College holds 114th annual commencement ceremonies

Photo - Heaven Trapp of Lufkin, Texas, receives her diploma from Interim President Ross Peterson-Veatch.

Heaven Trapp of Lufkin, Texas, receives her diploma from Interim President Ross Peterson-Veatch.

Hesston College students and their families celebrated with faculty and staff during the 114th annual Commencement ceremony held Saturday, May 11, in the sanctuary of Hesston Mennonite Church.

This year’s commencement featured an address titled “Walking with the Spirit in Service to Others” delivered by Dr. Rebecca Hernandez, director of organizational development and racial equity with the Mennonite Central Committee. Hernandez encouraged the graduates to act as agents of liberation in their daily lives and in their future careers. She concluded her address with a lesson she learned from a college chapel service.

“It is important to not just pray for faith for the big miracles to happen, but to also pray for endurance because there are many ordinary days,” recalled Hernandez. “It is in these ordinary days that, moment by moment, change happens.”

Dr. Ross Peterson-Veatch, interim president, conferred 36 Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees, 10 Bachelor of Arts in business management degrees, one Bachelor of Science in aviation – professional pilot degree and 61 associate degrees. The graduating class of 2024 includes members from 12 different countries, U.S. territories and sovereign nations.

One of those graduates is Shelby Bontrager, a senior in the business management program and a native of McPherson, Kan.

“My education from Hesston College will help me in my career path by making me knowledgeable and experienced in handling people, whether that be as coworkers, employees, superiors or stakeholders,” says Bontrager.

After graduation, Bontrager hopes to earn a full-time position working for CHS Inc. in McPherson in the process safety management department, where she began on a part-time basis last summer.

Another graduate with big plans ahead of them is James Peters, a senior in the nursing program. A native of Hesston, Kan., Peters has also served as a firefighter and an EMT in Hesston since 2019.

“A successful career requires more than a degree alone,” says Peters. “Networking and building relationships are critical to success. Hesston College has been a great place to build those relationships and make connections in the community.”

Peters plans to enter the workforce as a nurse while he pursues his dream career of becoming a flight nurse, a specially trained nurse assigned to various aircraft that provide patient care during the flight.

“Flight nursing is a very competitive field, but I feel that my experience at Hesston College has given me a great foundation that has made me a well-rounded nurse,” says Peters.

The prayer of invocation was delivered by Mark ’98 and Denise ’97 Diller, Hesston, Kan., parents of graduate Kyle Diller. The prayer of dedication was delivered by Hugo Friesen and Siegried Pauls de Friesen of Neuland, Paraguay, parents of graduate Hadassa Friesen. Two students, Larry Ruffin, Choctaw, Okla., and Fortesa Hysenaj, Istog, Kosovo, were nominated by faculty and staff and voted by their classmates as the graduate speakers to reflect on the Hesston Experience.

“Hesston is a place that attempts to give everyone a voice,” said Ruffin. “It is a place where people of all different faith and cultural backgrounds can come together and share their beliefs and traditions. I am glad that I chose Hesston because it allowed me to strengthen my faith by broadening my horizons and building on the ideas that I grew up with.”

The 36 nursing program graduates were honored at a Nursing Pinning ceremony in the sanctuary of Hesston Mennonite Church on the morning of May 11. Graduates received their nursing pins as well as the traditional blessing of hands from Hesston College nursing faculty.

Other commencement weekend events included several music recitals and a theatre showcase. On the evening of May 10, the International Chorale presented a sendoff concert in the sanctuary. The concert kicks off a European choir tour schedule that includes concerts in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.