More than 550 North Parkers received their diplomas, graduate degrees, and certificates during a celebratory commencement weekend filled with family, friends, and University faculty and staff.
The celebratory weekend began with the Baccalaureate Service, held Friday evening at the historic Fourth Presbyterian Church downtown, and continued Saturday with the undergraduate commencement ceremony.
The Procession of Colors kicked off the ceremony, with graduates carrying the flags of the countries in which they were born or had been residents. In all, 25 countries, from Rwanda to South Korea, were represented, the flags serving as a visual embodiment of North Park’s intercultural distinctive.
These students were followed by 300 of their classmates, who took their seats at the front of the assembled crowd.
“This indeed is a glorious moment,” President Mary K. Surridge said, addressing the graduates. “Years of diligent work have led to this milestone; you have reason to be proud of your accomplishment.”
President Surridge continued: “Our vision, building on our core institutional identity – Christian, city-centered, and intercultural – is to fashion a university of uncommon character and enduring excellence where faith, learning, and service meet. You are evidence that we are advancing this vision.”
President Surridge then took a moment to honor members of the Class of 1969, many of whom were in attendance, dressed in golden robes and sitting just behind the members of the Class of 2019. President Surridge noted that in 1969, gas was 30 cents a gallon, the median income was $8,500, and it was the year of Woodstock and the first year Yale University admitted women.
Before the Class of 1969 stood to applause, she lauded the “Legacy of our faithful alumni.”
This year, a three-way tie meant that three students received the Ahnfeldt Medallion, awarded to the graduate with the highest grade point average. This year’s recipients were Aseel Hussein, a politics and government major; Katelyn Jo Truex, a psychology major; and Dawson Vosburg, a sociology major.
Following the conferring of undergraduate degrees, the David Nyvall Medallion for Distinguished Service was awarded to Dr. Linda Duncan in recognition of more than 40 years of service to North Park.
Under Duncan’s leadership as dean, the undergraduate nursing program was redesigned and undergraduate enrollment doubled, becoming one of North Park’s largest majors. Lab space was significantly expanded, including the addition of the cutting-edge Kathy Holmgren Nursing Simulation Center.
The morning ceremony was followed in the afternoon by the Graduate and School of Professional Studies Commencement Convocation. During the commencement litany, graduate students vowed to continue to live the North Park mission.
“We will strive to show reverence for all human life, to treat all people with dignity and respect, and to work together for the common good,” the graduates said in unison. “As we leave this place, we will continue to explore the world and learn from the perspective of others.”
The day ended with the Seminary Commencement and Consecration Service, where recently retired Directory of Ministry Services Carol Lawson received an honorary degree. The commencement speaker, Cecilia Williams, serves as the Executive Minister for the Love Mercy Do Justice mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
At the Baccalaureate Service, President Surridge addressed graduates on the eve of their graduation.
“Tonight is a gift from God,” President Surridge said. “Gathered on the eve of a milestone, we offer to God what we have to give – ourselves and the stirrings of our hearts and minds.”
The Baccalaureate Address was given by Craig R. Johnson, the retiring Dean of the School of Music, Art, and Theatre. Afterward, the graduates received Prayers of Blessings from University faculty and staff.
Earlier in the week, a special athletics commencement ceremony was held for members of the baseball and rowing teams, whose members were participating in a tournament and a regatta, respectively, during the traditional ceremony.