News - GU celebrates graduates with outdoor Commencement ceremony

GU celebrates graduates with outdoor Commencement ceremony

by Sarah Thomack GU celebrates graduates with outdoor Commencement ceremony

The Greenville University community deftly pulled off an outdoor Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 8, 2021, even when rain threatened. 

The weekend started on Friday, with the traditional ivy cutting, and Baccalaureate. GU’s own Professor Brian Reinhard delivered the message, "Reverse Culture Shock." Reinhard teaches Spanish and also chairs GU’s modern language department.

With rain in the forecast for Saturday, the Commencement committee implemented one of the rain plans and combined both ceremonies to honor all graduates in the morning.

The 10 am ceremony went off without a drop of rain falling until chairs were picked up at the end. Friends and family in attendance celebrated 281 students, including 73 earning their master’s degrees. The event marked the first time in recent years that College Avenue was closed to traffic to accommodate a portable stage. 

The ceremony included two songs performed by the GU choir under the direction of Dr. Don Frazure. David T. Hawkins, pastor of Living the Word Church in Collinsville, Illinois, delivered the Commencement address entitled “Destiny Is Painfully Blessed.”

The University also recognized several special honorees:

Sidney-web.jpgLincoln Laureate: Sidney Webster, middle grades education and secondary education major

The Lincoln Academy honors select seniors from colleges and universities in Illinois who demonstrate excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities.

"[Sidney's] desire to help others and shape future leaders is evident through her interactions with friends, conversations with coworkers, and in her hobbies. She does much for our campus and our community, but expects very little in return. The amount of growth she has gone through and the character and service traits she has adopted are unmatched by other students on our campus. She is an outstanding community member and leader, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor than she." - A GU staff member

Screen Shot 2021-05-13 at 9.21.01 AM.pngVechery Award: Ashleigh Brubaker, social work major

Each year, the 13 members of the Christian College Consortium award one student at each institution the Frederic D. and Dorothy C. Vechery scholarship to assist seniors who demonstrate need, outstanding academic achievement, and superior leadership and character. 

“A parachute packer was once defined as someone who gives of themself without asking anything in return. Ashleigh Brubaker is a parachute packer. She cares deeply for others and desires the best for them. We often say we want our teams at Greenville to be a family. Ashleigh embodies an ideal teammate in not only what she says, but what she does.” - Brian Patton, cross country coach.

Sam-web.jpgPresident's Citation: Samantha Siefken, biology and chemistry major

The President's Citation is GU's most prestigious academic award which is given each year to a graduating senior who has demonstrated the highest academic achievement in the context of a Christian liberal arts program. To be eligible for the award, the student must have completed a bachelor’s degree program at GU and adhered consistently to the ideals of the institution. Samantha completed a double major in biology and chemistry while maintaining a 4.0 GPA, graduating magna cum laude, competing in GU athletics, and leading Vespers.

Samantha is the second in her family to receive the award. Her father, Phil Siefken received the award in 1986.

“Many people, staff, faculty and peers alike, all use similar wording to describe Sam: Responsible, wise, full of integrity, bright, and the definition of a true friend. The common thread in all of their responses is her commitment to see others as being made in the image of God in Christ. All who spoke on her behalf agreed that there is no better recipient of this award which represents the combination of the highest of academic achievement, alongside Christlike character and service. Samantha, on behalf of the faculty and administration, thank you for pointing the way and modeling to our entire community what it means to live a transformed life, grounded in the love of Christ.” - Brian Hartley, GU dean of faculty and chief academic officer.

Tawon-web.jpgThe President's Award for Character and Service: Tawon Swinson, ministry and psychology major

This award goes to a graduating senior who demonstrates dedication to a life of Christian character and service, displayed through examples of selflessness, generosity of service, nobility of character, personal integrity and commitment to their Christian faith. The student is nominated by employees, faculty and staff.

"He is and has been the heartbeat of our student body community the last four years. No one student is more respected, beloved or known by more of his peers than he. I would argue that no one student has made more growth in their four years in the graduating class than has he. Greenville took a chance on Tawon and we have become better because of it.” - Mikey Ward, Residence Director for Joy & Janssen Halls

“It made me so proud to see this student’s name as I’ve watched his growth spiritually over the past few years.” - Suzanne Davis, GU president

2020_jane_bell_square_web.jpgBoard of Trustees Outstanding Faculty Award: Professor Jane Bell

Award winners must exhibit a passion for their discipline, have a strong connection with students, expect excellence from them, show efforts to integrate faith and learning, demonstrate a strong Christian commitment and be active in personal scholarship.

"She’s just the teacher we all should have sometime in our life, she motivates us, keeps everyone on track, asks everybody for effort and makes interesting classes. She gives us real hands-on experience, I always feel like the assignments mean something." - from a student nomination

"Jane, ever since you’ve arrived on our campus, you’ve taught our students that they all mean something and that the work they do is important." - Brian Hartley, GU dean of faculty and chief academic officer

This story was published on May 11, 2021