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Historic milestones mark 2019 Spring Commencement at Trinity International University

Trinity CommunicationsMay 11, 2019

Trinity International University conferred about 420 degrees to undergraduate, graduate, law, and divinity students during Spring Commencement ceremonies this month in Florida, Illinois and California.

When added to the totals from Fall Commencement, TIU has awarded just more than 500 degrees during the 2018-19 academic year.

In Deerfield, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), Trinity Graduate School and the undergraduate college conferred degrees during ceremonies May 10-11 in Van Dixhorn Arena.

“We are grateful for all of the students recognized at this commencement service,” president David S. Dockery said. “We applaud their hard work and pray for God’s gracious blessings and guidance on their lives.”

Within this 122nd annual commencement, the graduates hold citizenship in at least 18 nations. They come from as far away as India, Nigeria and Germany.

The ceremonies marked several historic institutional milestones:

  • TEDS welcomed its first Korean Doctor of Ministry graduating class from Seoul. The 17 graduates took their entire course of study in Korean and flew to Deerfield to receive their degrees.
  • A degree granted in absentia to Terry Allen represents the first Master of Arts in Theological Studies at TEDS completed fully online. Allen lives in Coffs Harbour, Australia, about 9,000 miles from TIU.
  • Bramwell Wekesa Simiyu participated in the ceremony and received the Master of Arts in Bioethics through the new Kenya program. It is the third international location for bioethics education at Trinity, joining India and China.
  • Three members of the TEDS faculty retire at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. They are Bruce L. Fields, professor of faith and culture; James K. Hoffmeier, professor of Old Testament and ancient Near Eastern history and archaeology; and John F. Kilner, director of bioethics programs, professor of bioethics and contemporary culture, and the Franklin and Dorothy Forman chair of Christian ethics and theology. Together, their careers represent 77 years of experience at TEDS and Trinity Graduate School. Each has been named an emeritus professor.

Daniel Dong-won Lee delivered the Deerfield commencement addresses from Jeremiah 33:1-3 and Luke 15:25-29.

Starting with his biblical exposition as a pastor, he has published more than 120 Christian books in the Korean language. Lee earned a Doctor of Missiology degree from TEDS in 1994 and at one time pastored Seoul Memorial Baptist Church, the mother church of the Korean Baptist Convention. During campus recognitions this week, TEDS recognized him as the 2019 Alumnus of the Year.

Lee founded KOSTA (Korean Student All Nations) with the goal of presenting the Gospel message to Korean students studying in the United States. More than 20,000 students from 12 nations participate in KOSTA each year.

His address, titled “Vision and Obedience,” focused on the importance of global evangelism at this moment in history.

“Lift your eyes to see the entire global village that God loves so much,” Lee said. “There are so many unreached people who are still waiting for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Lift your eyes and see that the fields are white unto harvest.”

“We are thrilled to have someone of Dr. Lee’s stature and influence to speak to this year’s graduates and their families,” Dockery said.

Isuwa Atsen earned the Doctor of Philosophy in Theological Studies at TEDS. He and his wife Esther, who is a Ph.D. student at TEDS, plan to return to their native Nigeria with their four children. Isuwa will teach at a seminary and serve as a part-time pastor.

Carlos Lollett won the President’s Award at TEDS and earned a Master of Divinity degree. A native of Venezuela, Lollett is married to Cassie and the couple have two daughters. Lollett plans to plant a church in Miami.

Among the Trinity Graduate School graduates, Victoria Spraker made the decision several years ago to switch careers. Originally a firefighter, Spraker earned a Master of Arts in Teaching degree and now plans to work as an elementary school classroom teacher.

Student Government Association president Jendayi Campbell addressed the undergraduate ceremonies on behalf of the class of 2019. A member of the TIU women’s basketball team, Campbell completes a degree in athletic training and plans to pursue graduate work in nursing with a focus on becoming a clinical nurse leader.

“We have accomplished an outcome that many young people never accomplish,” Campbell said. “Our attitudes must change from ‘what can I do?’ to ‘what does God want us to do for Him?’”

Among those receiving bachelor’s degrees is Nathan M. Schlagel of Grayslake, Illinois. Schlagel is a Christian ministries major and Trinity’s 2018 Lincoln Laureate, one of the highest honors an Illinois college student can receive. Schlagel has been a Kantzer scholar and a participant in the TIU Honors Program. He will begin work on a Master of Divinity degree this fall at TEDS.

Schlagel said TIU “classmates and professors have consistently encouraged me to grow, to learn, to pursue Christ, and to invest on this campus and in the world around me.”

In California, Trinity Law School will confer 78 degrees May 18 in a ceremony at the Fullerton Evangelical Free Church. The commencement speaker scheduled is Jeffrey Brauch, professor of law at Regent Law School. He also serves as executive director of Regent’s Center for Global Justice, Human Rights & and the Rule of Law.

This is the second year TLS has conferred Master of Legal Studies degrees. The number of graduates in that program grew from eight last year to 52 at this year’s commencement.

Trinity’s Florida campuses in Fort Lauderdale and Kendall graduated 42 students May 4 at a ceremony in the sanctuary of Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale. Derek Allen, a faculty member on the Florida campuses, delivered the commencement address.

Silvia Barbu, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education, took the designation as Valedictorian of the Florida class. The distinction stems from academic achievement and a vote of the faculty. For the last 10 years, she has worked as a teaching assistant at Bethune Elementary School in Hollywood, Florida. Originally from Romania and fluent in three languages, Barbu said attending TIU has given her the educational knowledge to realize her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.

The Deerfield ceremonies streamed live on the internet, and archived recordings of each service are available for viewing at in the “on demand” section.

(Photos by David Beirne)

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