University Awards Degrees to 458 Students at Spring Commencement Ceremonies
Nyvall Medallion presented to Hon. Lynne Kawamoto and Hon. Joan Humphrey Lefkow
CHICAGO (May 13, 2014) — North Park University culminated the 2013–2014 academic year last weekend by awarding degrees to 458 students, including 295 bachelor’s degrees.
Three commencement ceremonies were held Saturday, May 10, for students from all undergraduate and graduate programs, including North Park Theological Seminary. Combined with the winter commencement held last December, degrees were presented to 727 North Park University graduates this academic year.
The weekend began with a baccalaureate service for all graduates, their families, and friends Friday, May 9, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago. In a deeply personal address, Dr. David L. Parkyn, president of North Park University, shared with graduating students advice from his mother and father, who each passed away this academic year. “Here’s the most important lesson my parents taught me,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who or where you are: When you see a need, step toward it and your feet will become the very feet of Jesus.”
“May God protect you as you walk through this door”
At its undergraduate commencement Saturday morning, the University presented its David Nyvall Medallion to Hon. Lynne Kawamoto, associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County Probate Division, and Hon. Joan Humphrey Lefkow, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. Named for the first president of North Park University, the medallion is presented for distinguished service to the people of Chicago.
The first Asian American judge appointed in Illinois, Kawamoto is herself a North Park graduate, having received a degree in education and biology in 1972. “I am overwhelmed at being on this side of the podium for a North Park graduation. The unique blend of educational experiences offered here gives North Park graduates the tools to reach their dreams,” Kawamoto told graduating students.
“No one knows where their life’s journey will take them,” Kawamoto said. “My own uncharted journey started with being the first college graduate in my family.” After graduating from North Park, she enrolled in law school night classes while working full-time. Kawamoto encouraged graduates to share with others the education and character they gained as students, to benefit their own communities. “Whatever you do, do it well, and enjoy yourself,” she said. “God bless, good luck to you, and go, Vikings!”
Lefkow, the first woman—and the second person in the United States—to have served as a federal magistrate judge, a bankruptcy judge, and an Article III judge, challenged graduates to achieve success through civic engagement. “Perhaps more than ever, society needs educated people like you to get involved in our democracy,” she told graduates. “North Park has a distinguished tradition that has evolved with the society around us. I admire that willingness to embrace our rapidly changing world,” Lefkow said. “I am deeply humbled and honored by being recognized today. May God protect you as you walk through this door and each new door on your life’s journey.”
The Ahnfeldt Medallion, given to the senior with the highest grade point average, was presented to Deanna Breitbarth, Milwaukee, Wis., bachelor of arts in elementary education with an ESL endorsement. North Park's 2014 Fulbright Student Award winner Kendra Pearson, Portland, Maine, and 2014 Fulbright Scholar Dr. Dennis Bricault, professor of Spanish, were also recognized.
Twenty-six students from the North Park College (now University), Academy, and Seminary classes of 1964 marched in gold caps and gowns and were recognized for celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation. President Parkyn presented graduating senior Greta Englund, Sawyer, Mich., with a card from her grandparents, Elvira and Luther, who graduated from the University 70 years ago.
“Walk and love humanity with dignity and honor”
Four graduates addressed the afternoon commencement ceremony for graduate programs, the School of Adult Learning, and the BSN completion program, sharing the ways in which their North Park education shaped their lives and careers. Princess Kasune Zulu, Chicago, a School of Business and Nonprofit Management graduate with a master of nonprofit administration and a master of divinity, shared her powerful story of overcoming the challenges of HIV and poverty in Kabwe, Zambia, to establish a successful career in advocacy.
“It’s not just important to do your work,” Zulu said, “but to walk and love humanity with dignity and honor and with the right kind of ethics.” She said she hopes to “make this world a better place for humanity” after graduation. Other speakers were Ashley Edwardson, Prairie View, Ill., bachelor of arts in counseling psychology, School of Adult Learning; Francis Agyei, Chicago, master of arts in education, School of Education; and Verenice Velazquez, Mundelein, Ill., master of science in nursing, School of Nursing and Health Sciences.
“It’s a miracle that any of us are used by God”
Dean of North Park Theological Seminary Rev. David W. Kersten presided at the Seminary commencement, which honored 41 graduates. The Ahnfeldt Medallion was presented to two graduates with perfect 4.0 grade point averages, Alicia Reese, Chicago, master of arts in theological studies and master of nonprofit administration, and P. Markus Nikkanen, master of divinity. Nikkanen watched the ceremony live online from his home in Turku, Finland. In addition, academic awards were presented to several students.
After the awarding of the Ahnfeldt Medallion, Senior Professor of Theological Studies Dr. Jay E. Phelan surprised Dr. Klyne Snodgrass, Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies, with a special presentation. Phelan announced that he, along with Seminary alumna Dr. Rebekah Eklund, has been working on a collection of essays in honor of Snodgrass, Doing Theology for the Church, to be published by Covenant Publications and Wipf and Stock this fall.
An honorary doctor of divinity was conferred to retired Evangelical Covenant Church pastor Rev. Dr. Linnea Carnes. The honorary degree was presented by Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament Dr. Stephen Chester, one of Carnes’s former parishioners at Immanuel Evangelical Covenant Church, Chicago. In his introduction of Carnes, Chester characterized her ministry with three words: “Love, faith, and hope.” Carnes “has the ability to discern what the Holy Spirit is doing, to embrace it, and to follow,” Chester said.
Rev. Edward Delgado, president of the Hispanic Center for Theological Studies (CHET), delivered the commencement address, in which he challenged graduates to not forget underserved and under-resourced populations in their ministry. Citing his own history of encountering hardship, Delgado said, “I’m the son and grandson of copper miners, the product of a small mining town with one small Hispanic church. I’m an example of how God uses little things and small people to do big things for the kingdom.”
Delgado encouraged graduates that their loved ones will be there to witness their journeys and cheer them on as they “fly to greater heights” and to unforeseen work. “Graduates of the class of 2014, it’s a miracle that any of us are used by God to join him in his ministry,” he said. “I pray that as a result of your journey of faith, people of all nations shall see and experience the salvation of God.”