May 6, 2017
East Texas Baptist University held their Spring Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 6, 2017, in Baker Chapel of the Ornelas Spiritual Life Center, with ETBU President, J. Blair Blackburn, presiding. ETBU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Sanders presented the graduating class.
At the 10:00 a.m. service, the Schools of Business, Communication and Performing Arts, Natural and Social Sciences, and Nursing presented their graduates. At the 2:00 p.m. service, the Schools of Education, Christian Studies, Humanities, and Professional Studies presented their graduates.
One hundred and forty-two students received undergraduate degrees and 23 earned master's degrees, for a total of 165 new ETBU graduates. Fifty-six of these students graduated with honors. One undergraduate student, Joel David Rodgers (Bachelor of Science in Biology), completed an Honors Project entitled "Using ITS-2 as a DNA Barcode to Elucidate Hemerocallis Hybrid Paternity and Maternity- A Pilot Study."
"The charge to the graduates encourages them to be life-long learners," Dr. Sanders said, "The 'light of knowledge' displayed here on the stage is a replica of the light which stands in front of Marshall Hall. This light serves a symbol of the University's commitment to the integration of academic discipline and faith in Jesus Christ."
Dr. David O. Dykes, the Senior Pastor at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, received an Honorary Doctoral Degree of Divinity and presented the charge to the graduates. Dr. Dykes received these honors from the University for his spiritual leadership, pastoral ministry at GABC, and contributions to ETBU.
"God did not create you to peck around in the dirt and dust of mediocrity. He created you to soar to the levels of excellence. Seek God first in your life, operate according to God's plan, attempt great things for God, and refuse to give up," said Dr. Dykes. He closed the charge by quoting Isaiah 40:31, "But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Zachary Ervin, a Bachelor of Science graduate in Business Administration, was announced as the President's Award recipient. This award is given to the graduating student who is the best representation of a Christian leader, scholar, and servant. While at ETBU, Ervin guided the Chapel Worship Leadership Teams, frequently led worship on campus and at local churches, served as captain of the Tiger Baseball Team, and was a charter member and captain of the new Tiger Bass Fishing Team.
Ervin confesses that ETBU has made him a well-rounded person. He is grateful for every opportunity he has been given. "I really think that the coaching staff and my professors have pushed me to become a better man." Ervin intends to further his career by earning a Master of Business Administration from the Fred Hale School of Business at ETBU.
Dr. Lynn New, Dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences and professor of Psychology, received the Professor with Distinction Award. Dr. New was awarded this recognition for his excellence in service, scholarship, teaching, and integration of faith and learning throughout his tenure at the University for over 30 years.
One nomination letter read, "I have seen him compassionately serve the most challenging students and I have seen how much they respect him. I see Christ in Lyn New in a way that makes me a better person. If he is not a professor with distinction in our village, then there are none."
President Blackburn concluded the ceremony with a blessing over the graduates from the faculty and staff, quoting Colossians 1:9-12, "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."
Graduation featured readings of the ETBU theme verses, Proverbs 3:5-6 and Matthew 28:19-20. Special music was performed by ETBU's Concert Choir directed by Dr. Justin Hodges. Dean of the School of Communications and Performing Arts, Dr. Thomas R. Webster, directed the music during the ceremony. Music throughout the service featured Organist Cathy DeRousse and the Faculty Brass Quintet.
East Texas Baptist University offers graduate programs in business, sports exercise leadership, kinesiology, college and university leadership, counseling, religion, Christian ministry, and education, as well as 42 undergraduate degree programs to develop Christian servant leaders. For more information, please visit www.etbu.edu.