Commencement weekend at Concordia University St. Paul is always a time of great celebration, and 2016 will be no exception. Some 1,377 students are expected to graduate this year, a number that will eclipse last year’s record 1,263. The increasing number of graduates is due to growing enrollments in traditional undergraduate, non-traditional undergraduate, and graduate programs, as well as improving rates of persistence to graduation across all programs. The numbers translate more importantly into individual lives changed and success stories written. Many of our graduates achieve their degree-seeking aspirations amidst extremely challenging circumstances, and we are proud of each and every one.
In addition to celebrating the class of 2016, we will also honor the lifetime accomplishments of a number of our alumni. Rev. David Andrus (’81) will be awarded the Doctor of Letters degree and serve as commencement speaker at Friday evening’s ceremony. Despite having lost his eyesight at the age of 11, Pastor Andrus successfully earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Concordia, went on to earn Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees at Concordia Seminary, and has served effectively in both blind and sighted ministries for 30 years.
Alumnus and alumna Vern (’55, ’57) and Betty Lorenz (’58) Gundermann will be awarded the Aeterna Moliri award in recognition for their life-long efforts as “builders for eternity.” Vern served as pastor and Betty as pastor’s wife in a number of wonderful congregations, including for two decades Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church here in the Twin Cities. They are perhaps giving the greatest witness of their lives, however, as Vern now lives out his days with ALS.
Alumnus Dan Farrise (’08) will serve as speaker for the Saturday morning ceremony. Mr. Farrise earned his Bachelor of Arts degree as a working adult, just as did most of those who will receive their diplomas at this ceremony. He attributes much of his career and personal success to his Concordia experience, and I know his compelling story will inspire the class of “16.
At Saturday afternoon’s ceremony, nationally-known historian Dr. Sara Evans will serve as commencement speaker. The University is also awarding Dr. Evans the honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Dr. Evans is a graduate of Duke University (BA ’66, MA ’68) and earned a PhD from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1976. She spoke on our campus earlier this academic year and made a big impression on our campus community. I am pleased that she accepted our invitation to speak to the graduates from the Graduate School programs.
With apologies to Edmund Pola and George Wyle, in academia commencement is truly “the most wonderful time of the year!” I look forward to celebrating with all of you.