The ROTC Color Guard opened the ceremony of the 49th Convocation of Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown, Wisconsin.
The solemnity of the procession led to the joyful entrance of the largest graduating class in the history of the college, with a total of 218 graduates marching. Executive Vice President Matt Davis, in his invocation, dedicated the occasion to the Lord, reminding the graduates that God has a wonderful plan and great mission that He desires to fulfill in each one of them.
Dr. Marty Marriott, president of Maranatha Baptist University, welcomed the special guests, including board members Dr. Bob Loggans, Pastor Chad Prigge, Pastor David Anderson, and Dr. Michael Stoltenberg. In lieu of the afternoon ROTC Commissioning, Marriott recognized Lieutenant Colonel Derrek Schultheiss, Captain John DeGreef, and Master Sergeant Scott Patterson. Parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and spouses of the graduates as well as the pastors, assistant pastors, and missionaries in the audience were asked to stand, and Marriott’s call to alumni brought many to their feet. After his remarks, Marriott invited people to share in an offering for the Alumni Plaza furniture.
For the offertory, Mia Ray played “Our Great Savior,” a piece arranged by Dr. David Ledgerwood.
Dr. Marriott returned to the podium to challenge the graduates from 1 Corinthians 15. He raised the questions, “What is the work of the Lord,” “Where does one find the ability to do the work of the Lord,” and “What is the result of doing God’s work?”
Marriott then defined the work of the Lord, stating, “Graduate, the work of the Lord is for all believers in Christ. It is for every one of you and for everyone that names Christ here today. As you leave this campus, I exhort you to be steadfast and unmoved by anything that will hinder your service to Jesus Christ.” He shared that the ability to do the work of the Lord comes from the gospel, which is “ultimately about the forgiveness of sins and the transformation of lives by the power of the resurrected Christ.”
Focusing on Christ’s resurrection, Marriott continued, “Be encouraged by the apostle’s exhortation when he says, ‘But thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore be ye steadfast’–and how does he conclude it?–‘Your labor is not in vain in the Lord.’ He will lead you.”
The resurrection message gives life meaning, shared Marriott. “When Jesus Christ becomes your risen Lord and you live for Him, your life takes on context. It takes on substance, and it takes on meaning.” He recalled that, as a new believer, “I was motivated by the fact that Jesus was alive and He was with me. That truth is a compelling truth, and it is a motivating truth.”
In conclusion, Marriott reminded the graduates of the results of doing God’s work. He urged the graduates, “Surrender everything to the Savior. Live by his resurrected power. Follow his orders and abound in his work. Your life will have meaning and your labor will not be in vain. Never retreat. Never quit. Always be advancing. There is no sacrifice too great to make and no price too high to pay in the work of the Lord.”
Following Marriott’s address came the announcement of awards and the presentation of diplomas. Susan Brown received the Florence Nightingale Best Bedside Nurse Award. Alison Renz received the award for Outstanding Science Student, Jason Dennis for Outstanding Online Student, Timothy Potter for Outstanding College Student in Greek, Kate Halsey for School of Business Student Achievement, Kathryn Borud for Outstanding Future Teacher, Caleb Prigge for Outstanding Humanities Student, and Mia Ray for Outstanding Senior Musician. Riley Brown, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree, received the award for Outstanding Seminary Student in Theology.
Kathryn Barud earned the highest GPA and Charis Hammermeister the second highest GPA.
Ben Coronado received The President’s Award, granted for outstanding demonstration of qualities indicating fitness for gospel ministry. The Founder’s Awards, given to both a female and male graduate who best exemplify the founding purpose and spirit of Maranatha Baptist University, went to Mia Ray and Caleb Prigge.
Halfway through the conferring of the diplomas, Dr. Marriott stepped up to the podium to make a special announcement. After naming Jeffrey Rupp the 5,000th graduate of Maranatha Baptist University, he gifted him with a special clock and encouraged the audience to celebrate the significant milestone in Maranatha’s history. Rupp later shared, “It surprised me. I’m humbled and honored to be the one who represents that milestone at MBU.”
Ben Coronado, Student Body President, announced the senior gift from the class of 2017: a new ping-pong table for the student center—given with the hopes that it would inspire a future renovation of the space. The senior men’s ensemble sang “The Banner of the Cross” and Dr. Marriott offered a prayer of dedication. To close the ceremony, Pastor Chad Prigge, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Watertown, gave the benediction.
After the ceremony, outside and in the grassy courtyard, the graduates celebrated by tossing their caps into the air. Dr. John Davis, Dean of Students and Director of Alumni Services, initiated a new tradition—ringing the alumni bell to officially close out the school year. First in line to ring the bell were Jeremiah Doak (BA Pastoral Studies) and David Dahl (BS Interdisciplinary Studies).