70th Annual Commencement Exercises at The King’s College

On Saturday, May 5, 2018, The King’s College hosted its 70th annual commencement exercises, honoring the class of 2018, at St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City. Hundreds gathered to celebrate the 104 students graduating.

2018 Commencement
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On Saturday, May 5, 2018, The King’s College hosted its 70th annual commencement exercises, honoring the class of 2018, at St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City. Hundreds gathered to celebrate the 104 students graduating.

After the board, faculty, executive staff, and graduating seniors processed into the church to Pomp and Circumstance, Acting President Tim Gibson welcomed the guests and thanked St. George’s Episcopal, founded in 1749 as the first chapel of Trinity Wall Street, for their kind hospitality and accommodation.

Chancellor Gregory Alan Thornbury gave the invocation, thanking God for the graduates’ perseverance in their studies and His faithfulness in times of searching. “We have found you to be with us and for us as our Almighty God and Savior, and we thank you that you are both the hidden God and the revealed God. We thank You that in Your hiddenness, You are hidden in Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” he said. “This is a wonderful day, and we ask that we would celebrate in ways that are befitting of Your kingdom. As we go from this place and as we eat and drink together, we pray that it might be a foretaste of the time in which we will eat and drink anew in the kingdom of God, even as we pray, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon us.”

Virginia Pike, adjunct instructor in music, and Dr. Mark Hijleh, provost and professor of music, led the assembly in singing The King’s College Alma Mater, which Hijleh set to original music last year. Then 2017-18 student body president Michael Martinez gave a Scripture reading from Proverbs 3:5-15.

Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at The Federalist, Fox News contributor, and widely-published columnist on media and pro-life issues, gave the keynote address. Hemingway challenged the trope that graduates are only now about to enter the real world: “25 percent of your life on earth is already over. . .You’ve experienced some of life’s highs and lows. . .you’ve experienced great joy, betrayal, and loneliness. You already know what the real world is!”

Hemingway held up the Christian idea of vocation against the common encouragement to “find yourself” and pursue a dream job in the years after graduation. The Christian understanding of vocation is that we have many of them: calling picks up in all the places where we already are. “God works through each of our many relationships to provide for all of us,” Hemingway said.

She continued, “Of course, it is through these relationships that we also inflict pain and suffering.” She noted that the Greek root of the word idiot refers not to a lack of intelligence but to self-focus—a deficit of care for others. “If you miss the point of having a properly prioritized understanding of vocation, you will not be wise.”

But serving others is not all it takes. Hemingway also challenged the generalization that the generation coming of age is irresponsible and flouts its duties. “I think many of you have the exact opposite problem, especially those of you that are highly organized achievers.” Quoting the pro-life writer Tristyn Bloom, she said, “I think that we are pathologically terrified of risk. . . that we have this enslavement to our own ideas of respectability, our own ideas of our life plan, our commitments, our existing duties.” Hemingway reminded the graduates that “the biggest mistake people make in life is often not that they make the wrong decisions, it’s that they make no decisions. . . A life full of small abdications in the face of pivotal moments always adds up to a grand personal failure.” She urged them to “choose life at every opportunity and in the grandest sense possible.”

2018 Commencement

Hemingway admitted it might feel overwhelming to embrace multifaceted vocational responsibilities on one hand and remain open to risk and change on the other. She pointed to gratitude as the key to staying on course: “Never forget your cup overflows.”

She concluded with a testimony of faith:

The Lord prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. The means by which our faith is strengthened, by which we are empowered to forgive one another, and to be grateful for what God has done for us, is at that table. The single most important thing you can do is not really your work at all. It is God’s work, where He gives us His gifts of Word and Sacrament. . . His real body and real blood, shed for you, in this real world that you have spent your lives in and will continue to spend your lives in, is this great gift. . . So enjoy your vocations, enjoy taking risks in His name, and give thanks to God for all He has done for you.

After Hemingway’s remarks, Gibson and Hijleh conferred degrees upon the graduates and welcomed them into “the society of learned men and women.” Thirty-three graduates received a Bachelor of Arts in Media, Culture, and the Arts; 34 received a Bachelor of Arts in politics, philosophy, and economics; three received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy; two received a Bachelor of Arts in religious and theological studies; 27 received a Bachelor of Science in business administration/management; and five received a Bachelor of Science in finance. Twenty-eight students graduated with academic honors: 6 summa cum laude (including valedictorian Andrew Hepler), 8 magna cum laude, and 14 cum laude.

After the graduates received their degrees, were welcomed into the alumni association, and moved their tassels from right to left, Hepler gave the valedictory address, saying, “My first semester at The King’s College, I checked off a lot of the boxes for a student of whom you would say, ‘He’s not going to last four years.’”

Hepler said that in his first semester, the King’s curriculum and liberal arts approach “drew me and kept me here,” giving him “different ways to think about the depression I was dealing with” and an introduction to “the intellectual virtues, which became the way I framed my approach to education throughout college and totally changed the way I think about learning.” He found faculty relationships especially transformative: “It’s not just that they know what they’re teaching or that they teach liberal arts well; it’s that they exemplify the Bible very well. . .they love their students genuinely. Our professors understand that what matters most is the Biblical worldview and the command to love God and our neighbor. After that we can worry about a career and all the other stuff, but we have to get the first things right.”

Hepler then drew on his senior thesis, which explored Augustine’s famous idea that Christians live in two cities, the City of God and the City of Man, creating a tension in Christian life between desiring the perfect city but living in the fallen one. For Augustine, the way through is first to recognize Christ as Mediator and, second, to follow what He says—to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Hepler urged the graduates to keep these commandments close at heart as they enter their various fields: “If you do that, you’ll have a little bit of King’s with you, and you’ll have a little bit of the City of God with you as well.”

After Hepler’s address, a senior solo was performed by Abbey Jasmine Watt, a 2018 MCA graduate handpicked by Tony Award-winning Broadway composer Charles Strouse to play the female lead in a concert production of his early musical A Pound in Your Pocket. Her selection, from Aaron Copland’s opera The Tender Land, was “Laurie’s Song,” whose poignant closing lyric is, “The time has grown so short, the world so wide.”

Mrs. Karen Graham, a member of the Parents Advisory Council and mother of 2018 graduate Donald Graham, gave the benediction, asking God to “strengthen [the graduates] by Your glorious might.” Then the ceremony concluded in singing the Doxology, and the new graduates recessed out of the church with the trustees, faculty, and executive staff.

Opportunities awaiting the class of 2018 include a prestigious Fulbright teaching assistantship to Malaysia for salutatorian Isabella Jordan (Dec. ’17); a job at the global consulting company Aon for Geoffrey Doering; a full-time offer for Carter Fletcher at PEI Funds, where he interned during his senior year; a managerial Mentor Development role for Abena Anim-Somuah at Practice Makes Perfect, a San Francisco-based educational tech company; an assistant account executive role for Tatiana Lanier (Dec. ’17) at the advertising leader BBDO Worldwide; and a graphic design position for Olivia Ronald (Dec. ’17) at The Specialists Ltd., a full-service prop house for film and television.

Ronald said, “About halfway through a marketing internship at The Specialists Ltd. my boss mentioned that they would love to keep me in whatever capacity, part-time or full-time. I worked three days a week the following semester and transitioned to full-time in January. It’s fun to be a part of a different side of the production process that most people don’t even think about. I’ve worked on projects for shows like The Blacklist, Gotham, Jessica Jones, and Bull, and even made some foam bowling pins for a Martin Scorsese film.”

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