Hundreds gathered at Central Community Church in Wichita, Kan. on Saturday, May 13 during two separate ceremonies to honor the 2017 spring graduates during this year's commencement ceremonies.
Families, friends, and supporters watched as undergraduate candidates processed into the cathedral at 10 a.m. at Central Community Church on west Maple. The ceremony honored 57 associate's degree candidates and 262 bachelor's degree candidates.
The commencement address was presented by Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Jill Fort, Ph.D. Fort was the recipient of the 2016 Teaching Excellence Award, which is an annual award given to a full-time faculty member who has demonstrated an innovative or dynamic approach to courses, course revisions, and teaching techniques.
In her speech, Fort told the students, "Sometimes we have a tendency to crave big, but we may be running after the wrong things. Doing small things well is not a bad thing, and can actually lead to a degree of difference that pays off in the end."
She added, "You — all dressed in black — you are my kids. I would like to take the opportunity to tell you all now, 'thank you.' I've been given the opportunity to share some incredible moments with my students. I've had the chance to watch them figure out their path."
Fort closed her speach with, "And as for my final words of wisdom (...) always challenge yourself. Don't live a 'maybe,' 'could have,' or 'should have' life. Always push your current self to be better than your past self. Go out there and transform society."
Each year, Newman awards an honorary degree to notable and accomplished members of the extended Newman community whose life and work reflect exemplary dedication to one of the university’s four Core Values: Catholic Identity, Culture of Service, Academic Excellence, and Global Perspective.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Long, Ph.D. said, "The degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, has been used by colleges and universities for centuries (...) the tradition of an honorary degree is almost as old as academia itself."
This year, Dana and Larry Fugate were bestowed this honor for their dedication to charitable and faith-based organizations for children within the community, and their strong examples of the Catholic faith and Catholic higher education.
Both Larry and Dana have a long association with Newman University and the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. Dana attended classes at Newman for two years, during which time she developed an even stronger connection with the Adorers.
Larry, the founder and chief executive of Fugate Enterprises, along with Dana, has given generous support to Newman, including donations to the 1990's capital campaign to build O'Shaughnessy Hall and the gymnasium that bears the Fugate name. They also contributed generously to the Facing Foward campaign, the largest in Newman history, to build the Bishop Gerber Science Center and renovate nursing and allied health spaces in Eck Hall.
Each year, a special award is presented to a female and male graduate who exemplify the mission and spirit of Newman University, and who show great promise to make a strong and positive contribution to society.
The Ablah Awards were established by Fran and Geri (Ablah) Jabara to honor the memory of Geri’s parents Harvey J. and Leona J. Ablah, and to perpetuate their vision of entrepreneurism and the American dream. Award recipients must have completed at least 62 credit hours at Newman and graduate with a grade point average of 3.2 or higher. Each student receives a $2,500 award.
The 2017 recipient of the Leona J. Ablah Award was Diana Stanley of Goddard, Kan., and the recipient of the Harvey J. Ablah Award and was David Baalmann of Colwich, Kan.
Stanley is a history major with minors in English, international studies, and pre-law.
“I have a lot of people to be grateful to (…) Dr. Cheryl Golden and Dr. Susan Crane-Laracuente as well as Sr. Charlotte Rohrbach,” Stanley said. “Newman gave me a lot of different unusual opportunities that you wouldn’t see at a larger college including a couple of amazing internships, and I studied abroad twice in England as well as India and that really helped getting me out there and seeing something of the world and taking it back with me.”
Biochemistry major David Baalmann was humbled and shocked when he heard his name announced as the recipient of the Harvey J. Ablah Award.
"I was very humbled," said Baalmann, "because I knew it would be a hard decision because of all the candidates we had. I know all of them will go do amazing things. They are so great."
He added, "Newman has really been home for me these past four years, and I think what I'll take away from my experience is the ability to be involved."
The Newman University Commencement for graduate students took place at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, honoring 222 candidates for master's degrees. The procession was led by the River City Pipes and Drums, followed by a welcome from Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Long, Ph.D.
Closing the ceremony was President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D., during which time she announced a formal conferring of degrees, congratulating the graduates and welcoming them as "daughters and sons of Newman University forever."
During her closing remarks, Carrocci said, "As I think about each of your master's degree programs, how wonderful the contributions you'll be able to make — in business, in education, in theology, in nurse anesthesia, in social work — all of these degrees reflect our mission beautifully.
"Have 'heart to heart' in your lives and careers. Know that as a Newman graduate, you are obliged to make your communities better, to transform them. We have faith that you will do that."
Nicholas Eden, who recieved his master's in theological studies, said, "I got my undergraduate degree here, so I got really close to the teachers (...) so I decided I should get my master's degree here as well." Eden would like to teach at the high school or college level in the future — he is currently a youth minister.
Master of science in education - organizational leadership degree recipient Jeremiah Espinoza said he will take with him relationship building skills that he gained during his time at Newman. Espinoza was the graduate assistant basketball coach for the Newman men's basketball team, and said his time in the program will be beneficial to his future career.
"My experience in the program has helped me tremendously in my field of work," said Espinoza. "How to approach people and how to take on leadership roles."