May 12, 2018
East Texas Baptist University held its Spring 2018 Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 12 at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn presided over the ceremony as 138 students received undergraduate degrees and 22 received graduate degrees, for a total of 160 graduates.
"The earning of your degree is a remarkable achievement, but the journey of life-long learning and discovery by the renewing of your minds and transforming of your hearts does not end here," Dr. Blackburn said. "You will commence - you will begin anew - from here to pursue your vocational and spiritual callings for the cause of Christ. As a distinctively Christ-centered University, we are dedicated to producing graduates, who will transform the world by serving and ministering to people with the spirit of Christ in and through them for the glory of God. Our family of faculty, staff, trustees, students, alumni, and you, new graduates, are to be beacons for this generation."
Reverend James Webb gave the keynote address to the graduates of the Schools of Business, Communication and Performing Arts, Education, and Religion at the morning ceremony. Webb is Senior Pastor at Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Marshall and also serves as Secretary for the ETBU Board of Trustees. Webb encouraged and motivated the graduates to pursue greatness.
"The true definition of greatness, found in Matthew 23:11, is attainable through servanthood and measured in Christ," Webb shared. "Anyone can be great because everyone can serve. Regardless of the road you take or the delays, discouragements, and disappointments you face along the way, I challenge you to be great as you navigate through the journey of life."
At the service, Chair of the Department of Behavioral Science Laurie Smith was recognized for her excellence in service, scholarship, teaching, and integration of faith and learning with the Professor with Distinction Award.
Dr. Smith was described as, "truly caring for her students. Always making herself accessible, she teaches in a way that enables her classes to understand and absorb the material. Dr. Smith is dedicated to helping students, especially when they are struggling. Adept at integrating faith and learning in the classroom, she encouraged us in our faith and easily related the subject matter to her faith."
Halee Vasquez, a Bachelor of Arts graduate in Speech Communication, received the President's Award for being the best representation of a Christian leader, scholar, and servant. While at ETBU, Vasquez served as a President's Leadership Fellow, member of Student Foundation, leader of Titus, Women's Ministry, resident of the Campus Women's Ministry House, co-founder of the Word Movement, and youth intern at First Baptist Church in Longview. Dr. Blackburn, along with FBC Senior Pastor and ETBU Board of Trustees Chair Cary Hilliard, presented the award to Vasquez.
A nominating faculty member described, "Halee is an incredibly gifted person, sharing her love for Christ and the Church with people near and far. She is vivacious, personable, outgoing, and full of energy and enthusiasm for ETBU, for the Church, and the community. Her character is solid, and her servant-leadership sweet, personal, and ever expanding. Her love for life and for others is an inspiration to all of us."
Jim Teague, Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Products, received an Honorary Doctoral Degree in Humanities for his service to God and humanity. Teague is a 1968 graduate of East Texas Baptist College and served as a Naval Officer. Mr. Teague was elected CEO of Enterprise GP in 2016 and has been on the Board of Directors of Enterprise GP since July 2008. Jim now resides in Houston with his wife, Tuu.
"I am humbled by this honor," Teague commented. "I believe what defines success is not how much money you make or what your rank is, but the footprints you leave. This school has produced an abundance of graduates that have left footprints far deeper than I. I am reminded of all of my faculty, staff, and peers who have influenced me and impacted the world."
The afternoon ceremony speaker, Dr. Danny Reeves, charged the graduates of the Schools of Humanities, Natural and Social Sciences, Nursing, and Professional Studies to press on through adversity. Dr. Reeves, President of Texas Baptists (BGCT) and Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Corsicana, taught from Numbers 13 with special emphasis on reliance on God's strength.
"I challenge you, graduates, not to measure yourself against difficulties. Rather, measure difficulties against the power of the almighty God," Reeves expressed. "As you look into your future, do you put your trust and faith in God? Regardless of the challenge, we must press on as Christians in our outreach to unbelievers, as an institution of higher learning to train the next generation of servant leaders, and in using our talents for the glory of God."