Olivet sends Aspiring Class of 2021 into their futures during graduation festivities

“One chapter of your life is ending, but another is just beginning.” — University President John C. Bowling

May 10, 2021 Academics

Celebrating the Class of 2021 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 week as college students with a silent disco, Ollies Follies-style wacky and athletic games and a class hangout in Manteno. 

Then on Friday evening, the Baccalaureate service was a time to worship together as a campus community for a final time in Centennial Chapel.

Special music by the University Orchestra, Orpheus Choir and School of Music faculty, and Cynthia VanSteenburg, Pharm.D., mother of Tyler VanSteenburg, and Tacia Glade, mother of Keegan Glade, read passages of scripture.

Two outstanding graduates, Shemara Fontes and Hogan Spencer, shared their testimonies of the impact of an Olivet education. Shemara majored in communication studies and Hogan majored in actuarial science/data science.

Senior class president, Michaela Williams, introduced University President John C. Bowling, for his final message to inspire the graduates.

“We’re not so concerned with what you know. It’s more about who you are, because in the final analysis, that will determine the quality of your life,” Dr. Bowling said. “One chapter of your life is ending, but another is just beginning… Be assured that He who began a good work in you will carry it through to completion. Arm yourself with that confidence.”

The 108th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday morning marked the academic achievements of this class with the conferral of 617 bachelor’s degrees. The ceremony took place outside on Ward Field and graduates sat with their guests in socially-distanced pods of chairs.

Following the processional of the faculty, the Playlist, comprised of Amber Olney, Luke Olney and Wes Taylor, opened the ceremony by singing the National Anthem.

President-elect, Dr. Gregg Chenoweth provided encouragement to the graduates by recounting his own graduation experience. “It’s amazing that as we’ve trusted God with our lives, he’s been faithful all the way… God is credible for your future… More remarkable things are coming. To His Glory!”

Additional special guest speakers included General Superintendent for the Church of the Nazarene, Dr. David Graves, who gave an opening prayer; Peter Lartey, father of graduate Suzana Lartey, who read the scripture, Mathew 6: 19-33; and Dr. Scott Sherwood, former chair of the Board of Trustees, who provided a message of thanksgiving to Dr. Bowling for his years of leadership of the University.

Russ Bredholt, Jr., Litt.D., president of Bredholt & Co., on behalf of the Class of 1971, charged the graduating class that it pays to be different. “With an improving job market and similarity of talent, something must separate you from the multitudes. For example, being trustworthy; listening well; and cooperating with others to get things done—even if working from an apartment on Zoom.”

Dr. Bredholt then paraphrased Ephesians 2:10 in encouraging the graduates, “For you are God’s masterpiece. He has created you anew in Christ Jesus, so you can do the good things he planned for you long ago.”

During the ceremony, Alexi Zastro and Tanner Senti received the Maggie Sloan Crawford and Robert Milner awards for outstanding female and male graduates. Alexi majored in biology, and Tanner majored in zoology.

Additional highlights of the 2021 graduation week:

  • Military Commissioning Ceremony for nine new U.S. Army Second Lieutenants: Caleb Allen (nursing), Maxim Baron (pastoral ministry), Aubrey Hertzler (criminal justice), Delaney Moul (public policy), Duncan Nee (criminal justice), Kaleb Peters (criminal justice), Chase Powers (business administration), Sydney Smith (sociology), and Sara Stark-Bastin (chemistry).

  • Social Work Pinning Ceremony honored the 35 Bachelor of Social Work degree graduates.
  • Senior Pinning Ceremony welcomed 38 new nurses into the profession.
  • Teacher Education Sending Service.
  • Reception honoring the 13 Honors Program graduates.

  • School of Graduate and Continuing Studies (SGCS) Commencement ceremony, during which 89 adult studies bachelor’s degrees, 413 master’s degrees and 10 doctoral degrees were conferred, and the Ralph E. Perry Student Award of Excellence was given to Poppy Miller, who received her master’s degree in organizational leadership.


“It’s been a rich privilege for Jill and me to be part of the Olivet community across these years. What a wonderful capstone moment to be here and to share this moment with you!” — University President John C. Bowling 

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

Photography by Joe Mantarian & Image Group
Published 5/10/2021

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

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