WC Baccalaureate and Commencement services threaded with truth
By Laura Fitzpatrick, Staff Writer
Most high school and university graduation ceremonies follow the same basic pattern: an academic procession of the faculty, a welcome and invocation, awards recognition, a distinguished keynote speaker offering some sort of inspirational message, and finally the receiving of diplomas by the well-deserving graduates. This year’s graduation activities at WC held firmly to this traditional structure, but there was one obvious distinction.
From the invocation to the speaker introductions to the award recipients’ speeches, every moment of WC’s 43rd commencement was filled with truth. More than simple anecdotal advice or worldly wisdom, each speaker shared truth from his or her own life and God’s Word. It was abundantly clear amidst the “pomp and circumstance” that WC is a place deeply rooted in the timeless truth of God, and that each of our 81 graduates has been steeped in that truth throughout their time at this school.
WC Director of Admissions and Special Events Coordinator Lisa Raikes set the tone for the truth-themed commencement in her address during last Friday night’s Baccalaureate service. Having been involved in WC for 26 years and having a daughter (Alanna Raikes) in this year’s graduating class, her words to WC’s Class of 2019 were filled with conviction and power. She spoke of the importance of “truth-speakers” in our lives. “Truth-speakers,” she explained, “are people who speak the truth about God and truth about life.” Giving examples of truth-speakers in her own life, Raikes illustrated the transformative quality of being surrounded by believers that are willing to share truth, speak life, and offer encouragement in our lives.
Truth was also clearly the foundation of Sunday’s Commencement ceremony held on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. In his welcome address, Head of School Troy McIntosh quoted 3 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” He affirmed to the graduates that their education, past and future, ought to serve one purpose: “a relentless pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness, in all areas of your life, so that you will recognize it, learn it, love it, and ultimately submit to it and its Author.”
Following the Invocation, the WC Alumnus of the Year award was announced. This year’s recipient is Jason Dawson, a 2006 WC graduate who now also serves as a gym/health teacher at WC and is involved with the school’s basketball program. In receiving this award, Dawson spoke to the importance of developing our individual stories–our truths–on a daily basis.
Next, the keynote speaker, legendary and beloved WCHS English teacher Al Iten, was introduced by senior Betsy Cunningham. Cunningham explained that Iten has had a monumental impact on the senior class and that she has never met a more “driven and passionate person to see us, the senior class and others, know the love of the LORD.”
In his heartfelt address to the Class of 2019, Cunningham’s description of Iten was clearly demonstrated: he is passionate about his students knowing the love of Christ and following Jesus all their lives. With tears in his eyes and deep reverence in his voice, he explained that each of us has an appointment in our future, an appointment to meet Jesus face-to-face. He said that we must ask ourselves certain questions in preparation for this appointment. We must ask ourselves first if we have fulfilled our calling in this life—our calling is to be an image-bearer of God within a specific vocation—Christ first, in everything that we do. He also spoke of becoming rich in contentment, trusting God in every season of life, faithfully following the LORD even through life’s deserts and loving others with the unfailing kindness of God.
After Iten’s personal and passionate keynote speech, WC Board Member Dr. Karen White presented the three senior awards that select Warriors have received since 1977: the Joshua Award, the Daniel Award, and the Solomon Award.
The Joshua Award, named for Old Testament Israelite leader Joshua, who led God’s people into the promised land, is given to a WC senior who has been positively involved in student leadership. The Class of 2019 selected Grant Ostermeyer as this year’s Joshua Award recipient. He read Proverbs 4:23, “Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life,” and encouraged his fellow graduates to guard their hearts because it is from the heart that we have influence and lead others.
The Daniel Award, named for the Old Testament prophet Daniel known for his bold faith in a godless society, recognizes the strong faith-filled testimony of one WC senior each year. This year’s Daniel Award recipient is Emma Morris, who admitted she finds it ironic that she received a faith-based award because she has wrestled with doubt this year. She explained that through her own wrestling with doubt, she’s learned that it is okay to doubt and that we all have seasons of uncertainty in our faith. She encouraged her fellow graduates to stay anchored in truth, knowing that God is with us, loves us, and sees us as perfect.
The Solomon Award, named for the Old Testament King of Israel who prayed for and received God’s wisdom, recognizes a student for outstanding academic achievement. This year’s Solomon Award recipient is Ian Davison. Davison urged his classmates to remember all the wisdom and truth they have learned and experienced in their time at WC.
In ushering in the presentation of diplomas, WCHS Principal Dr. Buzz Inboden urged the seniors to hold on to their faith as they move forward with their lives. Thanking WC parents for giving WC the opportunity to partner with them in the work described by Proverbs 22:6, Inboden explained that in teaching our students the truth, they will always know where to find their faith.
Class of 2019, congratulations! May you continue to walk in truth as you go forward!
Class of 2019 Commencement Service | May 26, 2019
Class of 2019 Baccalaureate Service | May 24, 2019
(Images provided by Brian T. Shindle/Creative Moments)