Published May 7, 2016
Over 200 undergraduate, graduate and seminary students made up Clarks Summit University’s graduating class of 2016. Commencement ceremonies were held Saturday, May 7 in the Recreation Center on the Clarks Summit campus. Degrees ranging from one-year Bible Certificates to doctorate degrees were awarded to the 84 th graduating class.
Dr. Jim Lytle, the University’s 10th president, welcomed guests to the commencement ceremony. “The word ‘commencement’ means ‘beginning.’ It’s always exciting to watch people begin a new phase of life, well equipped, facing an array of great options,” says Dr. Lytle. “These students have proven that they can serve others creatively. That is a ticket to success in life.”
Dr. Bill Higley, vice president for academics, presented the candidates for graduation. “One of the special privileges of teaching is knowing that the students we touch will go places and do things for God that I can only dream of. Their capacity and potential is remarkable. To think we had a small part in preparing them is so humbling and exciting,” describes Dr. Higley. “I can’t wait to hear their stories of how God is using them for His Kingdom purposes.”Board of Trustees member Kelly Huffman gave the invocation, followed by performances by the college choir. Baptist Bible Seminary Dean and Professor Dr. Michael Stallard read from scripture, and Assistant Professor Jonathan Strayer closed with a prayer of dedication.
Dr. Don Shirk, senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and chairman of the Board of Trustees, gave the keynote address entitled “The Skill of Finishing,” based on Acts 20:24. “Dr. Shirk offers our grads a model worthy of imitation,” says Dr. Lytle. “He has served in his church in Batavia, NY for 28 years, faithfully caring for the members of the flock. His skill in helping people understand God’s word is amazing.” Dr. Lytle believes having this three-time Summit University alumnus address the 2016 graduates will build confidence in the new alumni. “Dr. Shirk has used his education well, and his presence should encourage the grads to move ahead, take some risks and maximize what they have learned.”
Student speakers included Bachelor of Science graduates Christopher Kish, an Outreach Pastor major from LaGrange, Ohio. “The will of God is simple,” he announced. “Love God; love others; make disciples, and baptize them. It looks different for different people, but the principle is the same… Let go of the world’s script. Do something awesome for Christ… Don’t let fear or money or comfort get in the way. God’s script says, ‘Trust me, I will provide.’ If we can trust God with our eternity, why can’t we trust him with tomorrow?”
Addressing the audience, Kristen Miller, a Business Administration major from Cortland, New York, said,”The most valuable lesson I’ve learned at Summit University is boldness. To be Bold. Fellow graduates, as we enter the world beyond Summit University, we must be prepared to live boldly… Embrace the quest that God has set out for you. Dare to live courageously. Dare to live victoriously. Dare to be bold.”
Virginia Phyllis Festa, Master of Education graduate and South Abington Township, Pennsylvania resident, praised, “We can say as the Psalmist did, ‘The Lord has done great things for us.’”
Representing Baptist Bible Seminary graduates, Richard E. Clark from Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania addressed the audience after being awarded his Master of Divinity degree. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests… 16 years ago my life was changed. My eternity was changed. My life’s purpose was changed. Not only was I chosen to be his child, but He chose me to serve in pastoral ministry. I knew one of the keys to success was to have a solid education that would give me the necessary tools to have true kingdom impact. I was trained, equipped and encouraged by godly men. That’s the beauty of the Seminary. It’s not cramming information, but creating learning environments so men can learn and grasp the truth.”
Doctor of Ministry graduate Evgeny Bakhmutsky grew up in Siberia, Russia, where his family was sent in exile and his grandparents were persecuted for Christ. “They could never imagine one day their grandson one day would stand here,” admitted Bakhmutsky. “Glory to God. Only our Christ can do this.”
Clarks Summit University offers Christ-centered academic distinction and practical, real-world experience in an exceptional mix of on-campus and online options for undergraduate, graduate and seminary students. Fully accredited programs span from high school dual enrollment to more than 40 undergraduate majors, customizable master’s programs and terminal degrees. A pioneer in accredited online biblical education, Summit University also offers fully online programs and accelerated degrees.