Celebrating Commencement and 4,000 Graduates

Commencement 2011Lindsey Miller wondered if she had been forgotten. Then she wondered if someone was pulling a prank. Then she wondered if she would graduate at all.

The Office Management major from Flagstaff, Arizona, was waiting on the top step, ready to walk across the platform and receive her diploma. That’s when President Marty Marriott suddenly stopped Maranatha’s 43rd annual Commencement ceremony and began to address the crowd.

“I wasn’t sure if the deans were pulling a joke or what,” said Miller, who works with the deans in the Student Life Office. “I mean, it sounds like them … but not during graduation. All I was thinking was, ‘I want my diploma.’ ”

In fact, Marriott announced, Miller had been selected to represent the 4,000th graduate in Maranatha history. She received an engraved desk clock commemorating that milestone. According to the annual Registrar’s Report, 4,063 students have earned degrees since the College was founded in 1968-69.

A total of 136 undergraduates and 25 Maranatha Baptist Seminary graduates received diplomas on May 6. One student completed a rare perfect report card.

Senior Harp Performance major Christina Brier entered the final semester of her senior year with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. A particularly poor quiz grade in Modern European History, however, had put that mark in danger. As graduation approached, Brier began to lament her near-miss. Less than a week before the graduation ceremony, Brier emailed Professor William Licht to ask about her grade. Licht informed Brier that the two lowest grades from the semester’s 25 quizzes would be dropped.

Commencement 2011Perfection had been preserved.

“I know (Licht) didn’t do it just for me, but I was so happy to find that out,” said Brier, who will enroll in a master’s degree program at the prestigious Eastman School of Music this fall.

Vice President for Academic Affairs John Brock said fewer than a dozen students have completed a perfect 4.0 over four years at Maranatha.

Matt Allen (Accounting Management) was runner-up to Brier with a 3.9937 GPA, but Commencement day was still memorable for him. Allen won the Business Student Achievement Award and, along with fellow cadets Keith Kraker and Eric Spagnolo, was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. The sword symbolizing the John W. Sterling ROTC Leadership Award, which recognizes the top cadet among the four colleges that make up Badger Battalion, now belongs to Kraker. He also won the Florence Nightingale Best Bedside Nurse Award as the top student in the Nursing program.

Other major award winners were Chris Jochum (President’s Award), Sarah Pill and Steve Thayer (Founders Awards), Brier (Outstanding Senior Musician), Joel Stevens (Outstanding Graduate Student in Theology), and Jonathan Rehfeldt (Outstanding Student in Biblical Languages).

Commencement 2011An honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree went to Rich Akins, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jefferson, Wisconsin. Akins spoke during Thursday’s Baccalaureate service. David Hershberger, who
has worked at Maranatha since 1974 and has been Registrar since 1978, received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Class president Ethan Childs announced that the seniors had contributed toward the purchase of a new treadmill for the Fitness Center Gym as the traditional class gift.

Some graduates will move directly into fulltime vocational ministry. One of these is Ben Lavicka, who earned his Master of Divinity from the Seminary. He will be the new pastor of a church in Whitewater, Wisconsin.

“As soon as we’re done taking pictures, I’m going to start recruiting some workers,” Lavicka said.

Some students will continue their studies as graduate students. Biology major Andrea Ray won a full scholarship to Purdue University’s Interdisciplinary Life Sciences program, where she will pursue a doctorate in microbiology.

“My goal is to teach microbiology, virology, immunology, or possibly some cell and molecular biology in a Christian college,” Ray said. “Eventually, I would also like to teach short-term at a university in a Spanish-speaking country.”

The busiest graduates were members of the Hibbs family. Randy Hibbs, Maranatha’s Director of Financial Aid, earned his master’s degree in Biblical Counseling. Scott Hibbs, his son, earned a master’s in Cross-Cultural Studies. Katie Hibbs, Randy’s daughter, completed her undergraduate studies in Nursing.

“When Katie passes her nursing boards, we’re all going to get together for a big party,” Randy Hibbs said.

“I started working on my master’s when I was in the pastorate, and I’ve always felt like it was important. I want to be as equipped for the Lord’s work as I can be, and that’s what I want for my children as well. That’s why we’re here.”