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Robert W. (Bob) Edgar had a message for the 405 members of the Eastern Mennonite University graduating class of 2006 - "You are the leaders we have been waiting for."
"You look ready," he told the graduates during the 88th annual commencement held on a sunny, mild Sunday afternoon, Apr. 30, on the front lawn of campus. Upwards of 4,000 people filled the colorful outdoor setting.
Rev. Edgar, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of the U.S., told the class that "God always calls average, ordinary people to do the extraordinary, to make the big difference. You are the prophets, the disciples and the leaders we have been waiting for.
"You are graduating into a world of darkness, so please be light bearers," he said. "In a dark time, the eye begins to see. We are the hope givers of this fragile planet. The world needs you urgently. It needs you now."
The speaker passed on the advice of a New York City cab driver, who said, "One cannot survive five minutes under water without air. But one cannot survive one second without hope."
Edgar concluded his address by asking all the graduates to stand, place their hand on the shoulder of the person next to him or her and receive a Franciscan benediction:
"May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.
"May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
"May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
"And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done."
EMU President Loren E. Swartzendruber conferred 314 undergraduate, 87 graduate, two associate degrees and two graduate certificates during the ceremonies.
The graduates included a mother and daughter who graduated together. Regina B. Schweitzer of Harrisonburg received a masters in business administration degree, and Carlita S. Schweitzer a bachelor of science degree in social work.
Regina Schweitzer is director of residential living at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. She worked toward an MBA degree to assist her husband, Randy, a 1976 EMU graduate, in a family business, Willow Run Custom Lumber, they started in 2003. Carlita Schweitzer will be a social worker this summer at Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg before entering a one-year SALT (Serving and Learning Together) assignment with Mennonite Central Committee, working with children in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
The undergraduate class presented a check for $4,306, which included a match of $2,006 from Bibb Frazier of Frazier Quarry in Harrisonburg, to purchase bluestone benches to be placed around the front campus fountain.
The class had 106 honor graduates with cumulative grade point averages between 3.6 and 4.0, including four students with perfect 4.0 GPA's over their four years of study at EMU:
-- article by: Jim Bishop