Hope College graduated the largest class in its history during the college’s 151st Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 8.
Approximately 790 graduates participated in the ceremony, held at 3 p.m. at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium. The class consisted of students from throughout the United States as well as foreign nations including Brazil, China, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Honduras, India, Japan, Nigeria, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
The previous high was set the year before, with 766 graduating seniors participating.
While the ceremony celebrated the Class of 2016, the event also provided an opportunity for the graduating seniors to honor two of their faculty mentors. The class presented the annual “Hope Outstanding Professor Educator” (H.O.P.E.) Award to Dr. Wayne Brouwer, associate professor of religion, who was also the event’s scheduled speaker. In addition, the college’s Alcor chapter of the national Mortar Board honorary society, which coordinates the H.O.P.E. Award, announced that the chapter was being renamed in honor of Dr. Dianne Portfleet, who is concluding her tenure as the group’s advisor after 14 years of service. Portfleet, an associate professor of English, will continue to teach at the college.
Delivering the address “Remember Whose You Are,” Brouwer encouraged the graduates to stay grounded in their history, values and faith even as they enjoy the present and anticipate the future that will follow their time at Hope. He drew on Moses’ instruction in Deuteronomy 32:7: “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.”
First, Brouwer called on the graduates to remember those who have come before—the continuum of family and mentors who “have provided a platform on which to stand and walk and run and soar.”
Second, he said, one’s values are moored in the past, owed “to themes and traditions and values that have proven trustworthy over time” and are imparted in community.
Third, Brouwer said, faith is tied to the past, reflecting that, whatever one believes, whether Christian or not, “We have faith because we cannot find all of the answers to meaning entirely on our own or within our personal range of experiences.”
“And Hope College lives and breathes with the idea that faith matters,” he said. “Because faith links us to both the past and the future, while giving us meaning and purpose in the present. Especially as we have to make choices and establish goals and invest in our societies.”
He reflected on Roy Drusky’s 1970 song “Long Long Texas Road,” which fondly remembers “childhood days… when the day stretched out before me like a long, long Texas road” and “there ain’t no time but now.”
As the graduates grow from their own present and into tomorrow, Brouwer said, “What I would like to encourage you today, as you launch into this wide-open future, is to enjoy the great, long, long Texas roads of the present, and live for all of those future expectations that pull and entice and call and beckon, but also to remember the past. Remember who you are, as you live and love and laugh. But also remember whose you are. Remember that you did not spring into this world by yourselves. Remember that you are shaped in a context. Remember that you are an accumulation of people and ideas and values that have been poured into you with love and hope.”
The Commencement ceremony was preceded by the college’s Baccalaureate service, held in Dimnent Memorial Chapel in the morning. The sermon, “The Adventure of a Lifetime,” was presented by the Rev. Jeffrey S. Allen, a 1985 Hope graduate who is senior pastor of Faith Community Church in Littleton, Colorado, and a member of the college’s Board of Trustees.
Allen based his text on Acts 16:1-10. In the first portion of the text, the Apostle Paul circumcises the disciple Timothy in accordance with Jewish custom—even though the early church didn’t require it—so that Timothy would be welcomed in Jewish communities and they could more effectively spread the Christian faith together. In the second portion of the passage, Paul changes his ministry plans and travels instead to Macedonia in response to a vision that led him to conclude that God was calling him to preach the gospel there.
“In Acts 16, we see a picture of what it looks like to live the adventure of a lifetime—as a disciple of Jesus Christ,” Allen said.
“On the one hand Paul follows tradition… and on the other hand he sets aside tradition,” he said. “While this may seem to be in conflict, through the lens of Paul’s journey—I see the two examples working together hand-in-hand.”
Allen described Paul’s actions as examples of situational decision-making by a mature and discerning leader obedient to the calling of his faith. Each choice, he said, best served Paul’s mission of furthering the kingdom of Christ, and together provided an example for all to follow.
“In light of today’s scripture reading—what is God inviting us to do as graduating seniors, as family and friends, and as disciples and as apostles (sent ones) of Jesus Christ?” Allen asked.
“First, learn… and continue to learn as you walk along the road… growing in wisdom and in your discernment as a leader. Second, and most importantly, cultivate a life of humility listening and faith-FULLY following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”
“We are all on the adventure of a lifetime… and often we won’t know where we are going until we get there,” he said.