Seminary graduate Yun Shen, of Fuzhou, China, waits with classmates to be hooded at Eastern Mennonite University's 101st Commencement Sunday, May 5. (Photos by Macson McGuigan and Jon Styer)

EMU celebrates 101st Commencement

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Eastern Mennonite University’s 2019 graduating class received a final assignment right at the start of their commencement ceremony address: “Raise your hand if this describes you,” said retiring psychology professor and speaker Judy Mullet, listing various lengths of time in which students may have finished their degrees. But it was at “Thirty-two years?” that Mullet raised her own hand.

“Today,” the beloved professor said, “I represent the past. You as graduates represent the present. And now, let’s look to the future.”

Jourdyn Friend with “Team Friend,” family and fans who came to watch her graduate with a degree in business administration.

Mullet’s address, titled “Mmmm…,” highlighted gratitude, “the only soul-worthy response to the endless gifts given to us.” Self-help strategies may tout “grit” and “growth,” but gratitude is what “moves us to action,” she said, “to help others, to make healthy decisions, to persist in tough situations.” It’s also at the heart of Micah 6:8, the Bible verse that is foundational to EMU’s mission, because “there can be no justice or kindness without gratitude,” she said, “and gratitude is the only route to humility that I know.”

At Sunday’s 101st Commencement, EMU conferred a total of 486 degrees: 349 bachelor’s degrees,104 graduate degrees, 31 graduate certificates and two associate’s degrees.

Read more from among the many journeys of these graduates:

Providing graduate perspectives

Mario Hernandez ‘19 declared himself “terrified” of his fellow graduates and eager to see how they would change the world.

Nelle Zimmerman ‘19, a graduate of the Adult Degree Completion Program at age 41, told her fellow graduates, especially those who enrolled in college soon after high school, that life away from the classroom is still a learning opportunity. “Life is a classroom,” she said, adding that she had learned as much from the experiences of her ADCP cohort, ages 27-57, as she had from her coursework. “I don’t see this as a time to be exiting the classroom but rather a time to discover where your next classroom will be … some of will travel the world, some will begin or continue a career and some of us will take some time to decide … but not no matter where life takes us, let us join together today to acknowledge and more we have yet to learn. Let us be grateful for the opportunity that brought us here today and the lifelong opportunities we have to continue gaining knowledge in whatever classroom life provides.”

Josh Good graduated with a degree in sociology.

An RN and mother of two, Tiffany Dickson MSN ‘19 was irrevocably changed one tragic night in 2014 when her husband Corporal Bryon Dickson II was murdered outside the Pennsylvania State Trooper barracks. Dickson spoke of losing her love for nursing and then regaining it through enrolling first in the school nurse certification and then the MS in Nursing program.

She was empowered in the program with skills and knowledge, but her fellow students in the cohort helped her to realize her own leadership capabilities and a deep desire to lead beyond boundaries. Dickson is now a stroke coordinator at Commonwealth Health Regional Hospital of Scranton.

President Susan Schultz Huxman, with Provost Fred Kniss (left) with administrators, faculty and distinguished guests on stage enjoy graduate speakers.

“What we found was love … the love that embraces us that allows us to lead,” she said, through tears. “I have heard that you don’t choose organizations, but organizations choose you. I am so proud to have been chosen by such a loving, caring and honorable organization as Eastern Mennonite University because it has enabled me to become the nurse that I once was.”

While Tyler Goss MDiv, MA ‘19 earned dual degrees from Eastern Mennonite Seminary and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, he also served as a residence director and facilitated Campus Activities Council. His first year at EMU was also the senior class’s first year on campus. “If anyone would know you’re ready, I would,” he said, to loud cheers.”Your past years here are testament enough that you know what to do on this road ahead.”