It isn’t just commencement at Fresno Pacific University.

While a familiar face will welcome new graduates to the rest of their lives at FPU’s 2108 Spring Commencement Saturday, May 5, other celebrations honor the diversity of graduates as well as those completing master’s degrees and education credentials.

Ashley Swearengin, former Fresno mayor and president and CEO of Central Valley Community Foundation, will be the featured speaker. Some 646 students will be eligible to participate in the ceremony, which begins at 10:00 a.m. in Selland Arena, 700 M St., Fresno.

According to estimates, 244 graduates will be from bachelor’s degree completion programs, 215 will be from traditional undergraduate programs and 187 from master’s degree programs, including 19 from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. Graduates come from the main Fresno campus, as well as regional campuses in Merced, North Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield.

Swearengin leads Central Valley Community Foundation, a charitable agency serving the six counties of Central California and providing over $100 million in funding to over 650 community benefit organizations over the last decade. She served as mayor of Fresno from 2009-2016, implementing substantial changes to improve the delivery of city services, revitalize the downtown and urban core, promote business and job growth, address chronic homelessness and stabilize the city’s financial position. Before becoming mayor, Swearengin led a number of economic development initiatives in the Fresno region, including the Central Valley Business Incubator, Fresno State’s Office of Community and Economic Development and the Regional Jobs Initiative. She holds MBA and B.S. degrees from California State University, Fresno. The Fort Worth native and her husband, Paul, a pastor, have two children.

Also on the platform will be President Joseph Jones, Ph.D.; Don Griffith, chair of the FPU Board of Trustees; D. Gayle Copeland, Ph.D., senior vice president/provost; and others. Music will be provided by the university Symphonic Band, Concert Choir and music professor Walter Saul, D.M.A., organ.

The ceremony will be streamed live and available for later viewing at

Commencement season began Friday, April 20, with the Multicultural Baccalaureate at 10:00 a.m. in Butler Church, adjacent to the main FPU campus. President Jones prayed over the estimated 25 graduates who attended. Other speakers addressing the total audience of about 120 students, faculty, staff and families included graduating seniors Celeste Lopez and Will Stahly; D. Gayle Copeland, Ph.D., provost/senior vice president for academic affairs; Daniel Dominguez, director of multicultural ministries; and Cindy Jurado Hernandez, director of College Hour and chapel programs, who served as master of ceremonies. There was also music and a spoken-word presentation. The event was sponsored by the university Office of Spiritual Formation.

Other events around spring commencement include:

  • The Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary Commencement Gala is a formal dinner celebrating the completion of master’s degree studies by the seminary graduating class. Graduates and faculty speak and awards are presented. The gala reception starts at 5:30 p.m. at the seminary, on the main FPU campus.

  • Graduate hooding ceremonies are at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, May 4, in the Special Events Center on the main FPU campus. Those earning master’s degrees not from the seminary are honored for their achievements through the presentation of the hoods that are part of traditional academic attire.

  • The teacher credentialing ceremony will be Friday, May 9. The event, called “Rooted in Love,” honors those who have completed coursework for teacher’s and other credentials in the field of education in the Special Events Center on the main campus. Desert begins at 7:00 p.m. and the program at 7:30 p.m.


Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations