EMU Grad Class Has ‘Major Accomplishments’

president Loren Swartzendruber and graduates
Bonnie W. Bowser, Rachel E. Medley, Jason D. Garber and Davi R. Soesilo celebrate their achievements with EMU President Loren E. Swartzendruber.
Photo by Jim Bishop

Commencement Sunday, May 1, at Eastern Mennonite University marked the end of a 14-year journey for Bonnie W. Bowser – or perhaps more accurately, a major milepost along her career path.

Bowser, the circulation and office manager at EMU’s Hartzler Library, walked the platform and received a bachelor of science degree in liberal arts with minors in Bible and religion and business administration. Not only that, but she graduated with honors, magna cum laude.

The clincher: she took her first course in 1991 and chipped away one class per semester to obtain her diploma this spring. She was also able to transfer some academic credits from another school.

“Bonnie stuck right with it, sheer perseverance,” said long-time EMU registrar David A. Detrow. “Hers is one of the longest, continuous transcripts I’ve ever worked with.”

“We moved here for my husband Henry to finish his undergraduate program,” Bowser said. “I started taking classes because the opportunity was there, not initially planning to go all the way to a degree.”

Along the way, she decided to scale the academic summit “because it was there.”

The highlight of her long pilgrimage – “without a doubt, the cross-cultural study program to Hawaii in 2003 led by Joyce C. Hedrick,” she said.

graduate “My studies have been invaluable to my work in the library, helping students find the resources they need for their courses and projects,” Bowser said.

Bowser joined several other members of the class of 2005 who might deserve the “high achiever” label, or at least extra credit for determination.

Rachel E. Medley, Harrisonburg; Jason D. Garber, Hutchinson, Kan., and Davi R. Soesilo, Malang, Indonesia, all completed three majors, and are graduating with academic honors to boot.

Medley earned bachelor of arts degrees in biology, environmental science and international agriculture; Garber completed BA degrees in business administration and economics and a bachelor of science in computer information systems; and Soesilo received BA degrees in communication and theater and a BS degree in psychology. Soesilo also was one of 10 seniors to be awarded the “Cords of Distinction” honor for his contributions to the campus and broader community.

“Students graduating with a double major is fairly common,” said Dawn E. Kreider, assistant to the EMU provost, “but completing three majors is rather unusual, a major accomplishment.”

Garber, a computer “whiz kid” who by age 15 was president of his own company, Next Step Systems, handled two lines of computer hardware, installed and configured networks and did web design. He came to EMU wanting to broaden his world view and gain more experience in business. EMU professor Chris D. Gingrich encouraged him to “go the economics route,” which he did.

Later, Garber felt the need for more accounting and management courses, so he added business administration to his portfolio, then a computer information systems major, noting that “all three complimented each other.”

He has accepted a position as a web designer with Fairfield Language Technologies in Harrisonburg.

Soesilo started his college career in law school in Australia, but, in his words, “wanted to find a place where I could explore more options,” which eventually brought him to EMU.

His acting role the fall of 2002 in the play, “12 Angry Jurors,” got him hooked on theater, where he went on to use his gifts in sound, set design and other technical aspects of stage work. “Theater at EMU is like a family,” Soesilo said.

“Davi has given of himself endless across this campus,” said Patrick R. K. Reynolds, assistant professor of theater at EMU. “He volunteered for Teatro Chirmol, a Latino youth theater troupe, assisted with chapel and mentored younger students. His work ethnic is legendary, and he has set a sterling, enduring example of the dedication and breath of skills demanded of the best of artists. Wherever Davi went, he built community through his cheer, wit and caring,” Reynolds added.

After graduation, Soesilo plans to spend at least a year “exploring different areas,” but hopes to wind up with a career in theater or film.

Medley started her EMU academic journey as an environmental science and biology major. A cross-cultural study program in Costa Rica her sophomore year prompted her to add a third major in international agriculture.

“It was a lot of hard work, but I got through,” she said.

Medley will work this summer with the botany staff in the Shenandoah National Park system. After that, she has applied for an agricultural internship with a Florida-based missions organization.