CHICAGO (May 16, 2016) — North Park University culminated the 2015–2016 academic year last weekend by awarding degrees to 467 students, including 318 bachelor’s degrees.
Three commencement ceremonies were held Saturday, May 14, 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 682 North Park University graduates this academic year.
The weekend began with a baccalaureate service for all graduates, their families, and friends Friday, May 13, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago. “Tonight, take with you two lessons taught by North Park University’s first president, David Nyvall, in the very earliest days of our university’s history,” said President Dr. David L. Parkyn in remarks to graduating students. “First, our knowledge of truth is imperfect. Second, our response to this imperfect grasp of truth should be to welcome others in, to insist on hospitality.”
“If you have learned these two lessons in the course of your days at North Park, you are ready to graduate,” Parkyn continued. “Everywhere you go, and with everyone you meet, remember that you know only in part, and then in humility and grace, open your arms to all others—always for God’s glory and neighbor’s good.”
‘Commit yourself to work that really matters’
At its undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday morning, the University presented its David Nyvall Medallion to Paul Hansen, William Ketcham, Douglas Hoerr, and Carl Balsam, four individuals who have served the school in exceptional ways over the past 20 years. Named for the University’s first president, the medallion is presented for distinguished service to the people of Chicago.
Hansen, Ketcham, and Hoerr, the University’s three architects over the last two decades, have worked closely throughout that time with Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Carl Balsam, whose leadership has been instrumental in this work. “Three architects and an administrator. Which one of these is not like the other?” Balsam joked in his remarks as he accepted the award.
Balsam worked with Hansen on designing and building Brandel Library, beginning in 1999. At the time, Hansen recommended closing the partial city street that the previous library faced, opening up a space to create a center for the campus. “That appeared wise then, but today, it seems brilliant,” Balsam said. Hoerr then created landscape design for that central campus area, which Balsam called “landscaping of striking beauty.” Next, the University worked with Ketcham on the design and construction of the Johnson Center for Science and Community Life. “The Johnson Center stands as a testimony to William’s vision,” Balsam said. “Their work has created a great treasure on the North Side of our city of Chicago.”
Balsam told graduating students the satisfaction he’s found in his work has come as he discovered his calling and worked collaboratively on that calling. “Because of your study at North Park, you have begun to discover your unique gifts, and hopefully you’ve begun to gain an understanding of the world’s needs in a way that stirs your passion,” he said. “Class of 2016, my hope for you is that you will find your special calling, and that you will realize great success as you work in community with others. Commit yourself to work that really matters, and to work that serves others.”
The Ahnfeldt Medallion, given to the senior with the highest grade point average, was presented to Alanna Dwight, Turlock, Calif., bachelor of science in mathematics. North Park’s 2016 U.S. Fulbright Award winners Katherine Bast, Holland, Mich., bachelor of arts in secondary education and English literature; Elizabeth Wallace, Oak Lawn, Ill., bachelor of arts in Spanish with K–12 teaching license and an ESL/bilingual teaching endorsement; and Bethany Joseph, Grand Rapids, Mich., a 2015 recipient of a bachelor of arts in Spanish and communication studies, were also recognized.
Eighteen students from the North Park College (now University), Academy, and Seminary classes of 1966 marched in gold caps and gowns and were recognized for celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation. When these alumni graduated in 1966, North Park College was celebrating its 75th anniversary.
‘Because you don’t know you can’t’
Four graduates addressed the afternoon commencement ceremony for graduate programs, the School of Adult Learning, and the RN-to-BSN completion program, sharing the ways their North Park education shaped their lives and careers. Heidi Bush, Chicago, a School of Business and Nonprofit Management graduate with a master of nonprofit administration, spoke about taking on difficult tasks, not because you will always know how, but “because you don’t know you can’t,” she said. Bush challenged her peers to take on the impossible with that attitude, just as they had done in their studies at North Park.
Laura Clarizio, Chicago, a School of Nursing and Health Services graduate with a master of science in nursing, shared thoughts on a philosophy of nursing and a life of service. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” she said, quoting Maya Angelou.
Dean of North Park Theological Seminary Rev. David W. Kersten presided at the Seminary commencement, which honored 29 graduates. The Ahnfeldt Medallion was presented to the graduate with the highest grade point average, Michael Hertenstein, Chicago, master of arts in theological studies. In addition, academic awards were presented to several students.
An honorary doctor of divinity was conferred to Rev. Edward Delgado, president of the Hispanic Center for Theological Studies (CHET), a North Park University and Theological Seminary subsidiary. Prior to his current position, Delgado served as the director of evangelism and prayer for the Evangelical Covenant Church. “Thank you for this honor. May God continue to bless and guide you in your ministries ahead,” Delgado told the group of graduates. “That they would include challenges, and they would include adventure.”
Rev. Dr. Catherine Gilliard, senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church, Atlanta, delivered the commencement address, in which she called graduating students to become “disturbers of the city,” as Paul and Silas are described in the book of Acts. “This has been a season of preparation. But tomorrow, the work begins,” said Gilliard. “You are being sent out to lead God’s people in a new way of being. You are ambassadors of hope.”
Gilliard, who received a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry in preaching from the Seminary, emphasized the lessons found in the service’s New Testament reading, Acts 16:16–34. “About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them,” Gilliard said, quoting the passage. “My resolve today is to encourage each one of you to remember that in the days ahead you will face in your ministries, you will have to write your own midnight words. Midnight gives way to a new day where God’s hope is evident.”
“I pray God’s blessings on each of you as lead,” said Gilliard. “I pray God’s power on each of you as you become disturbers of your city. And I pray God’s anointing as you leave this place to make a difference in the world.”