and dreams, but recognize that God is in control of their future.
Eisenhower also shared a story about a tense meeting between her grandfather and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev when she was a girl. Many years later, she met Khrushchev’s son, Sergei, at a People to People International event. After some initial awkwardness, Eisenhower recalled having a great conversation with him. That interaction spurred her to become more involved with People to People, whose mission is to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures.
“The son of my grandfather’s greatest adversary turned my life upside down,” said Eisenhower. “It was unexpected and unplanned, but I landed where I’m sure I was always meant to be.”
After her address, Eisenhower was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from York College in recognition of her global humanitarian work and her support of the college. “I cannot think of a school that I would rather be an alumni of, including the one that I went to,” quipped Eisenhower, accepting the recognition. “This is a glorious place and we are all blessed to have been here at one time or another.”
After Eisenhower’s address, several awards and honors were presented.
Dr. Shane Mountjoy, provost, announced that the Tom N. Schultz Chair for Missions Studies will be held by Dr. Terry Seufferlein, associate professor of Biblical studies. Schultz graduated from York College in 1959. He and his wife, Dottie, worked as missionaries in the Netherlands for 15 years before returning to York College to teach. The couple left a lasting mark on this campus through their lives of service. That legacy will be continued in the service of Dr. Seufferlein.
Seufferlein says the position is especially meaningful to him, as Schultz was one of his professors and mentors during his undergraduate years at York College.
The Dale R. Larsen Teacher Award is given annually to a full-time tenured faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to York College. This year, the award was presented to Martha Soderholm, director of the SUCCESS Center. Soderholm has worked at York College in a variety of positions for 32 years.
The Dean’s Award is presented annually to one graduating senior. The recipient is selected by the faculty, based on scholarship, leadership, and maturity factors. The 2016 award went to Hannah Gund, a psychology major from Marion, Ill.
“[Gund] is an accomplished student who has been involved in many activities, held various leadership positions on campus, and an individual whose spiritual walk is evident to all who know her. She loves York College and consistently supports the institutional mission," said Mountjoy. “In many ways, this student is representative of the dreams and the kind of hope we have for each of our students during their time here at York College.”
Before other degrees were conferred, a special presentation was made to the parents of York College Online student Joseph Lynn, who passed away in 2015. David and Judy Lynn were given their son’s diploma for a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, presented by Dr. Monty McNair, Joe Lynn’s academic advisor, professor, and mentor.
The ceremony continued as graduates lined up to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas from President Eckman with a smile, a handshake, and frequently, a hug. Master’s, bachelor’s, and associate’s degrees were awarded during the ceremony.
The York College Concert Choir, conducted by Dr. Clark Roush, closed out the ceremony by performing “Alleluia” and “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” before leading the audience in the singing of the York College Alma Mater.
Bachelor's Degree: Garrett Anctil, Anela Auala, Cody Baack, Chrystian Banuelos, Josh Bates, Melanie Baxa**, Danielle Berry**, Brandon Brown, Kelsey Buglewicz***, Joshua Burgener***, Forrest Burr, Angela Case*, Santiago Castano, Caris Clark***, Shandie Curtis, Morgan De Boer*, Kayla Drummond, Parker Duensing, Zanoria Echols***, Aileen Edmonds, Anthony Enriquez, Julien Ezika-Michael, Kailey Firm**, Nicole Gates**, Hannah Gund***, Brady Henan, Jordon Hinnergardt, Bryce Hinton**, Paige Horton, Marquis Jackson, Eryn Jacobson*, Mike Johnson*, Lindsay Jones*, Naaman Karbhari, Casey Kaup, Grayson King, Jorge Lama, Warren Lannon, Tisa Lawrence, Toby Lewis, Ali Linstad**, Jenny Long**, Doreen Lopez, Josh Lopez, Bethany Lotulelei***, Jasmine Magner, Laykin McCoy, Kristin Menge, Cory Minjarez, Misty Musser**, Michael Ortiz, Raul Ortiz III, Corrine Pearl***, Dana Penze, Brianna Perez, Rudy Perez Jr., Bestley Pierre*, Chloe Pittman***, Eric Runions, Luis Sanchez, Caroline Seilstad, Laurel Simpson, Talea Struck, Jaimee Stutz**, Ben Sullivan*, Katrina Svitak, Sheyli Thomas***, Jameson Trauger, Sarah Trembly*, Sierra Trower*, Michael Wiist.
*Cum Laude - GPA of 3.40 or higher
**Magna Cum Laude - GPA of 3.60 or higher
***Summa Cum Laude - GPA of 3.85 or higher
M.A. of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: Michael Miller and Gene Felise.
Associate's Degree: Austin Benton, Bernie Garcia, Mikayla Griffith, Abby Houser, Jessica Lewis, Amanda Myers.
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