Spring 2016 graduates of Fresno Pacific University were urged to look to “Hall of Famers” to find God’s direction as they plot their futures.

Commencement ceremonies took place May 6 in Selland Arena, 700 M Street, Fresno, starting at 6:30 p.m., following hooding ceremonies for students receiving master’s degrees in two locations: the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel across M Street and upstairs in Valdez Hall, Selland Arena. The estimated 544 new graduates included 220 from traditional undergraduate programs, 216 from bachelor’s degree completion programs, 90 from graduate programs and 18 from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.

The call came from featured speaker Shirley V. Hoogstra, J.D., president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, an international, nonprofit association of 180 Christian institutions. Hoogstra also spent 15 years as vice president for student life at her alma mater and CCCU member, Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI), after four years on Calvin’s board.

Not far from her Washington, D.C., office, Hoogstra said, are statues of great Americans who help us remember national milestones, such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Graduates could also look to family, professors and even basketball standout Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors for inspiration and examples. Like them, biblical “Hall of Famers” put their preparation into action. “Moses believed God and argued with Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Abraham believed God and relocated his family to Canaan. Rahab believed God and she risked her life hiding the Israelite spies. Peter believed God and preached to the Gentiles. Where will God ask you to go?” she wondered. “What will he ask you to do?” 


The Nickel Excellence in Teaching Award, or NETA, was established in 2004 to recognize excellent professors teaching in traditional undergraduate programs. Recipients are nominated by alumni and students. The 2016 award went to Jay Pope, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology.

The Highest Grade Point Average Award was given to Reilly Elizabeth Reis, B.A. in Liberal Studies. Her 4.0 GPA is the highest possible.

The Harold H. Haak Academic Achievement Award was presented to Alexander Taj Hussain, a double major in contemporary Christian ministries and business administration—management and organizational studies emphasis. The award was created by Betty Haak and the family of the late president Harold H. Haak, Ph.D., for a member of the university’s Alpha Chi honor society.

The Seminary Service Award went to On Ramps Covenant Economic Development Corporation. A part of On Ramps Covenant Church, the EDC sponsors social enterprises and other activities in support of Fresno’s Lowell Neighborhood. The award was accepted by On Ramp pastors Philip (M.Div. ’06) and Mauricia (BA ’02, MA ’05) Skei.

One award brought the crowd of 7,000 family members, friends and loved ones to its feet, along with the graduates, faculty and official guests. A posthumous degree went to the family of Bryan Cheatham, a business administration student who died at age 28 on March 15, 2016. “He is remembered as an outstanding, highly motivated student who enjoyed learning,” said President Richard Kriegbaum, Ph.D., who presented the degree to Cheatham’s father, mother, brother and fiancé.

Golden Grads

Golden year grads alumni group photo
Front–L. Reimer; Middle–A. Pauls, D. Pauls, Schwartz, G. Reimer, Derksen, Janzen, Trapp; Back–Wall, Gardner, Schmidt, Weins

This commencement also honored the 50th anniversary of the Pacific College Class of 1966, as well as those who graduated from Pacific College, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary and Pacific Bible Institute from 1944, when PBI was founded, through 1965. A dozen graduates were present: Wilfred Derksen, Lloyd Gardner, John Janzen, Adonijah Pauls, David Pauls, Gloria (Tillinghast) Reimer, Luetta (Feil) Reimer, Gary Schmidt, Lillian (Unruh) Klassen Schwartz, Sandra (Fullmer) Trapp, John Wall and Roger Wiens. “All of these Golden Grads helped lay the foundation for what Fresno Pacific University is today,” Kriegbaum said.