BOLIVAR, Mo. — Southwest Baptist University graduated 151 students at two winter 2019 commencement ceremonies in the Jane and Ken Meyer Wellness and Sports Center on the Bolivar campus.
The bachelor degree commencement ceremony was held on Friday, Dec. 13, and the ceremony for associate degree graduates was held on Saturday, Dec. 14. The University holds graduation twice a year, in December and May.
SBU President Dr. Eric A. Turner said, “Commencement is the most important academic event for any university. For SBU, we are a Christ-centered, caring academic community preparing students to become servant leaders in a global society.
“Our graduates are extraordinary people, working diligently to achieve this milestone. Our faculty members are outstanding Christian scholars, devoted to providing excellent academic and spiritual examples for our students.”
Stephanie Penticuff, a marketing graduate from Springfield, Mo., surprised her parents by delivering the Bob R. Derryberry Senior Address at Friday’s commencement. She is the daughter of Mark and Jill Penticuff.
Penticuff quoted actress and dancer Eleanor Powell: “What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.”
Entering SBU, Penticuff shared that she knew who she was through God’s gift to her – saved, loved and forgiven. It was during her time at SBU that helped her figure out who she would become.
Having grown up around the SBU campus, she remembered the color purple, music all around her (as her grandfather taught music at SBU) and the smell of her grandfather’s favorite coffee. But, it was a comment from SBU’s cross country/track and field coach that made the difference, as she was looking at colleges.
“Little did I know that 14 years later, the few choice words of coach Corey McElhaney – ‘I will be praying for you and your decision’ – would be the biggest reason why I came to this University,” Penticuff said. “This showed me how much SBU put things in the hands of God and I really wanted to be a part of that.”
And, while the Christian atmosphere, the education and the cross country and track program are what brought Penticuff to SBU, it was the community and family that meant so much to her.
“To this day, I have never doubted my decision to come to SBU,” Penticuff said. “This University has taught me so much, not only in the realm of education, but in my spiritual walk. The passion of our Savior is knitted into every aspect of this school, and floods through the doors of this University. Let’s run the race He has set before us and shine bright in this world of darkness.”
In her commencement address, Dr. Brittney Hendrickson ’08, ’11, ’12, dean of SBU’s Mercy College of Nursing and Health Sciences, encouraged the graduates to find balance, to not underestimate success and to be themselves.
She shared from her own experiences as a student, nurse and mother.
“There is not a syllabus. There will not be a formative or summative evaluation, and you will not receive a grade at the end,” Hendrickson said of how the graduates will prioritize their obligations in life. “The accountability is on you to define the priorities for yourself and put in the work to maintain them.”
Hendrickson also asked the graduates how they would define or measure success – is it money, a healthy family, to make a positive impact, serving others, or their personal walk with the Lord.
“Success to me is seeing a student I worked with, who was unsure if they were on the right path, who now is serving as a nursing leader in our local community,” Hendrickson said. “Success is providing the best possible care to a patient; hearing laughter in the workplace after times of tension and turmoil; and watching a team grow and work together.”
Hendrickson encouraged the graduates to be themselves and not compare themselves to others – “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”
“Comparisons usually result in unrealistic expectations and discontent,” Hendrickson said. “Eliminate who you are not and you will find yourself where you need to be. You are unique and God made you for a purpose. I pray you will find your passion and do it well; that you find the balance, you celebrate the success and most importantly, be you.”
Brandon LaRocque, an associate of science in nursing graduate from Kingsville, Mo., delivered the commencement address during Saturday’s ceremony. He is the son of Greg and Nancy LaRocque, and recently accepted a position at Mercy Hospital Springfield in the Neuro Trauma Intensive Care Unit.
LaRocque encouraged his fellow graduates to trust in God and not worry about the future, be it a new job or a new position, and to continue learning.
“Remember that every end is always a new beginning,” LaRocque said. “For many of us, we worry about the future. Trust in God and He will take that worry from you.
“For some of us, this may be the first career we have chosen to pursue. For others, we have decided to go back to school and pursue other career opportunities before finding out exactly what we wanted to do. This is the first page of the newest chapter of your life, so go and carry out the plans that God has for you. Most importantly, always follow Him.”
PHOTO CUTLINES: 1. Members of the SBU Class of 2019 prepare to receive their degrees. 2. Stephanie Penticuff delivers the Bob R. Derryberry Senior Address. 3. Dr. Brittney Hendrickson addresses the audience at the bachelor degree ceremony. 4. Brandon LaRocque was the student speaker at the associate's degree ceremony.