Eighteen students graduated from Anderson Bible Training School in the school’s first commencement on June 6, 1919. Nearly 100 years later, 472 students are eligible to graduate from Anderson University in the school’s 100th commencement on May 5, 2018.
Although AU has grown and its name has changed over the years, the institution’s mission has remained the same. Provost Marie Morris speaks to the significance of a mission that endures time and change.
“One of the things that I really appreciate about AU’s mission statement, which is ‘to educate for a life of faith and service in the church and society,’ is that it’s clear, focused and timeless,” she says.
“Look at these folks,” she says, pointing to a photograph (see below). “Their world was very different. They didn’t have smartphones. They didn’t have social media. Customs, traditions and expectations were very different, but we were educating them for a life of service in the church and society.
“What does it mean today with all the technology that we have, the social media, the jobs that will exist for future generations that we haven’t even thought of yet,” Morris asks. “We’re still educating for a life of faith and service in the church and society. I see the mission statement as this thread throughout all of AU’s history. It keeps us focused, but still allows us to change with the changing times.”
The Rev. Dr. Melissa Pratt, who graduated from AU in 1991 and from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1995, will be speaking at the baccalaureate ceremony on the morning of commencement. Pratt has been the senior pastor at Teays Valley Church of God in West Virginia for more than 10 years.
Bishop Timothy J. Clarke will be speaking at commencement and will be awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity. Clarke currently serves as the senior pastor at the First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio.
Morris explains that this year’s speakers were selected with the purpose of adhering to the church in the celebration of the university’s past and in looking ahead to the university’s future.
“I think that what’s important for us—what has been important to us for these hundred years and what will be important in laying the foundation for the next hundred years—is a reminder that we are part of the Church of God movement,” she says. “Both of these speakers will mark that.”
“We could have gotten some legislator or some government official,” said Morris. “Certainly President Pistole knows lots of amazing speakers. We thought it was really important for this point in time, as we’re marking the past and entering the future, to say ‘We are a Church of God institution. We are a Christian university.’ We want the speakers this year to really reflect that.”
Dr. Chris Confer, the dean of students, is excited to celebrate AU’s 100th commencement and has enjoyed watching this year’s graduating class grow in the time they’ve spent at AU.
“They’ve experienced some really awesome things in terms of the spirit working and the Lord working in some great ways,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch them take on leadership opportunities and really mature in a lot of different ways.”
Confer congratulates this year’s graduates, saying commencement is “a celebration of their academic success to come to this point and to have persisted four years to graduate.”
Kayla Medaris, who is graduating with a degree in psychology, has learned a lot during her time at AU and is excited to see what the future holds.
“I think the most valuable learning experiences I had were in the interactions with peers, faculty and staff,” she says. “I had to learn how to properly ask for help, admit when I wasn’t doing okay and speak up for myself. Interpersonal relationships class really helped with this, but the people in this community are the ones who taught me the biggest life lessons.”
“I am excited to see where God is leading me,” says Medaris. “I believe he is calling me to something bigger that will truly show my servant heart. I am excited to change this world in a positive way and love those who need it.”
The baccalaureate ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 5 in Reardon Auditorium followed by commencement at 3 p.m. in the Ward Fieldhouse at Kardatzke Wellness Center. Doors will open for commencement at 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.