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ETBU confers 134 graduates during Fall 2018 Commencement

December 8, 2018

East Texas Baptist University held its Fall 2018 Commencement ceremony on Saturday, December 8 at 10:00 a.m. in Baker Chapel of the Ornelas Spiritual Life Center. ETBU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Sanders, assisted by the academic deans, presented all 134 graduates. ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn presided over the ceremony as 106 students received undergraduate degrees and 28 received graduate degrees.

“Our students are called serve God in all walks of life, released to salt the Earth with dynamic callings, service, and ministries,” Dr. Blackburn said. “ETBU cultivates leaders, who will impact cities and nations as devoted disciples of our Savior, Jesus Christ, reflecting Him as the Light of the world. Students, we challenge each of you to remember this and to lead like Jesus led, by serving others around you. What God is doing through His people and ETBU is a remarkable historical testament to how obedience to God’s will manifest in blessings.” Dr. Blackburn continued, “In this holiday season of giving, I am reminded of the ultimate gift that our Lord gave us through His son, Jesus, and the price He went on to pay on our behalf. I am profoundly honored and blessed to be in leadership at ETBU, where I get to witness Jesus’ servanthood and character through our faculty, staff, and students daily.”

Providing the keynote address during the ceremony, Dean International, Inc. President and CEO David Dean charged the graduates to follow the example of Christ by fulfilling the needs of others. Dr. Dean is also the principal shareholder of David A. Dean, P.C., a public policy administrative regulatory law firm. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Southern Methodist University and Juris Doctor degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Using examples from Scripture, Texas History, and his own life, Dr. Dean emphasized the importance of reflecting on the past, anticipating the future, and finding a place in eternal Kingdom work.

“You have an advantage in life because you have been educated at a Christ-centered University that encourages you not to lean on your own understanding, but to discern the will of God and follow your calling,” Dr. Dean shared. “Each of you is graduating prepared and equipped to navigate this world. I challenge you not to squander what you have learned and to help others understand the Truth. Find the need and fill it. Christ came to Earth to fulfill the need of humanity by redeeming His creation and restoring relationship with the Father. My charge to you, graduates, is to take advantage of the bright future the Lord has given you.”

Graduating Summa Cum Laude, ETBU Bachelor of Science in Accounting graduate Mpanga Chanda received the President’s Award for her exceptional example as a Christian leader, scholar, and servant. While at ETBU, Chanda has been actively involved in Enactus, where she serves both the campus and Marshall community through business-related projects. She also served as a Supplementary Instruction Tutor in Accounting and Economics and member of Mobberly Baptist Church. Chanda intends to pursue a Master’s degree in Accounting at Texas A&M University.   

One nomination described Chanda as, “professional, friendly, very capable, and helpful. But, more important, Mpanga shines the light of Christ in her work and life through her attitude, smile, and humble spirit.”

ETBU Bachelor of Arts in English graduate Mark Ramos 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 Business Administration in Management graduate Jordan Gray. Special music was performed by ETBU’s Concert Choir, directed by Dr. Justin Hodges. Dean of the School of Communication and Performing Arts Thomas Webster led worship during the ceremony. Music throughout the service featured Organist Cathy DeRousse and ETBU Music Education Director Cammy Burkhalter.

“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.”

ETBU offers 11 graduate and 43 undergraduate degree programs to develop Christian servant leaders. Learn more about how to be a Tiger at