The King’s College Virtually Hosts 72nd Annual Commencement Exercises
On Saturday, May 9, 2020, The King’s College virtually hosted its 72nd annual Commencement exercises to honor the 114 members of the Class of 2020.
On Saturday, May 9, 2020, The King’s College virtually hosted its 72nd annual Commencement exercises to honor the Class of 2020. Over five hundred participants tuned in to celebrate the 114 students graduating.
President Tim Gibson welcomed guests and delivered a few remarks about the Class of 2020. “Today’s ceremony is a tribute to this class’s remarkable perseverance and resilience,” Gibson said. “I trust that God will take all they have endured these last few months and bear good fruit from it in the years to come. None of us would have asked for these circumstances, yet these graduates have pressed on.”
Mr. Rick Gatt, member of the Parents Advisory Council and father of 2020 graduate Thomas Gatt, delivered the invocation, praying for a spirit of unity despite physical distance and asking God to provide the graduates courage for the days to come. Then 2019-20 Student Body President Koby Jackson (Humanities ’21) gave a Scripture reading from Psalm 145.
Chaplain Barry C. Black presented the keynote address. Black is the 62nd Chaplain of the Senate and served in the U.S. Navy for over twenty-seven years, retiring with the rank of Rear Admiral. Black was chosen from 127 nominees for the 1995 NAACP’s Renowned Service Award for his contribution to equal opportunity and civil rights. He is the recipient of a number of prestigious decorations including the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit Medal, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, among others. In his role as Chaplain, Black opens the Senate each day in prayer and provides counseling and spiritual care for Senators, their families, and staff—a combined constituency of over seven thousand people.
Black opened by discussing the College’s theme of “Good, Brave, and Ready.” Citing Ephesians 1:20, he said, “Good works are your raison d’être: your reason for being.” On bravery, he described how it took courage for Martin Luther to stand at the Diet of Worms and say, “Here I stand, I can do none else,” and it took courage for Martin Luther King, Jr. to write his letter from Birmingham Jail.
The address centered on the final part of the trio, Ready, with reference to 1 Peter 3:15-16: “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”
Black charged graduates to see themselves as ambassadors of God, “people who have such an experiential relationship with God that they can witness, they can testify.” He detailed three facets of being a witness: being ready to give a reasonable response, a gentle response, and a demonstrable response—backed up by actions. “Not only does he empower us” to be a witness, “he also rewards us,” said Black. “Graduation is wonderful, but oh, what a day it will be when we will have a celestial graduation.”
On giving a reasonable response, he spoke about the power of speaking from the Word of God. “You do not even need to tell people that you are paraphrasing the Scripture. Let that Scripture come in like a stealth bomber, under the radar, sharper than any two edged sword.” Regarding gentleness, he reminded graduates, “How gentle was our blessed Lord. There’s a wooing quality, not a bullying quality, to his intonations.” As an example, Black discussed the gentle Q&A answers of apologist Os Guinness, a personal friend of Black’s who has spoken on Capitol Hill. Finally, he charged graduates to represent Christ in their actions. He quoted the poet Edgar Guest: “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day / I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.”
Black closed, reminding students to ask God daily for wisdom so that they “will be able to represent The King’s College, the King of kings . . . You will demonstrate as an ambassador of Jesus Christ that the Savior is alive and well on planet Earth—and is still able to save.”
After Black’s remarks, Gibson and Provost Dr. Mark Hijleh conferred degrees upon the graduates and welcomed them “into the society of learned men and women.” Thirty-one graduates received a Bachelor of Arts in Media, Culture, and Arts; three received a Bachelor of Arts in English; ten received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Culture and Society; nine received a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities; 30 received a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics; three received a Bachelor of Arts in Religious and Theological Studies; 26 received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration/Management; and two received a Bachelor of Science in Finance. Forty students graduated with academic honors: ten summa cum laude, six magna cum laude, and 24 cum laude.
After the graduates received their degrees, Kaylee Long (MCA ’20) gave the valedictory address, acknowledging the sense of loss that the Class of 2020 feels to not have a traditional ceremony. “It’s disheartening not to be able to shake professors’ hands and say thank you. Not to take pictures in the garden across from St. George’s. Not to see our entire graduating class standing together for the first and probably last time.”
Long quoted a mentor who told her tools forged in fire become the strongest, and reminded her classmates that having to finish senior year online during a pandemic is “just one flame among many. And when the heat of it subsides, we will find it has shaped us a little more into the people we hope to become.”
She congratulated fellow graduates on their hard-earned degrees and on rising to the intellectual, emotional, and moral challenge that The King’s College presented them. “Let’s give ourselves grace to feel the sadness of being apart. But then, let’s turn our eyes to see to the hope we have that is not failing. That cannot be canceled.”
Long concluded, “There will always be another fire. Another disappointment, another loss. But the same God who gave himself for our salvation has promised us his presence and power. We have the promise of life that outlasts our disappointments—and our achievements. That is the source of our hope—and the one thing that cannot be shaken and will not burn away in the fire.”
President of the TKC Alumni Executive Committee, Mrs. Sarah Keenan (PPE ’12), welcomed graduates into the alumni association: “You are now not only a part of the most resilient class of graduates King’s has ever seen, but you are also part of a community of thousands of alumni who are proud of you and welcome you with open arms.”
Mark Arrasmith, father of beloved student Leah Arrasmith, led the closing prayer, “Lord we pray over these graduates. You know their times of sadness and joy, of pain and peace, of confusion and determination. You have walked with them these years.” The ceremony concluded with a musical performance of “See You On the Other Side,” an original piece by Lecturer in Musical Theater Virginia Hart Pike, performed by The King’s College Spring 2020 musical theater studio class.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses additional challenges to the Class of 2020’s job search, but some graduates have already secured future opportunities, including a Ph.D. program in English at the University of Washington for Amelia Lehosit (English ’20); Poynter-Koch Journalism Fellowships for Morgan Chittum (JCS ’20), Elissa Esher (JCS ’20), and Jillian Cheney (JCS ’20); an advisory associate position at PricewaterhouseCoopers for Benjamin Cook (Finance ’20); a job at Bernard Fleischer & Sons for Michel Wenzel (Business ’20); and a role as special assistant to the president at Hope College in Holland, Michigan for Abigail Smith (PPE ’20). The College encourages graduates seeking work to review postings on King’sConnect, the LinkedIn group for King’s students and alumni.
Mark Arrasmith’s full, personally illustrated, prayer is below.