December 10, 2016
Fall Commencement ceremonies for East Texas Baptist University were held on Saturday, December 10, 2016, in Baker Chapel of the Ornelas Spiritual Life Center, with Dr. J. Blair Blackburn, President of the University presiding. ETBU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Thomas Sanders, assisted by academic deans, presented the graduating class. The Invocation was given by Danny Jackson, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion.
A total of 99 students were awarded degrees. Of those, 79 received bachelor's degrees and 20 received master's degrees. The Schools of Business, Christian Studies, Communications and Performing Arts, Education, Humanities, and Natural and Social Sciences awarded degrees before a capacity crowd.
"Commencement is a special time in the life of a university," Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Sanders said. "It is an event that celebrates the relationship between students and faculty. It is also a time for both the university and the families of the graduates to join in pride and celebration. Each student's hard work under the combined guidance and support of faculty, family and friends has resulted in the accomplishments we recognize today."
The President's Award was presented to Gabrielle Besch. The Bonham, Texas native graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average and earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. The President's Award is given to a graduating senior judged by the faculty to be the best all-around student enrolled in the University. The award includes scholastic ability and development, the degree of involvement in activities, which reflect the ideals of the institution, character, integrity, and general attitude. Besch has been an active member at ETBU. She served in Student Government for three years and served as Student Body Secretary for two years. She has chaired many on campus committees and discipled others through her leadership in Bible studies and the University Scholars Program.
"I feel called to the vocation of teaching because of my love for children, and I have witnessed the difference one teacher can make in the life of a child," Besch said. "I draw inspiration from Ephesians 4:11 the reads 'And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers.
Dr. Neville Callam, Baptist World Alliance's General Secretary, gave the charge to the graduates. He shared the importance of being respectful reconcilers as they enter the world outside of the University to foster social harmony and peaceful coexistence. Callam, a Jamaican and leader in many capacities world-wide has served at the Baptist World Alliance in several different capacities since 1985. He is an author and/or editor of seven books, the most recent being Pursuing Unity and Defending Rights: The Baptist World Alliance at Work (2010). He referenced the biblical principles in Colossians 4 and Romans 12 of gracious speech and loving one another.
"God loves each human being unconditionally. It is important for us as Christians to understand the value God places on each person that we meet," Callam said. "I pray that the ETBU class of 2016 will be known for the respect they show others. I encourage you to be respectful agents of reconciliation in our conflict-ridden world. As Matthew 5 encourages us 'blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God."
Ambrosia Woodard, Bachelor of Science graduate in Business Administration, read Proverbs 3:5-6 and Matthew 28:19-20, the University's chosen verses for the ceremony.
ETBU's Concert Choir directed by Justin Hodges performed special music. Dean of the School of Communications and Performing Arts Dr. Thomas R. Webster directed the music during the ceremony. Mike Arnold, spouse of Master of Education Graduate Mandy Arnold voiced the benediction.
"The graduates will commence from here to pursue the calling God has on their lives," ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said. "ETBU is committed to being a distinctively Christ-centered University, dedicated to pleasing God by producing Christ-like servant leaders. We are a University that raises, equips, and empowers generations of anointed leaders. They will serve God in all walks of life, released to salt the Earth with dynamic callings, service, and ministries throughout the continents of the world. Leaders who will pay the price and count the cost of impacting cities and nations with their God-glorifying vocational callings."
East Texas Baptist University offers graduate programs in business, sports exercise leadership, kinesiology, college and university leadership, counseling, religion, and education, as well as 42 undergraduate degree programs to develop Christian servant leaders.