North Park University Presents Degrees to 434 Graduates at Spring 2012 Commencements

Degrees were presented to 434 students at Spring Commencement, for a combined total of 626 for the 2011–2012 academic year.

University honors outstanding students, faculty, and Chicagoans

CHICAGO (May 14, 2012) – North Park University concluded the 2011–2012 academic year by awarding degrees May 12 to 434 graduates at the University's Spring Commencement ceremonies. Separate events were held for students who earned undergraduate degrees; students who earned graduate degrees and degrees through the School of Adult Learning; and graduates of North Park Theological Seminary. Including the Winter 2011 Commencement, degrees were awarded to 626 North Park University graduates this academic year.

Bachelor's degrees were presented to 297 students representing a variety of undergraduate majors in the University's College of Arts and Sciences, and the schools of adult learning, education, nursing, music, and business and nonprofit management. Master's degrees were presented to 137 students who completed graduate programs at the University, including 34 students at North Park Theological Seminary. Dr. David L. Parkyn, president of the North Park University, presided at the ceremonies.

The graduation weekend began with a Baccalaureate Service May 11 at Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago. In his address to graduates, Parkyn commented on the University's mission statement, "to prepare students for lives of significance and service," and Jesus's instruction on this educational ideal as reflected in the four gospels in the New Testament. "If after your years at North Park you're still just a bit vague on what it means to live with significance and in service, then listen to Jesus: be a healthy tree, one that bears good fruit; run away from the possibility of a being a diseased tree, one that bears worm-infected fruit," Parkyn told the graduates.

University President David Parkyn, right, presents the Nyvall Medallion to Daniel Alvarez Sr., center, and Ann Alvarez, left, both of Casa Central, Chicago.

The University recognized its 2012 Distinguished Seniors for outstanding academic achievement and leadership and service, Hannah Haugen, Milwaukie, Ore., bachelor of science in business and economics, and Joshua Startup, Chesterton, Ind., bachelor of science in chemistry. The Ahnfeldt Medallion, presented to a senior with highest grade point average among undergraduates, went to Emily Shakal, Chicago, bachelor of arts in biblical and theological studies. Winners of 2012 Fulbright awards were recognized -- Karen Kelly, Mexico City, who will teach English in Andorra, and Nnenna Okore, associate professor of art and department chair, who will teach and work on environmental art projects in Nigeria.

The University presented the David Nyvall Medallion to two leaders of Casa Central, a Chicago nonprofit organization that serves 20,000 Hispanic people through an array of community services. Daniel Alvarez Sr., founder, and Ann R. Alvarez, president and chief executive officer, were honored for 48 years of distinguished service to the people of Chicago. Casa Central maintains a partnership with North Park University and is a venue for undergraduate programs for adults. "We feel privileged, honored and grateful to our Lord for the opportunity to dedicate our lives to this mission," said Ann Alvarez, also a member of the University's board of trustees.

Several students from the North Park College (now University) class of 1962 were recognized as they celebrated the 50th anniversary of their graduations. "Today, you honor us, and you especially honor the members of the graduating class by your presence with us today," Parkyn said.

Four students who earned degrees addressed the commencement ceremony for graduate programs and the School of Adult Learning, sharing how their University educations have shaped their lives and careers. Speakers were Kathleen Ferrarell, Glenview, Ill., bachelor of arts in counseling psychology, School of Adult Learning; Molly Philosophos, Oak Park, Ill., master of nonprofit administration, School of Business and Nonprofit Management; Clara Casas-Maya, Vernon Hills, Ill., master of arts in education, School of Education; and LaRhonda Hrobowski, Chicago, master of science in nursing, School of Nursing.

Joel Johnson, Chicago, master of divinity, was presented the Ahnfeldt Medallion for the highest grade point average among graduates of North Park Theological Seminary.

Dr. M. Daniel Carroll Rodas, distinguished professor of Old Testament, Denver (Colo.) Seminary, presented the Seminary commencement address. In his charge to the graduates, Rev. Gary B. Walter, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), commented, "God's asking for you to be found faithful. That means you hold nothing back from God, and you give it your all." The University is affiliated with the ECC.

Drawing from the life example of retiring professor Richard Carlson, and building on Jesus’s instruction, "Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of," Parkyn challenged graduates to be "faithful in risking, faithful in dreaming, faithful in trusting, faithful in hearing God’s call, faithful in taking the first step, and then another, and still another."

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