Olivet Celebrates the 110th Commencement Weekend Events

Highlights from the Baccalaureate service and the Commencement ceremonies for the undergraduate and graduate class of 2023.

May 8, 2023 Academics

Celebrating the Class of 2023 was top priority at Olivet Nazarene University during the first week of May. After completing their final rounds of presentations, exams, papers and projects, seniors had time to enjoy their last few days together as college students with a picnic, bowling, a special senior breakfast, a White Sox game, free movies at a local theatre and a shared night of worship.

On Friday evening, the Baccalaureate service in Hawkins Centennial Chapel was a time to worship together as a campus community for a final time. Special music was provided by the wind ensemble, Orpheus Choir and School of Music faculty. Terry Bate, parent of graduate Sutton Bate, read a passage of scripture.

Two outstanding graduates, Sierra Harris and Erik Beal, shared their testimonies of the impact of an Olivet education on their lives. Sierra majored in studio art and Erik majored in elementary education.


Brock Kant, co-chair of the Student Development Advisory Group, introduced University President Gregg A. Chenoweth, Ph.D., who spoke a message of inspiration and encouragement over the graduates—reminding them that their degrees provide credentials for the workplace, but their faith journey is a commissioning.

“There’s a capital C calling for all of us, to come to Christ for salvation. Then there’s the lowercase c, callings, those are plural. Equipped by God for every good work through every domain. … You know you’re getting close to your calling that while you’re seeking God, He’s also seeking you. It feels like an aspiration, more than an obligation. … We’re going to commission you not to a job, or to a career, … but to a calling. … So, class of 2023, we hope you maintain this vital dedication of your calling, to endure, and you can, under the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit.”

The 110th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday morning marked the academic achievements of this class with the conferral of 549 bachelor’s degrees in Hawkins Centennial Chapel. 

Following the processional of the faculty, the National Anthem was sung by graduate Mikayla Tackaberry.

Guest speakers included Don Wilson, father of graduate Sydnie Ellise Wilson, who gave the invocation; Amy Williams, mother of Kevin Matthew Williams, who read the scripture, Mathew 6: 19-33; and Dr. Scott Sherwood, President of Nazarene Bible College who gave the commencement address.

“So much has changed in only four years, but you don’t need me to tell you that,” Dr. Sherwood said. “During your college journey, you had every reason to drop out, to melt down, to slow your pace, to run away, to give up, but you persevered and you are here today against all odds ready to walk across this stage and enter into your calling. … Your generation is facing what is known to be some massive challenges. As followers of Jesus, how do we engage this world? … God is sending you into this world to be a source of exactly what this world desperately needs. … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. But the world needs more of these than you have to give. … the real thing is only available through the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life. If you don’t see those, don’t be discouraged. You know where to find them in abundant supply.”

Next in the ceremony, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Stephen Lowe, Ph.D., recognized Jay Height with the honorary doctorate degree of letters for his contributions as a gifted, exemplary churchman.

Mel Says, J.D., representative of the Class of 1973, charged the graduating class to seek, know and live truth.

“Here, at Olivet, you learned to know the Truth. The truth is: there is a God. The truth is: there is a heaven for the saved and a hell for the sinner. The truth is: we can be saved through Jesus Christ. The truth is: God the Holy Spirit indwells and empowers us. The truth is that the Bible is truth. … The truth is that Jesus Christ is coming again as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. The truth is that you will need all of these truths in your life now and in the next 50 years of your life. … May God speak truth into your life daily, I pray. May God richly bless you!”

Dr. Lowe then presented Beth Schurman, Ph.D. with the Richard M. Jones Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence and Kristian Veit, Ph.D. with the Samuel L. Mayhugh Award for Scholarly Excellence.

Vice President for Student Development Jason Stephens, Ph.D. recognized Courtney Hall and Noah Finney as the respective recipients of the Maggie Sloan Crawford and Robert Milner awards for outstanding female and male graduates. Courtney double-majored in social science (education) and history, and Noah double-majored in zoology and geological science.

The ceremony concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater, led by Dr. Neal Woodruff, and the benediction given by parent of Katherine MacPherson, Edie MacPherson.

Additional highlights of the 2023 graduation week:

  • Military Commissioning Ceremony for six new U.S. Army Second Lieutenants: Ezekiel Amposta (biology), Aja Gentry (criminal justice), Brennen Herr (criminal justice), Connor Pinney (social work), Chance Stark (criminal justice), and Paul Limentato (nursing).

  • Social Work Pinning Ceremony honored the 22 Bachelor of Social Work degree graduates.
  • Senior Pinning Ceremony, which welcomed 46 new nurses into the profession.

  • Teacher Education Sending Service, celebrated 64 teachers ready for their first year of teaching.

  • Reception honoring the 15 Honors Program graduates.

  • Graduate Commencement ceremony, during which 35 adult studies bachelor’s degrees, 291 master’s degrees and 11 doctoral degrees were conferred, and the Willis E. Snowbarger Award for Teaching Excellence was presented to Kathleen Meleskie-Lippert Ed.D. by Tiffany Greer, Ph.D., the Associate Dean of Olivet’s School of Nursing.

– View the Commencement album here. –

To learn more about Olivet’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@olivet.edu or 800-648-1463.


Published 5/8/2023

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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