PORTLAND, Ore. – Christian service and personal transformation were major themes that shaped Warner Pacific College’s Spring Commencement, which saw 243 students graduate before an audience of 2,000 on May 7, at City Bible Church, in N.E. Portland.
The graduating class was one of the largest in school history and represented both undergraduate and graduate programs. In lieu of a special commencement address, the college invited three student speakers to offer reflections on their experiences at Warner Pacific, and each elaborated on the strong personal impact the college had in their lives.
The first speaker, human development major Lafayette (Skip) Hatchel ’11, works as a manager for a wholesale door distributor. He originally enrolled in the college’s Adult Degree Program to study business, but later switched his major to Human Development as a way to help him better understand his managerial role.
“I realized that business is about people,” Hatchel said. “Everything we do is about people. The greatest assets of any organization are the people who commit themselves and their well being to that organization. It made sense to me, being a manager, having responsibility for people, I needed to understand how we as people connect and how we grow.”
The next speaker, social work major Lauren Murtidjaja (pronounced Mer - ta – JA - ya), said when she first arrived at Warner Pacific, she expected the college to tell her what career to pursue and how best to get there. Instead, faculty challenged her to look outside of herself and see how she could use her unique gifts to serve people. In addition to her studies in Portland, she went on mission trips to Myanmar and Tanzania, which further stretched her thinking.
“I have learned that we are all responsible to love, care for, and be in relationship with one another,” said Murtidjaja. “Because of this paradigm shift, my questions have also changed. I am no longer asking what I am going to do with the rest of my life or what career I should pursue. Now I am asking, what did God create me for? What is my purpose in life?
The final speaker, Master of Management and Organizational Leadership student Randall White, said one of the most important lessons he learned was how capable he is to overcome major obstacles.
“The MMOL program forces you to realize strengths and weaknesses in yourselves, and then show up class after class, meeting after meeting, completely and fully exposing the two to your teams, cohorts, and professors,” White said. “However, spending eighteen months with the same people so exposed, we experience great transformation.”
Following the student speakers, the audience enjoyed a performance by the college’s new men’s a cappella quintet, Bridgetown. The group sang “Battle Hymn,” by Julia Ward Howe, and “Grace” by Nathan Arnold ’03, in versions arranged by the group’s manager, Jason Overstreet.
The college then presented special student awards to four graduates.
Social Work and Human Development major JoAnna Dewey received the Milo Chapman Award for Excellence in Service. Dewey held internships that saw her work with the homeless, in elementary schools with at-risk students, and with placement services for the Oregon Department of Human Services.
Accounting and Business Administration major Danielle Ricco received the Marshall K. Christensen Award for Academic Excellence. She was also recently honored by the Oregon Society of Certified Public Accountants as an outstanding undergraduate in the field and had highly successful internship with the Energy Trust of Oregon while at Warner Pacific.
The Wilma I. Perry Award, given to an outstanding student in the college’s Adult Degree Program, went to human development major LaDonna Lafland. LaDonna first started at Warner Pacific College in August 2007 with just a few courses of college experience behind her. She persevered week after week and course after course through transitions at work and in her family.
For the last of the awards, President Andrea Cook, Ph.D., announced the recipient of the A.G. Gray Award as music performance major Alexandria Henderson, who was active in various choirs and who is the reigning Miss Portland 2011.
After conferring degrees, President Andrea P. Cook, Ph.D., gave her charge to the graduates. She encouraged them that it is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.
“You are going into world that needs people with strong values and unwavering faith, and to demonstrate everyday what it means to love others,” she said. “We pray that we have prepared you to be change agents for a hurting world, leaders who can act with integrity, who are committed to excellence, and who are faithful to God and available to serve others.”
The remainder of the program featured a response from outgoing student body president Stephanie DeBoer, a welcome from alumni council representative Garth Hamilton ’98, and the benediction by Dr. Caleb Rosado, the recipient of the 2011 Kendall Excellence in Scholarship Award.
Finally, the service concluded with retiring choral director Dr. Tom Miller leading the congregation in the singing of the alma mater. It was Dr. Miller’s 36th spring commencement.