MBU Commencement 2020
As well-wishing guests arrived from across the nation for Commencement 2020, they were treated with a preliminary presentation which included pictures and video clips submitted by graduates, and with a piano prelude by Dr. David Ledgerwood, Chair of the Department of Music.
Expectant students, proud parents and grandparents, faculty members, board members, and administrative staff all convened for this momentous occasion, just as they have for the past half century at Maranatha. Dr. Matt Davis, Executive Vice President, led in prayer, acknowledging the inadequacy of the ceremony to properly celebrate the achievements of graduates or the scope of the Lord’s work in each life. Davis noted Maranatha’s corporate trust, that having implemented a Scriptural model of higher education, God’s Word would have operated in graduates’ hearts, preparing them for life’s “great unknowns.” Davis expressed gratitude that, despite the grave uncertainty ahead for our nation and world, the Lord is working in every generation. Last, he invoked God’s blessing on the service.
Dr. Marty Marriott, president of Maranatha Baptist University, welcomed guests, reflecting briefly on regrets of the semester’s end while focusing on the blessings. He mentioned availability of a livestream recording of the service. Then, he invited all to participate in this year’s Commencement Offering Project. The received funds will be allocated to upgrade three projectors, essential equipment for all chapel and fine arts events. These potential improvements spotlight the importance of the preaching of God’s Word at Maranatha. With contributions already received, an offering of $19,000 would complete the project.
Dr. Bryan Brock, a Professor in the College of Bible and Church Ministries, read Matthew 6:19-34, a passage revealing that the things we value control our hearts. Therefore, we must prioritize “laying up” eternal treasures. The Heritage Singers followed, presenting Worthy of Our Worship, a majestic anthem declaring the meritorious honor of God.
Announcement of Awards
In recognition of outstanding academic achievement, Dr. Marriott recognized various deans and department chairs to announce the following awards:
- Outstanding College of Bible and Church Ministries Student: Timothy Lacock
- Outstanding Science Student: Daniel Tellock
- Outstanding Humanities Student: Margaret McMenamin
- Outstanding Senior Musician: Grace Betry
- Business Student Achievement Award: Kelsey Johnson
- Outstanding Future Teacher: Brooke Roberts Bueltel
- Florence Nightingale Best Bedside Nurse: Alyssa Turcotte
- Online and Distance Learning Outstanding Student: Mary Brewer
- Outstanding Seminary Student in Theology: Steven Thompson
Dr. Tracy Foster, Dean of the School of Business, announced that Jonathan Downs, a Maranatha Army ROTC cadet and member of the Badger Battalion, will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, Active Duty, Infantry.
Dr. William Licht, Vice President for Academic Affairs, announced the highest academic awards. Two students tied for the highest grade point average, both having earned a 4.0 GPA: Andrew Mayo and Daniel Tellock.
The awards presentations concluded with the esteemed Founder’s Awards and President’s Award.
Founder’s Awards recipients most effectively exemplify the purpose and spirit of Maranatha, exhibiting firm commitment to the Lord’s work. These were awarded to:
- Margaret McMenamin—The Thelma Melford Cedarholm Founder’s Award
- Caleb Hockema— The B. Myron Cedarholm Founder’s Award
Candidates for the President’s Award best exemplify qualities of academic, character, and spiritual fitness for gospel ministry. This year’s recipient was James Rossiter.
Presentation of Graduates
In a montage 67-voices-strong, Madrigal and Chamber Singers presented God of Heaven, its rich melody and lyrics drawing listeners into the grandeur of our sovereign Lord, the “God who wrote the Book of Time,” the “Author of our days and hours.”
As the music faded, the long-awaited moment arrived, the conferral of degrees. As names of graduates were announced, their pictures, degrees, and academic honors displayed on the screen.
Commencement Address: Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
In typical straightforward manner, Dr. Marriott introduced the main point of his commencement address: Always remember to put the Lord first. Using Matthew 6:33 as his text, he admonished students to invest in things that please Him, to prioritize spiritual growth, to choose the way of purpose and sacrifice rather than pleasure and comfort.
Our culture, Marriott noted, is self-absorbed, concerned with meeting personal needs. Therefore, the world views God as the Needs Supplier. Today’s mantra is to have God serve us. In stark contrast, our service to God is countercultural.
Marriott emphasized several prohibitions from Matthew 6. Verses 19-24 prohibit the love of the world. Accumulation of things can be evidence of that misplaced love. Verses 25-34 prohibit sinful worry, anxiety of thought. God is saying, groom your mind and heart to be preoccupied with the heavenly things, not on the temporal. Furthermore, the passage gives four reasons for not yielding to sinful anxiety:
- It’s needless. Our life is more than food and clothes.
- It’s senseless. He feeds the fowls. Will He not care for our needs?
- It’s useless. Worry will not change stature or life span. It accomplishes nothing.
- It’s faithless. Worry reveals our “little faith.”
Our fears reveal ignorance of God’s character, misunderstanding of the implications of salvation, and doubt regarding the validity of God’s promises.
We are commanded to “seek.” We all seek something, either the temporal or the eternal.
Therefore, the passage instructs, lay up eternal treasures. Be singularly focused. “It’s as if,” Marriott mused, “God is saying, ‘If you must worry, worry about your relationship with Me.’”
“When one seeks the kingdom of God, one embraces the purposes of God and concentrates on the work of God. That has been the focus of your Maranatha experience,” Marriott told the graduates. And what is promised? “All these things shall be added unto you.”
Summarizing, Marriott urged, “Don’t squander all that has been invested in you. You will never regret making God first.” In a closing dedicatory prayer, he implored the Lord that graduates would find strategic places of service, establish godly marriages, and persevere in continual growth in the knowledge of Him.
Then, to a degree never before surpassed, faculty members, staff, and alumni from near and far united their voices in the triumphant strains of the university hymn, “To the Praise of His Glory.” Whereupon Dr. John Davis, retiring Dean of Students and Alumni Director, offered the benediction.
Though Commencement 2020 paralleled all standard graduation ceremonies in MBU history, though it included all the normal elements, it was highly anomalous. Guests and faculty members attended while staying home. Administration, deans, and department chairs announced awards, distributed diplomas, and conferred degrees remotely. Even graduates were not present. Musicians spanned the nation. There was no processional or recessional. There were no group photos and no flurry of mortar boards flung into the sky. Campus was empty and silent. It was Maranatha’s first virtual commencement.
Despite the abrupt termination of their senior year, the suspension of the memorable end-of-the-year events, the cancellation of recitals, presentations, projects, and even farewells, the graduates of the Class of 2020 have shown their resilience. Life has presented unexpected challenges, the very platform on which to test heart values. Seek Him first, dear graduates. Greater things than these which you have missed will be added unto you. Go forth stronger, equipped to lead in your local church and in an uncertain world “to the praise of His glory”.