156 graduates celebrate Commencement Weekend 2009

Annali Murray receives her diploma from Hesston College President Howard Keim
Annali Murray of Orrville, Ohio, receives her diploma from President Howard Keim at Commencement May 3. Murray was part of the 156-member class of 2009.

Hesston College graduated 156 students on Sunday morning, May 3, in Yost Center, and Jim and Jim were in the gym to address them before they received their diplomas. Representing the “lofty” world of academia, 36-year veteran of the science faculty, Jim Yoder, was dressed in full regalia and spoke from the bucket of a cherry picker high above the grads, their families and friends. Jim Mason, director of Campus Facilities, stood below stage level, wore jeans and a polo shirt, and represented the “down-to-earth” aspects of a college education.

“I see what goes on outside the classroom…in the dorms, cafeteria, here in the gym, and often in the evenings,” Mason said. “I know these people outside the classroom and I have an idea—perhaps even better than you—how much these graduation candidates have grown and matured over their years here—ways that go far beyond the classroom.”

“I must agree with that, Jim,” Yoder said. “But I still say, first of all, the mind must be what we call liberated, so that we are not prisoners of thoughts and ideas that are not our own. We have to be able to think for ourselves—to be life-long learners…after all, the classroom is what makes this an academic institution.”

As Yoder and Mason continued their dialogue, Yoder descended from his cherry picker and Mason climbed the steps to the stage, meeting together at the podium.

“I think the total Hesston experience is what we are celebrating today for these graduates,” Mason continued. “Classroom and dorm, cafeteria, lounge, activities, athletics…. And having the graduation celebration ceremony here in this place usually used to celebrate the capabilities of the human body is a symbol of integration. Jim and Jim in the gym!”

“I like what James the apostle says about the wisdom that comes from above—that is true integration, it is pure, peaceful, gentle, and produces a harvest of good deeds,” Yoder said. “Something that theologians have been debating since Paul and James wrote their epistles—theory and/or action, faith and/or praxis, and the debate goes on and on.”

Students and graduates pose for a photo after commencement
Freshman Breezie Sims (Wichita, Kan.), graduate Selamawit Mamo (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), freshman Brittany Albrecht (Sebewaing, Mich.), graduate Fernanda Barros (Sao Paulo, Brazil), and freshman Jessica Juhnke (Hesston, Kan.) pose for a photo by Hesston College’s International Student Advisor Dave Osborne (back to camera).

“Maybe we should just look at the life of Christ,” Mason continued. “Not faith or works, not even faith and works, but faith with works—integrated!”

Mason and Yoder concluded their address using the symbol of a candle, which requires the integration of wax and wick in order to be useful in illuminating darkness, and stated that each graduate would receive a candle as a symbol of the best of Hesston College’s integrated education and the wisdom and light that the grads will spread as they go out from Hesston.

Forty-six of the graduates were members of the Hesston College Nursing Program, which held its pinning ceremony Saturday morning, May 2, at Hesston Mennonite Church. In addition to receiving their pins, the grads also received a blessing of the hands from nursing faculty members, and Gloria (Balzer) ’80 Solis, a Hesston nursing grad and chief nursing officer/chief operating officer at St. Luke’s East in Lee’s Summit, Mo., shared a meditation on “Let the Celebration Begin!”

“We don’t just have jobs, we have callings,” Solis told the graduates. “We have gifts. We have the power to help people go to sleep at night, and wake up in the morning with their mind and soul intact. How many people get to go to work every day and really get to make a contribution to another person’s life? How many people get to make someone smile or feel better? That’s what we get to do.

Hesston College Pastoral Ministries graduate Bernard Sejour receives a stole from program director David Greiser.
Pastoral Ministries Program Director David Greiser places a stole on the shoulders of graduate Bernard Sejour, originally of Dame-Marie, Haiti. Sejour and his family will move to Philadelphia, Pa., where he will work to establish a new Mennonite congregation in a Haitian community. Sejour is one of five Pastoral Ministries graduates this spring. He and his wife Icelda and daughter are members of Argentine Mennonite Church, Kansas City, Kan.

“(The prophet) Isaiah describes today perfectly: ‘You will go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and the trees of the field will clap their hands.’” Hesston College Pastoral Ministries graduate Bernard Sejour receives a stole from program director David Greiser.

Bringing healing and wholeness into the world was part of the message shared by Clarence Rempel with the five Pastoral Ministries students and their spouses commissioned at Hesston Mennonite Church Saturday afternoon, May 2.

“Whatever the capacity of human suffering, the church has greater capacity for healing and wholeness,” said Rempel, who is associate conference minister for Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA. He most recently served as pastor of First Mennonite Church, Newton.

Rempel noted that many congregations want their pastors’ role to be that of “hatch, match, and dispatch.”

“In the current cultural environment, if the pastor focuses on these three or four tasks, and does them well, he or she will likely grow the church smaller. All of the above needs to be done, and done well, but it’s not enough. Give the church more than it asks for. Servant leadership that cares for the future of the church must also pursue leading the congregation into a missional vision of making new disciples and bringing the good news of Jesus to the world. It’s not so much about getting people into the church as getting the church into the community because we are in this for Jesus’ sake, and Jesus is Lord of the whole world.”

Other weekend activities Saturday, May 2, included recognition for six Disaster Management graduates; a reception for seven aviation graduates; a concert by the Bel Canto Singers; and the annual Larkfest awards and recognition ceremony for sophomores.

Meanwhile, the Hesston College Theatre Department presented three performances April 30-May 2 of An Evening of One Acts. Hannah Titus, a sophomore from Roland, Iowa, directed Puente Negro, while Brandan Harvey, a freshman from Walton, Kan., directed The Actor’s Nightmare.