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Open Hearts, Open Minds at Commencement

Degrees were presented to 434 graduates at the University’s spring commencement ceremonies. Combined with winter commencement graduates, all degrees awarded for the 2011–2012 academic year total 626. The University recognized spring graduates at three ceremonies: for undergraduate degrees, for graduate degrees and degrees earned through the School of Adult Learning, and for degrees awarded to graduates of North Park Theological Seminary.

Many graduates and their families attended a May 11 baccalaureate service at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. Dr. David L. Parkyn, North Park University president, focused his comments on the University’s mission statement, “to prepare students for lives of significance and service,” and Jesus’s instruction on this topic in the four Gospels in the New Testament. He told the students that if they were unsure about what it means to live a life of significance and service, they need only to hear the words of 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.

Undergraduate degrees went to 297 students for majors in the University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and the schools of adult learning, education, nursing, music, and business and nonprofit management. Graduate degrees went to 137 students including 34 Seminary graduates. Parkyn presided at the commencement ceremonies.

Undergraduate Commencement

In addition to the presentation of degrees, noteworthy achievements by students and faculty were celebrated:

  • 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 the highest grade point average among undergraduates: Emily Shakal, Chicago, bachelor of arts in biblical and theological studies
  • 2012 Fulbright Program awards: Karen Kelly, Mexico City, assigned to Andorra to teach English; and Nnenna Okore, associate professor of art and department chair, assigned to Nigeria to teach and work on environmental art projects

Two leaders of Casa Central, a Chicago nonprofit that serves Hispanic people through community service activities, were honored with the David Nyvall Medallion. The medallion, presented to Daniel Alvarez Sr., founder, and Ann R. Alvarez, president and chief executive officer, is given for longtime and distinguished service to the people of Chicago. North Park University and Casa Central maintain an educational partnership, and Ann Alvarez is also a member of the University’s board of trustees.

The 50th anniversary of the Class of 1962 was noted, with several students from that class attending this year’s commencement ceremony wearing gold graduation gowns.

Graduate and School of Adult Learning Commencement

A highlight for students who earned graduate degrees and degrees through the School of Adult Learning were remarks by four graduates representing different University academic programs. Each expressed how their academic programs shaped their lives and careers. “For many of us, the messages we have received about ourselves have played a powerful role in shaping our sense of self,” said Kathleen Ferrarell, Glenview, Ill., bachelor of arts in counseling psychology. “For me, the message was that I was not college material.” After her own children went to college, Ferrarell began to earnestly pursue her own college education. She learned “with an open heart and an open mind” and said she was “grateful for these gifts that I received here at North Park.”

Clara Casas-Maya, Vernon Hills, Ill., master of arts in education, School of Education, described her own journey of coming to the United States from Colombia to pursue graduate education. The bilingual kindergarten teacher said, “It may take time to find what you really love to do, but the search and the rewards are really worth it.” Other speakers were Molly Philosophos, Oak Park, Ill., master of nonprofit administration, School of Business; and LaRhonda Hrobowski, Chicago, master of science in nursing, School of Nursing.

North Park Theological Seminary Commencement

Students who earned Seminary degrees heard a commencement address by Dr. M. Daniel Carroll Rodas, distinguished professor of Old Testament, Denver (Colo.) Seminary. He urged the graduates to dedicate themselves to “the Word of God,” “holiness,” and “to others.” Rev. Gary B. Walter, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), said that in Scripture, God asks for faithfulness. “That means you hold nothing back from God, and you give it your all,” he said to the graduates.

The Ahnfeldt Medallion for the highest grade point average among Seminary graduates was presented to Joel Johnson, Chicago, master of divinity graduate.

This summer, the Seminary will welcome a new dean, Rev. Dr. David Kersten, currently an executive minister in the ECC.

Next Steps

Explore photo galleries from the commencement and baccalaureate services.

Read more from the Summer 2012 North Parker.

A master's degree gradaute at North Park University.