May 9, 2015 – On a Saturday morning that held the promise of sunshine and warmth, 237 Warner Pacific College students earned their associate, baccalaureate, or master diplomas. The class of 2015 was comprised of traditional undergraduate students who attended classes full time at our main Mt. Tabor Campus along with those attending through the Adult Degree Program at one of six satellite campuses across the Portland-Metro area and southwest Washington.
Founded in 1937, Warner Pacific has celebrated over 78 commencements, each one a remarkable and treasured memory for the College. In May 1976, 39 years ago, the College was honored to have President Gerald Ford speak before the graduates at commencement.
“When I received your invitation to address Warner Pacific, I welcomed the opportunity to address an institution that encourages civic virtues based upon the highest spiritual values,” said President Ford in 1976. Following his remarks, President Ford was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by then Warner Pacific President Dr. E. Joe Gilliam.
Today, the Christ-centered spiritual foundation of Warner Pacific continues to inspire the College to serve the city and its neighbors. We are blessed with a graduating class that not only achieved academic excellence; they’ve forged in their hearts a true sense of service for this community.
Two Warner Pacific graduating students stood before their classmates to offer words of reflection and hope for the future. Yvonne Edwards, a West Indian immigrant who grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, finally achieved degree of earning a degree through our Adult Degree Program. For exactly 2 years, 4 months, and 13 days, she commuted over 19,200 miles from Lacey, Wash., to the Cascade Campus in Portland!
“My grandmother, with her third grade education and in her West Indian dialect would say ‘Vonnie, tek in yu lessons;’ translated that means: ‘take-in and absorb your education so that you can apply the knowledge to your life’s journey,’” shared Yvonne (Bachelor of Science in Human Development). “Never in my wildest dreams did I consider my journey would lead me here.”
A Human Development and History & Social Studies double major through the traditional program on the Mt. Tabor Campus, Ben Irwin transferred to Warner Pacific and found a place of acceptance within our community. He never stopped being an individual, however; relentlessly pursuing answers to paradoxes presented.
Taking time to do anything seems contradictory to the Gen Z’s view of life. Insightfully, Ben sums up, “We want a quick fix, an instantaneous way of being recognized: a way to gain, not a way to grow. But the journey matters more than the destination. This graduation and even the degree itself means less than how you spent your time getting here. Too often, we shrug off life experiences and go ‘Yeah, but what can this do for me?’ We’re a culture of ‘I went to Uganda on a short-term missions trip, and it completely changed my profile picture on Facebook.’”
Yvonne reminded fellow graduates from Gen Z to Baby Boomers to savor this time, this moment, “Graduation is one of those awkward times in our lives when we are torn between the joy of our memories and the excitement of our future. Should we look back on what were the greatest years of our lives, both triumphant and sometimes a struggle? Times filled with joy from the boisterous sounds of that first spring day out on the lawn or the calmness of the chapel. Instead, should we focus on the next stage in this journey called life? We have been impatiently waiting for this day for years, and now, we just want to hit pause. We want to slow it down, and enjoy the last fleeting moments. Our lives forever altered in one short moment, after we walk across the stage and receive our diploma.”
“Your time as a student is only beginning. For that reason, I encourage you to always be learning, stretching yourself, puzzling for solutions, and embracing the complexities that lack solutions,” advised Ben. “Always experiment with the unfamiliar and uncomfortable.”
In her address to the graduates, Dr. Andrea Cook, President of Warner Pacific College, reminded them that, “in our constantly changing world, you are likely to change occupations several times. So, the aspects of your education that will serve you the best are your ability to keep learning, to wrestle with the big questions of life, to think critically, and to adapt to new and exciting opportunities.”
We are proud of all the graduates and have been blessed through your journey with us at Warner Pacific. Graduation is a bittersweet time as we say goodbye to students we have grown so fond of during their short time at the College. We pray that God will lead you as you engage in the opportunities that are ahead of you.
As parting words to the graduating class, Yvonne reminds us that “Warner Pacific has instilled in us a tremendous fire, a passion for life, and a desire to make the community and the world in which we live a better place. We owe it to each other, our family, our professors, our College, our country, and our God to pursue our wildest dreams.”
Congratulations to Warner Pacific’s class of 2015!