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106th Commencement Celebrated

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Twenty Receive Degrees from Bethany Seminary

diplomaFamily and friends filled Bethany Seminary’s Nicarry Chapel on May 7, 2011, to recognize the achievements of twenty graduates. This 106th commencement for Bethany celebrated the largest graduating class at Bethany in fifteen years.

President Ruthann Johansen welcomed the graduates, faculty, and guests with statements of thanksgiving, not only for the graduates’ personal achievements but also for their presence within the Bethany community. “Every graduating class is special, but this one is extraordinary in several important ways. . . . These students have been life-giving contributors to a subtle, and not so subtle, shift . . . in the ways we here must think about the role of the Seminary in the church and the world.” President Johansen also expressed gratitude for the work and commitment of the faculty and noted significant milestones during the past year. Among them were the granting of tenure to Academic Dean Steven Schweitzer and the promotion of Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm to professor of preaching and worship.

Journalist Fletcher Farrar gave the address entitled “Nicodemus at Dawn,” the story of a man transformed through his interactions with Jesus. Using illustrations from his profession and personal experience, Farrar spoke about anticipating transformation through the Spirit, both in society and governance and in our spiritual lives, “We don’t know when or how the wind of change is going to blow. The best we can do is listen for the sound of the wind in our lives, in the lives of those we minister to, and in the life of the church. If we are spiritually ready for the wind, when it comes we are reborn.” With a career of forty years in journalism, Farrar is the owner and editor of Illinois Times, a weekly newspaper in Springfield, Illinois, and the former editor of Messenger, the denominational magazine for the Church of the Brethren.

Special music was performed by Community of Song, a men’s ensemble from the Richmond, Indiana, and Dayton, Ohio, areas. Music for the ceremony consisted of organ-piano duets by Nancy Faus-Mullen and Jenny Williams.

An afternoon worship service, planned and led by the graduates, took place following the academic ceremony. Class members Anna Lisa Gross, Lawrence Taylor, and Kimberly Koczan Flory spoke on the themes of salvation, shalom, and wisdom, respectively. Their presentations were based on the texts Proverbs 8:1-12 and Luke 1:76-79. Each member of the class was given a blessing by the faculty to mark the conclusion of their years at Bethany.

graduates 2011

Ten graduates received master of divinity degrees: Craig L. Gandy, Peru, Indiana; Anna Lisa Gross, Richmond, Indiana; Rebecca M. Harding, Fort Wayne, Indiana; Kimberly C. Koczan Flory, Fort Wayne, Indiana; Benjamin R. G. Polzin, Richmond, Indiana; Daniel L. Rudy, Richmond, Indiana; Lee D. Saylor, Williamsburg, Pennsylvania; Christine A. Sheller, Des Moines, Iowa; J. Trent Smith, New Lebanon, Ohio; and Lawrence R. Taylor, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Eight students received master of arts degrees: Jabani Adzibiya, Adamawa State, Nigeria; Matthew Boersma, Greensburg, Indiana; Laurie J. Diaz, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; Christopher D. Fretz, Richmond, Indiana; Lindsey K. Frye, Richmond, Indiana; Travis E. T. Poling, Richmond, Indiana; Monica Rice, Richmond, Indiana; and Karen Sare, Richmond, Indiana.

Two students received Certificates of Achievement in Theological Studies: Gieta M. Gresh, Denton, Maryland; and Renee Jeane Vrtiska, Gibsonia, Pennsylvania.

Graduates’ future endeavors include careers in pastoral and congregational ministry, teaching, chaplaincy, and additional graduate study.

Elizabeth Keller
Master of Divinity '08

ElizabethSaying “YES” to God can get messy. It did for me. In all my defiance and resistance to God’s call (maybe you can relate?!), I made a mess--and while I learned along the way to revel in the messiness, I give thanks to God who can make any crooked path straight. May my personal story resonate some with our universal story as the emerging generation of the church for the 21st century.