North Park Congratulates Class of 2009

North Park University's 2009 Graduation

Nearly 400 students receive their degrees at the University’s 116th Commencement

CHICAGO, IL (May 11, 2009) – From the procession of international flags leading a queue of bright smiles and fluttering tassels; to the golden caps and gowns of the returning class of 1959; to the shouts and horns of students cheering on their classmates from the stands, North Park University’s 116th commencement was a colorful and exuberant affair. As parents, spouses, and friends looked on, nearly 400 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees in the Saturday, May 9, exercises.
In conjunction with the presentation of diplomas, highlights of the day included the awarding of the Ahnfeldt Medallion to graduates Matthew Enquist and Matthew Kemp, who, in addition to sharing the same first name, also shared the highest GPA in their class (4.0) and were both double majors receiving degrees in biblical and theological studies. Classmate Riley Clark, a Spanish and business double major, was also recognized for winning a Fulbright Award from the Fulbright Garcia Robles Commission. He is one of only 10 grantees nationwide who will have an opportunity to work at a bi-national company, and will begin studies and employment in Mexico this fall.

Other outstanding seniors were honored the week before commencement during the University’s annual Honors Convocation. Sarah Thontwa and Marcus Simmons both received the Senior Par Excellence Award for exceptional academic achievement and service to the University. Thontwa, a business and economics major, was the first undergraduate student from the Democratic Republic of Congo to attend North Park. She founded the African Student Organization as well as a nonprofit called Little Things, which provides funds to help educate marginalized women in Africa.  Simmons, a communication arts major, joined a group of fellow North Parkers in a cross-country bike trip last summer to raise awareness about social justice issues. Over the years he also served as a resident assistant, writing advisor, and editor of the student newspaper, and has been an accomplished cross-country and track and field athlete.

During the undergraduate commencement proceedings on Saturday morning, an honorary doctorate of humane letters was presented to Phyllis Tickle for her numerous contributions to the field of Christian publishing. A former religion editor for Publishers Weekly, her insightful reviews of Christian publications in America made her one of the most influential figures in the industry from 1992 until her retirement in 2004. As the author of books The Shaping of a Life, Prayer Is a Place, and The Divine Hours, she is credited with having singlehandedly resurrected the practice of fixed-hour prayer among evangelicals through her work.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Tickle encouraged the graduating class with an abridged version of a historic prayer that dates back to the Reformation: “God be in your mind and in your thinking. God be in your heart and in your knowing.”

Upon receiving the degree from President David Parkyn, and following a glowing introduction by longtime friend and North Park professor Scot McKnight, Tickle simply said, “I could not have imagined a degree that could have pleased me more.”

As bright smiles and fluttering tassels revealed, it was a sentiment shared by all who received their diplomas that day.