Eastern Mennonite University’s 104th Commencement ceremony was marked by the conferring of only its second honorary doctorate in its history — to human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.
EMU awarded 408 total degrees on Sunday, May 8. The total included 260 undergraduate degrees, 92 master’s degrees, 54 graduate certificates, one doctorate, and one honorary doctorate. Among those were 29 graduates of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and 10 graduates of Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
Check out our 2022 Commencement photo galleries include the graduation ceremony and Cords of Distinction, Donning of the Kente, and Lavender Graduation celebrations.
With the honor, Stevenson joins only Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist who graduated from EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding in 2007.
During his Commencement speech, Stevenson said he was proud to join the Class of 2022: “You are unique among college graduates around this country because you have committed to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God and I just believe that we’ve never needed people to take seriously that commitment than we do today.”
Graduate perspectives were offered by Thomas Guadelupe Johnson, Faith Manickum, and Jodi Beller.
Johnson, one of the CSCS Climate Ride group that biked from Seattle, Wa. to Washington D.C. in summer 2021, spoke of a memorable day of cycling 12 hours, three in the wrong direction and with 10 flat tires. His fellow travelers never complained and “the worst day transformed to the finest,” because of how their collective spirit sustained them.
Manickum, Student Government Association co-president, experienced EMU’s collective spirit as well. “Over and over, we emerged from our grief and isolation to listen to each other, ask questions and empower ourselves to make things better,” she said.
Manickum urged her classmates to continue to be curious. “Beyond the many facts and figures we learned in the classroom, I hope we continue to have genuine curiosity for the world and those around us. As I’ve learned from our EMU community, this curiosity can be what drives us to love fully, live generously and be courageously kind.”
Beller, a teacher who earned a master’s degree in restorative justice in education, highlighted the dignity and worth of each individual and the power of one’s relationships to be a source of light. “The way we treat each other matters,” she said. “We need each other to become what we are truly capable of being.”
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I am extremely proud and humbled to have received my BA degree from EMU. I look forward to my 50th reunion in October!