Monday, May 19, 2014
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Lincoln Christian University holds 69th Commencement in two ceremonies

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[May 19, 2014]  LINCOLN - At 10 a.m. on Saturday, friends and families of Lincoln Christian University students packed the ground floor and balcony areas of the Earl C. Hargrove Chapel to standing room only. Voices of praise and celebration glimpsing heavenly worship filled the air. This particular occasion was the 69th annual commencement.

The 10 a.m. commencement saw the dispersing of degrees and certificates to undergraduates, and at 1 p.m., graduate degrees were conferred.

Dr. Keith Ray welcomed everyone expressing sentiment of the occasion as an exciting moment when grads are transitioning into new lives. He added that he had that same feeling also as he said, "I am commencing with you." This was his last official exercise as president of the university.

Dr. Ray drew on illustration from A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh,
“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.”

He said it is important to understand who you are and urged the grads to keep focused on "Who you are in "Him,"" as they enter ministry.

In his "love of Christ mission," Dr. Ray retires from a nearly 25-year career in higher education leadership. He began serving at Dallas Christian College as Dean of Students, and then served four years as Dallas' president. Dr. Ray then came to Lincoln in 1998 to serve 16 years as the president of LCU.

While president at Dallas, Dr. Ray caught sight of an ambitious young man, a ministry driven student, Jud Wilhite. Wilhite, now a leading author, speaker and senior pastor at Central Church of Christ, Las Vegas, served as keynote speaker.

Wilhite recalled that day when President Ray grabbed him, pulled him into his office and sat him down to get to know him. Wilhite had been carrying a Chuck Swindol book under his arm and Dr. Ray took that book from him saying it would be good reading for when Wilhite when he was an old man. Dr. Ray handed him a different book saying, "Here, read this," giving him a copy of "The Relevance of Physics" by Stanley Jaki.

Wilhite said that there were other moments that Dr. Ray continued to mentor him as a student at Dallas, and he valued those moments; kiddingly adding, "I'm an old man now. I'm still waiting to get my copy of Swindol back."

Getting straight to the point in his message for the new graduates, who would now be entering ministry, Wilhite drew on an illustration of riding a rollercoaster, and said to "stay focused" during the ups and downs.

For his scripture reference, Wilhite drew from the Apostle Paul's message to those who would minister as found in 2 Corinthians 5:13 verses a and b, "Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge." - New American Standard.

He said, "As soon as you start leading, people will take shots at you." He illustrated the challenge and importance in ministry explaining the importance to put yourself aside, "Put God front and center, and you follow."

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Ministry is messy, he said, and you will be drawn into people’s messes all while dealing with your own mess in keeping a marriage and raising children. Encouragingly he said, "When you are called somewhere, God has a way of working it all out."

First and emphatically he said, "Stay on your knees." Prayer and a relationship with God are essential in ministry.

He next added definitively, and "Be controlled by Christ love."

Wilhite shared his own father's model of strength, faithfulness and love; and the deathbed inspiration of a commitment to meet again in a place where the sun is always shining on the other side of life.

He concluded, "Focus on God, people you love, people you have touched with that love. Love of God and others. That is what life is all about."

With those words of wisdom, the graduates were individually called forth by Dr. James Estep, Academic Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Dr. Shane Wood, Academic Dean of Hargrove School of Adult and Graduate Studies to receive their degrees as recommended by Dr. Ray.

As the grads exited the stage, Lynn Laughlin, Special Assistant to the President and Associate Vice President of Alumni Services, presented each with a letter from the Alumni Association, a first year membership card and a alumni pin.

Later, due to space constraints and length of time if all three schools would be commenced together, the Hargrove School of Adult and Graduate Studies and Lincoln Christian Seminary ceremony was held separate.

Conferring degrees at the 1 p.m. ceremony were again for the Hargrove School, Dr. Wood; Assistant Professor and Director of Bible and Theology Studies, Dr. Trevor Cochell; Academic Dean, Lincoln Christian Seminary, Dr. Dinelle Frankland; and Professor of Church History/Historical Theology, Dr. Robert Rea.

Miriam Windham, Professor and Director of TESOL, presented bookmarks to the graduates.

The presentation of towel and basin, symbols of service in ministry, was conducted by Dr. Nolan Thomas, Assistant Professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Dr. Barney Wells, Director of Doctor of Ministry Program.


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