Maranatha Graduation 2011

Valedictorian Christina Brier with Dr. and Mrs. MarriottChristina Brier thought she had come THAT close.

The senior Harp Performance major entered the final semester of her senior year with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. A particularly poor quiz grade in Modern European History, however, had put that mark in danger. As graduation approached, Brier began to lament her near-miss. Less than a week before Friday’s graduation ceremony, Brier emailed Professor William Licht to ask about her grade. Licht informed Brier that the two lowest grades from the semester’s 25 quizzes would be dropped.

Perfection had been preserved.

“I know (Licht) didn’t do it just for me, but I was so happy to find that out,” said Brier, who will enroll in the master’s degree program at the prestigious Eastman School of Music this fall.

Vice President for Academic Affairs John Brock said fewer than a dozen students since 1968 have completed a perfect 4.0 over four years at Maranatha.

Brier forged the top GPA among the Class of 2011, recognized during the morning Convocation. A total of 136 undergraduates and 25 Maranatha Baptist Seminary graduates received diplomas.

Matt Allen (Accounting Management) was runner-up to Brier with a 3.9937 GPA, but Friday was still a big day for him. Allen won the Business Student Achievement Award and, along with fellow cadets Keith Kraker and Eric Spagnolo, was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Kraker was presented a sword symbolizing the John W. Sterling ROTC Leadership Award, which recognizes the top cadet among the four colleges that make up Badger Battalion. Kraker had earlier won the Florence Nightingale Best Bedside Nurse Award as the top student in the Nursing program.

Lindsey Miller, Maranatha's 4,000th graduate, receives her diploma.Other major award winners were Chris Jochum (President’s Award), Sarah Pill and Steve Thayer (Founders Awards), Brier (Outstanding Senior Musician), Joel Stevens (Outstanding Graduate Student in Theology), and Jonathan Rehfeldt (Outstanding Student in Biblical Languages).

Lindsey Miller (Office Management) didn’t know if she had won an award or had simply been forgotten Friday. The ceremony was stopped while Miller waited to walk across the platform and receive her diploma.

“I wasn’t sure if the deans were pulling a joke or what,” said Miller, who works in the Student Life Office. “I mean, it sounds like them … but not during graduation. All I was thinking was, ‘I want my diploma.’ ”

In fact, Miller had been selected to represent the 4,000th graduate in Maranatha history. She received an engraved desk clock commemorating that milestone.

Rich Akins, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jefferson, Wisconsin, was given an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Akins was the speaker during Thursday’s Baccalaureate service. David Hershberger, who has worked at Maranatha since 1974 and has been Registrar since 1978, was given an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Class president Ethan Childs announced that the seniors had contributed toward the purchase of a new treadmill for the Fitness Center Gym as the traditional class gift.

Some graduates will move directly into full-time vocational ministry. Ben Lavicka, who earned his Master of Divinity from the Seminary, will be the new pastor of Whitewater Bible Church in Whitewater, Wisconsin.

“As soon as we’re done taking pictures, I’m going to start recruiting some workers,” Lavicka said.

Some students will continue their studies as graduate students. Biology major Andrea Ray won a full scholarship to Purdue University’s Interdisciplinary Life Sciences program, where she will pursue a doctorate in microbiology.

“My goal is to teach microbiology, virology, immunology, or possibly some cell and molecular biology in a Christian college,” Ray said. “Eventually, I would also like to teach short-term at a university in a Spanish-speaking country.”

The Hibbs FamilyThe busiest graduates Friday were members of the Hibbs family. Randy Hibbs, Maranatha’s Director of Financial Aid, earned his master’s degree in Biblical Counseling. Scott Hibbs, his son, earned a master’s in Cross-Cultural Studies. Katie Hibbs, Randy’s daughter, completed her undergraduate studies in Nursing.

“When Katie passes her nursing boards, we’re all going to get together for a big party,” Randy Hibbs said.

“I started working on my master’s when I was in the pastorate, and I’ve always felt like it was important. I want to be as equipped for the Lord’s work as I can be, and that’s what I want for my children as well. That’s why we’re here.”

The 2011 Maranatha Baccalaureate

Rich Akins is still, in the words of Maranatha President Dr. Marty Marriott, the “big man on campus.”

The former Maranatha football star did a bit of spiritual coaching for the benefit of 161 graduates during Thursday’s Baccalaureate service. Akins, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jefferson, Wisconsin, delivered a sermon that combined practical instruction with spiritual truths.

“Aspire to be obscure,” Akins said. “I think that’s great advice, no matter how contrary to the philosophy of our day. It must be, ‘To God be the glory.’ ”

Rich Atkins speaks at the baccalaureate service.Akins’ three primary sermon points were:

  • Know the time.
  • Focus on the task.
  • Avoid the temptation.

“Live with a sense of urgency,” Akins said. “I have eight grandchildren. Maybe one of you will have the privilege of leading one of those grandchildren to Christ because of the life you’ve lived. It’s a serious responsibility.”

The service included the Madrigal and Handbell Choir singing O Clap Your Hands (from Psalm 47: 1-7) and an offering to help purchase windows and furniture for Hilsen Hall.

Marriott introduced Akins, a 1977 graduate.

“He was known for being a spiritual leader as well as making up most of the defensive line,” Marriott said.

Akins was saved in December of 1971 and came to Maranatha in the fall of 1972. He coached the Maranatha Baptist Academy football team for 31 years and has been Calvary’s pastor for 17 years.

“In essence, everything I’ve learned about Christianity came from this school,” Akins said.