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Corban University

May 6, 2019

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Corban University Celebrates the Class of 2019

The sound of bagpipes filled the air on Saturday afternoon as the Willamette Valley Pipes and Drums rehearsed for Corban University’s commencement ceremony. Meanwhile, students in caps and gowns gathered on the lawn outside the Salem Armory. Tassels, cell phones, and bright floral patterns were everywhere. Dr. Colette Tennant, one of the English faculty members, gave several graduates big hugs, her own regalia bundled under her arm.

One student, Janet Matani, wore a special red and white stole to represent her home country of Indonesia. Another student, Veronika Toman, had decorated her cap with “Amsal 3:5” (or “Proverbs 3:5” in Bahasa Indonesian): “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

As 2 o’clock approached, families and friends made their way inside and were greeted with the sound of the Corban Saxophone Quartet and bright yellow daisies arranged on the stage.

When bagpipes began to hum solemnly through the armory, guests rose to their feet to welcome the Class of 2019.

The theme that seemed to resurface in every invocation, speech, and honor was “gratitude for those who have come before.”

In his invocation, Professor Mike Miller offered a litany of names of the men and women who had served Corban University faithfully from its founding until the present day.

During the conferring of the Doctor of Humane Letters, Senator Jackie Winters was honored for overcoming personal adversity to transform Oregon as the longest-serving woman in the Oregon State Legislature, including her work to create the Oregon Food Share Program, the first statewide nonprofit food sharing network.

Unable to deliver her own commencement address due to health concerns, Jackie sent her three granddaughters in her place, who delivered her speech in one of the most meaningful and moving moments of commencement. The work she had done both in political office and as an entrepreneur (she had founded a restaurant called Jackie’s Ribs in Salem and Portland back in the 80s) had laid a strong foundation not only for her granddaughters but for Oregon as a whole, challenging Corban students to remember those who had come before them.

But students had already been reflecting on those who had made their own educational journey possible, from parents to grandparents to friends and family members. Several students even chose to honor their families in the decorations on their caps. One students had created a collage of photos of the people who had supported her, with the words “All that I am, you helped me to be.” Another student had spelled out in gold glitter, “Gracias Mamá y Papá por todo.”

Seven of the graduating students were from Papua, Indonesia, and had only been able to attend Corban through a partnership with the Papuan Government. President Sheldon C. Nord, Ph.D., had the privilege of recognizing several dignitaries who had traveled all the way from Indonesia to see their students graduate, including the governor of Papua. Once again, students were reminded to look back at those who had supported, inspired, financed, and otherwise laid the foundation for them.

Yet another example of looking back to predecessors, the giants whose shoulders we stand on, came with the recognition of this year’s Golden Graduates (those alumni who graduated 50 years ago.) This year, three representatives from the Class of 1969 joined Dr. Nord onstage: Robert Alley, Tom Carlson, and Steve Hunt.

In addition to graduating 50 years ago from then-Western Baptist Bible College, these three men were also part of the final graduating class from Corban’s El Cerrito campus before the move to Salem, Oregon. And two of them had remained closely connected to Corban University in the intervening years. Tom Carlson had served as a board member for Corban for 18 years, and for much of that time he served as Chair of the Board. Meanwhile, Steve Hunt had dedicated decades of his life working for the University, helping with the move to Salem and the name change to “Corban,” among dozens of other beautification and creative projects. “His fingerprints are all over this campus,” said Dr. Nord.

Finally, Dr. Nord reminded the Corban community of their theme for the 2018-19 year, “Hunger and Thirst.” He said to students, “Our prayer is that you would continue to trust in God, your Rock and Redeemer, hungering and thirsting for righteousness.”

Thus, after four years of hard work, students were ultimately reminded that they stand on the work of others: the pioneers of Western Baptist, the political legacy of people like Jackie Winters, the investment of their parents and grandparents, and the grace and faithfulness of Christ.

But students’ hard work was recognized as well, and Dr. Mike Patterson, Provost, announced two recipients of Distinguished Graduate Awards, reserved for students who exemplify the following qualities: Maturing Christian, Competent Thinker, Effective Communicator, and Involved Citizen.

The Distinguished Undergraduate Award was given to Dallyce Vetter, a health science major who has been actively involved on campus and across the globe. During her time at Corban, she studied abroad at Oxford, traveled to Haiti with the Corban medical mission team, participated in Science Club and ballet, and volunteered for Salem Free Clinics. In addition, she was active in research, presented at numerous conferences, and was appointed a Murdock Scholar. Dr. Patterson described Dallyce as “industrious, creative, humble, self-reflective, and able to communicate clearly with others.”

The Distinguished Graduate Award was presented to Kailey Claggett, a Master of Arts in Counseling student, who has been working as a counselor intern at a community organization and is currently pursuing licensure. She was described as “a natural leader with a love of learning,” as well as “enthusiastic” about what she does.

After looking behind at the sacrifices of those who have come before, as well as the hard work students have invested in their education, closing remarks focused on looking ahead. Morgan Schmidt, SGA President, addressed her fellow classmates with words of advice as they stepped out into the world to make a difference for Jesus Christ: “Resist the temptation to be apathetic,” she said. “We don’t get to not care. We must care, and we must continuously pursue the Lord.”

Commencement season is usually an optimistic season, and this year was no different. The bagpipes sounded once again, a handful of caps were tossed into the air, and students filed briskly out of the Salem Armory, two by two, into the afternoon sun. Welcome to the world, Class of 2019! We hope you’ll choose a corner of the world to make a better place, all to the glory of Jesus Christ.