Photo: Behavioral science and Bible faculty member Kevin Wilder delivered the commencement address, “Ultimate Questions.” Photo by Larry Bartel.
Hesston (Kansas) College graduates were encouraged to frame their lives with love for God, others and self. Based on Mark 12:28-34, which served as the college’s theme verse for the 2015-16 year, Hesston College psychology and Bible instructor Kevin Wilder delivered the commencement address “Ultimate Questions,” at the May 8 graduation exercises.
Wilder explained that ultimate questions are those “that get to the point and reveal a lot.” The Mark 12
passage does that by asking which of the commandments laid out in the passage–love God with your whole being, love your neighbor and respect yourself enough so you can show empathy–is the most important.
“Which is the most important?” Wilder asked. “It depends. Starting with one helps you understand the other two.”
Wilder admitted that “loving people is hard and confusing,” but encouraged graduates to be inspired by the passage and love the way they have been loved during their time as Hesston College students.
“We have tried to love you and love you unconditionally,” said Wilder. “We have tried to teach you discipline and we have tried to teach you mercy. Make no mistakes, students, we have loved you. We have not done that perfectly, but we have loved you. We have prayed and we have sweated and we have lost sleep for you. We have loved you. And we launch you today with that love. And that love does not end when you receive that diploma.”
Wilder started at Hesston College in 1998 as campus pastor, serving in that role for 10 years before transitioning to a faculty position.
The 2016 graduation looked different from those of the past 45 years, as graduates donned the traditional caps and gowns for the first time since 1971.
President Howard Keim shared the history of the decision, noting that the class of 1972, under then student body president Howard Keim, voted by overwhelming majority to discontinue the practice. The class of 2016 voted by overwhelming majority to return to the traditional practice. Keim stated that in both instances, the administration reasoned that “graduation is a time to honor the graduates, so their request was granted.”
Student commencement speakers were Isaiah Crosby (Ponca City, Oklahoma) and Emily Kauffman (Pettisville, Ohio) who were nominated by faculty and staff and chosen by their classmates to deliver student addresses.
President Keim conferred 166 degrees for the Class of 2016: 62 associate of arts degrees, 14 associate of science degrees, 64 associate of applied arts and sciences degrees and 26 associate of general studies degrees.
Individual student groups were recognized in special ceremonies May 7.
A recognition ceremony was held for eight students completing the Disaster Management Program.
Brett Troyer, a 2006 Hesston College graduate, and the first person to receive certification for completing the program, delivered a message entitled “Called to Serve.” Troyer is the Project Logistics Coordinator for Mennonite Disaster Service, based from the Bi-National Office in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
A nursing pinning ceremony honored 51 nursing graduates. The message “Do Small Things with Great Love” was delivered by 2009 Hesston College Nursing graduate Lisa Harrelson, RN. Harrelson is a critical care nurse at Wesley Medical Center, Wichita, Kansas, and was honored with the 2015 Kansas Hospital Associate Health Care Worker of the Year award.
The Aviation department honored 10 students completing either the professional pilot or air traffic control programs of study. Ron Kilmer, a 1985 Hesston College graduate and father of 2016 aviation graduate Michael Kilmer (Glendale, Arizona), delivered a reception address.
To view a video of the full commencement exercise and other livestream events from the weekend, visit hesston.edu/events/commencement.