FPU spring commencement sets records

0 Comment Wayne.Steffen
May 8, 2013

Commencement usually takes a backseat to athletics when it comes to statistics, but several records were set May 4.

  • 7,000 family, friends and loved ones in the audience at the two ceremonies
  • 7,500 bottles of water distributed by FPU staff
  • 5,000 complimentary paper fans waving in California’s Central Valley sun

And, most important:

  • 555 new alumni—235 from bachelor’s degree completion programs, 189 traditional undergraduates and 131 graduate students (including 20 from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary)

Ceremonies took place on the University Green at the main Fresno campus, beginning at 10:00 a.m. for traditional undergraduate, graduate and seminary students and at 6:00 p.m. for degree completion students. In his welcome, President Pete C. Menjares, Ph.D., summed up several accomplishments of the 2012-2013 academic year, including the opening of a Fitness Center, a successful visit from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (FPU’s accrediting body) and progress toward complete membership in the NCAA Division II.

Provost Stephen Varvis, Ph.D., gave the commencement addresses. Varvis--an FPU professor, dean and administrator for 28 years--asked students to examine the “hidden curriculum”: the virtues that underpin all the facts and figures students learn and all the tests and projects they undertake, the characteristics that define a Fresno Pacific education.

Varvis spoke of truthfulness, imitation and care.

Truthfulness is defined as “working with each other and living in truthfulness” and spoken of as “academic integrity”; either way it’s more than a euphemism for not cheating.

“Truth must be shown in truthful action; it is most clearly seen when we live in the truth,” Varvis said. “The truth exists in God. And Jesus, we believe, is the way, the truth and the life. This is our beginning—we see no contradiction between the truth we seek in the laboratory, the library and the classroom and the truth we seek in Scripture, in worship and in following Jesus.”

Imitation is a way of learning how to be as well as what to know. The world believes that learning is about facts and skills. “All you have to do is get the right information, practice the skills to manipulate that information and you will have what you need,” Varvis said. “How simple it would be if that were the case.”

Varvis quoted Paul’s letter to the Philippians, part of the commencement Scripture passage: '"What you received and saw in me…do,'" he said. “Your professors and others have let you in on their lives and professions. They have modeled the life of Christ followers who are also scholars and scholarly practitioners of the professions you will enter."

The final virtue is caring or love. FPU faculty care for their students. “Graduates, you know this about your professors. They have shown it to you consistently—in the attentiveness they bring to your questions, in their creativity, in their preparation for class, in their responses to your work, in their availability when you need their time,” Varvis said.

Graduates succeed by embodying these virtues, and passing them on. “Someday you will find yourself saying something familiar and you won’t be able to place it. Or you will pursue a problem or question all the way to the bottom until you are sure you have as much of the truth as you can acquire. Or you will respond to a colleague, a student or a customer with care and love for their needs and hurts. You will say, ‘I remember…you fill in the name...said or did that,’ and you will be reminded of the hidden curriculum of truthfulness, imitation and care and love that is now a part of who you are,” Varvis said.

Awards went to students, faculty and local agencies. The Nickel Excellence in Teaching Award was given to Quentin Kinnison, Ph.D., assistant professor of Christian ministry and leadership. Michaelynne Whitsitt (Fresno), B.A. graduate in history, received the Harold Haak Award for contributions to the university, community and church, and the Academic Award for highest grade point average. The Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary Community Service Award went to The Salvation Army Fresno Adult Rehabilitation Center.

About the author

Wayne Steffen is university editor at Fresno Pacific University, where he edits Pacific magazine. Before joining FPU in 1996, he was a writer and editor at several community newspapers and a college in the Midwest.

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