posted April 11, 2007

Graduation Activities Scheduled for May 6

Baccalaureate and Commencement at Hope College are scheduled for Sunday, May 6.

Approximately 718 graduating seniors will be participating in this year's graduation exercises, the college's 142nd.

The Commencement speaker will be Dr. Dianne Portfleet, adjunct associate professor of English, who will present "The Battle to Become Human." The Baccalaureate sermon, titled "Hope Does Not Disappoint Us," will be delivered by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia of Geneva, Switzerland, who is general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

Commencement will be held at 3 p.m. at Holland Municipal Stadium. Baccalaureate will be held earlier in the day, at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.

Portfleet began teaching at Hope in 1988 and is well regarded by Hope students. The graduating class elected her the recipient of the college's 2006 "Hope Outstanding Professor Educator" (H.O.P.E.) Award, which was presented during Commencement last year, and she won the "Hope's Outstanding Woman" Award in 2003. She serves as the faculty advisor for the college's chapter of Mortar Board, which last year was honored by the national organization with both the National Golden Torch Award and the Award for the Best Service Activity.

Her teaching and research specialties are adolescent literature, cultural heritage, Senior Seminars, Freshman Seminars, future studies and all interdisciplinary courses.

Portfleet is the author of numerous scholarly articles as well as of the book "Shaping Our Lives with Words of Power: A Study of the Major Works of Walter Wangerin, Jr.," published in 1996 and the first critical, in-depth study of Wangerin's works. Her son's purchase of an abandoned copper mine in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan stimulated her interest in the history of mining in Michigan, and resulted in the 2005 publication "The History of the Adventure Mining Company from the Ancient Miners to the Present," a 260-page volume that compiles original documents relating to the mine. She is also the author of two books on mining geared toward a general audience, "Michigan's Copper Country" and "Ancient Mining on the Shores of Lake Superior," and is currently completing a second book on Wangerin.

She attended Kalamazoo College for two years before completing her undergraduate degree at Pennsylvania State University, from which she graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Humanities degree in 1969. She completed all of her course work plus her dissertation on John Milton at the University of Georgia, finishing her doctorate in Far Eastern Religion at Columbia Pacific University in 1984.

She taught at the University of Georgia for two years before joining the faculty of Cornerstone University with her husband, Dr. Terrance Portfleet. She was at Cornerstone for 12 years, teaching modern literature, Milton and Far Eastern religion (Hinduism, Buddhism and world religions).

She has one son, Matthew Portfleet, who is an engineer and graduate of Michigan Tech University. He and his wife, Victoria, also a graduate of MTU, own and operate the Adventure Copper Mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which specializes in underground tours. Her husband, who taught psychology and sociology at the college level for 20 years, is owner of Michigan Lightning Protection Inc.

She is a member of First Evangelical Covenant Church, where she serves on the church council and has been an Adult Christian Formation teacher for the last 21 years. She also faithfully volunteers her time at the Christian Rest Home, assisting in the Dementia Ward.

Portfleet's favorite vacation outing would be fishing in Alaska, and her favorite authors include Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Chaim Potok and Walter Wangerin Jr. Her most faithful friend is Obi-Wan Kenobi "Ben," the family's German Wirehaired Pointer.

Kobia is from Kenya and is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Kenya, and has served as general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) since January 2004. His son Mutua is among the members of the college's graduating class.

Kobia was WCC executive secretary for Urban Rural Mission from 1978 to 1984, also serving as secretary of the WCC Africa Task Force. In 1984, he returned to Kenya to become director of church development activities with the National Council of Churches (NCCK), and in 1987 he was appointed NCCK general secretary.

He returned to Geneva in 1993 as executive director of the WCC's Unit III-Justice, Peace and Creation. From 1999 through 2002 he was director of the WCC Cluster on "Issues and Themes," and in 2003 he was director and special representative for Africa of the WCC. In 2000 he spent a sabbatical as a fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard Divinity School.

Among his many social, political and ecumenical involvements, Kobia helped reorganize the Zimbabwe Christian Council after independence (1980-81), chaired the Frontier Internship in Mission (FIM) International Coordination Committee (1981-85), was vice-moderator of the Commission of the WCC Programme to Combat Racism (1984-91), helped found the Nairobi Peace Group (1987) and the Fellowship of Councils of Churches in Eastern and Southern Africa (FOCCESA), chaired peace talks for Sudan in 1991, and in 1992 chaired Kenya's National Election Monitoring Unit.

Along with Origins of Squatting and Community Organization in Nairobi (1985), a revised version of his master's thesis published in book form, and Together in Hope (1990), the official report of the NCCK conference on the mission and calling of the church in Kenya, he has written two books focusing on Africa. The Quest for Democracy in Africa (1993) considers the conditions under which democracy in Africa might succeed or fail, and The Courage to Hope (2003) is a result of many years of collective struggle to come to terms with Africa's dilemmas.

Kobia gained a Diploma in Theology at St Paul's United Theological College, Kenya, as well as a Diploma in Urban Ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary. In 1978, he obtained a master's degree in city planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1993, he was awarded a degree of Doctor of Divinity by the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Ind., and in 2003 received a Ph.D. in religious studies from Fairfax University in Louisiana.

He and his wife, Ruth, have two daughters, Kaburo and Nkatha, and two sons, Mwenda and Mutua.

In the event of rain, Commencement will be held at the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse. Admission to Baccalaureate, and to Commencement if indoors, is by ticket only