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Centennial commencement adds 239 grads

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated its centennial-year spring graduation as hundreds of students, faculty members and guests gathered on the lawn in front of the B.H. Carroll Memorial Building.

The commencement, as described by SWBTS President Paige Patterson, was “a salute to all of those who have gone before and made an immeasurable contribution” to the seminary since its founding in 1908.

In honor of the seminary’s western heritage, faculty members substituted black beaver felt cowboy hats for their academic caps.

Southwestern conferred degrees on 239 students from 26 states and 12 countries, including Korea, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Germany, during the May 9 ceremony.

In a last word to the students, Patterson pointed to the heart of service displayed by the seminary’s founder, B.H. Carroll, and ultimately by Jesus Christ. Patterson urged the graduates to leave the Fort Worth, Texas, campus not with the desire for a career and financial gain but with the desire to serve and proclaim the Gospel.

As they go into the world to fulfill this call, they will face many trials, but Patterson reminded them of God’s faithfulness. “Sometimes the mountains may seem insurmountable,” he said. “Sometimes it will seem as though the wall cannot be breached, but remember that all things are possible with God.”

Southwestern honored two retiring faculty members by inviting them to take part in the commencement service. New Testament professor Siegfried Schatzmann led in the reading of Scripture and Robert H. Welch, dean of the school of educational ministries, delivered the benediction.

Several parents of the graduates also were invited to participate. James Caldwell, who led the invocation, is senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Saint Albans, W.Va., and father of master of divinity graduate James W. Caldwell II. Tom Vann, associate professor of pastoral ministry, presented master’s degrees to his daughter Audrea (Vann) Medina, his son-in-law Jeffrey Medina and his daughter-in-law Heather Vann.

Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, delivered a prayer of commissioning after the graduates received their diplomas. His son Andrew graduated with a bachelor of arts in humanities from the College at Southwestern. Additionally, David Bertch, professor of humanities in the College at Southwestern, presented his daughter Daria with her bachelor of arts in humanities.

Andrew Pearle and Daria Bertch were part of the first class to receive bachelor of arts in humanities degrees at the College at Southwestern.

“[Coming to Southwestern] was the best decision I could have made,” Pearle said. “Now I have an education that I trust and a theology that I can build upon without wondering if it is true or biblical.” Pearle intends to remain at Southwestern to pursue a master of divinity. Bertch, who plans to begin work on a master’s degree in occupational therapy, said she will miss “the amazing people, both professors and friends,” she met at Southwestern.
Benjamin Hawkins is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. To see video highlights of the centennial spring graduation, visit www.swbts.edu/2008SpGrad.

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