Summer-like temperatures prevailed under mostly cloudy skies, but rain held off as Eastern Mennonite University celebrated its 92nd annual commencement on the front lawn of campus Sunday afternoon, May 2, with a crowd of more than 3,600 in attendance.
It felt like a homecoming for graduation speaker Joseph B. Martin, who, after one year of medical school at the University of Alberta at Edmonton, came to EMU and studied one year, receiving a BS degree in Bible in 1959.
“That one year [at EMU] transformed my life spiritually, emotionally and philosophically,” he told the graduation audience. “I focused on Bible studies, ethics, some New Testament Greek, and took Mennonite history, music classes and choral conducting and sang in the male touring chorus – a fantastic experience indelibly imprinted in memory.”
“But, most importantly, that year I met Rachel Ann Wenger from Columbiana, Ohio,” Martin noted, adding: “In June this year, we will mark our 50th wedding anniversary.”
At the end of his year at EMU, he was offered a job assisting with labs and lectures in the field of chemistry. Martin said he considered going on to seminary, but took his father’s advice and returned to medical school at the University of Alberta, earning his MD degree in 1962 and later a PhD in anatomy from the University of Rochester (NY).
Dr. Martin is currently professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. Prior to this appointment in 2007, he served 10 years as dean of the faculty of medicine at Harvard University. While there he helped establish, in 1999, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, an innovative collaboration which brings together seven Harvard-affiliated institutions intent on reducing the burden of cancer.
“The world today cries out for the kind of sense of justice and wisdom that comes from the experience you’ve had here at EMU,” the speaker told the class of 2010.
“How are we to live in the midst of this world that is our home and our future,” Martin asked. “I know no better way than the advice given by the prophet Micah – “But what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8).
“I am proud that our church has developed ways to deal with these problems,” Martin said, citing three “that deserve your interest and support” – Mennonite Central Committee, Ten Thousand Villages and Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA).
“I believe that your [EMU] education has prepared you to serve your local communities and neighborhoods, in the poverty-stricken centers of our cities and around the world, and I wish you every blessing as you proceed from these halls and this campus into the next phase of your lives,” Martin told the graduates.
During the ceremonies, EMU President Loren Swartzendruber conferred 432 degrees – 315 undergraduate (including 115 Adult Degree Completion Program recipients), 101 graduate degrees, 1 associate degree, 9 graduate certificates and 6 study and training certificates.
EMU awarded a posthumous honorary degree to Kathleen S. Eberly of Hershey, Pa. She was enrolled in the master of arts in education program at EMU Lancaster and had completed all coursework except for her action research project when she died Nov. 1, 2009 of cancer. Eberly taught at Hinkeltown Mennonite School near Lancaster and was serving with her husband as a house parent at Milton Hershey School until the time of her death. Pam Rutt, her adviser at EMU Lancaster, received her diploma on behalf of her family.
EMU graduation was a family affair for Lorna Saunders of Stuarts Draft, Va., who received a master of business administration degree, while her daughter, Sarah C. Saunders received a BS degree in management and organizational development in the Adult Degree Completion Program (ADCP).
The ADCP also graduated a mother-son combo Sunday. Donnie R. Lam, Jr. of Stanley, Va., and his mother, Deborah D. Weber of Stanley, graduated together, having completed the ADCP in the same cohort.
Another mother and daughter both graduated summa cum laude with a BS degree in nursing – Michele L. Davis and Julie R. Davis, both from Stuarts Draft.
The undergraduate class had 127 persons who graduated with honors, finishing with cumulative grade point averages between 3.6 and 4.0.