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ETBU confers 105 graduates during Fall Commencement

December 9, 2017

East Texas Baptist University held its Fall Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, December 9 at 10:00 a.m. in Baker Chapel of the Ornelas Spiritual Life Center. ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn presided over the ceremony as 82 students received undergraduate degrees and 23 received graduate degrees, for a total of 105 graduates. ETBU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Sanders, assisted by the academic deans, presented the graduating class.

"This is the largest Fall Commencement in the history of East Texas Baptist University," Dr. Sanders said. "ETBU first awarded associate degrees in 1919 and bachelor's degrees in 1945. Commencement has always been a special time in the life of the University. It is an event that celebrates the relationship between students, staff, and faculty. It is also a time for the University and the family of the graduates to join in pride and celebration. The light of knowledge displayed on the stage is a replica of the light that stands in front of Marshall Hall. The light stands as a symbol of the University's commitment to the integration of academic discipline and faith in Jesus Christ." 

Mr. Ray Martinez III, President of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT), gave a charge to the graduating class as keynote speaker. Mr. Martinez received his bachelor's degree from Southwestern University and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. Prior to joining ICUT, Mr. Martinez served as Chancellor of Western Governors University-Texas, held senior government relations positions at Rice University and with the Texas A&M University System, and was the Director of the Higher Education Committee in the Texas Senate. Mr. Martinez encouraged students by offering a testimony to God's faithfulness through his personal faith experiences.

"Whatever comes next in your career, you will undoubtedly experience failure," Mr. Martinez said. "When I began my career and as I continue in professional life, I often feel out of place and overwhelmed. However, the Lord used it all for my good and the glory of His kingdom. He brought success in His timing and by His plan. Failure is a necessary ingredient to success; it is the road to character. As you set out, remember the inner virtues you have cultivated here at this Christ-centered institution. Go forth and live the life that God has planned for you without fear."

Samantha Busby, a Bachelor of Arts graduate in International Studies, 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, Busby served with the Baptist Student Ministry (BSM), remained involved at Friendship Baptist Church in Marshall, made the Dean's List with Honors every semester, and was an active member of Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honor Society.

"Samantha Busby's career here at ETBU shows us the fruits of discipline and devotion. She is well recognized for her service and leadership within and beyond the classroom," Professor of History and Dean of the School of Humanities Jerry Summers said. "Samantha is a top student in our history program. She is smart, but it is her attitude toward the world, work, and service that sets her apart. Through these qualities and accomplishments, Samantha Busby is an inspiration to our ETBU community."

ETBU Master of Business Administration Graduate Sydney Sumpter gave the Invocation. Graduation featured readings of the ETBU theme verses, Proverbs 3:5-6 and Matthew 28:19-20, led by ETBU Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Graduate Rolando Vargas. Special music was performed by ETBU's Concert Choir directed by Dr. Justin Hodges. Dean of the School of Communications and Performing Arts Thomas Webster directed worship during the ceremony. Music throughout the service featured Organist Cathy DeRousse and the Faculty Brass Quintet.
"Congratulations, students, for your remarkable achievement," Dr. Blackburn shared. "We celebrate with you for your hard work that has culminated today in the awarding of your degrees. The path of discovery and learning does not end here for you. Your challenge by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2 is to continually renew your minds. We have prayed over and with you during your time here, and our prayers will continue for you as you leave your Home on the Hill to go out and make disciples for God's glory."

East Texas Baptist University offers graduate programs in business, sports 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