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Commencement 2010 On Its Way

May 5th, 2010

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722

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Graduating seniors Tia Ly (foreground) and Christina Comfort (to her left) during their freshman orientation in Fall, 2006

As the last weeks of the 2009/2010 school year wind down, lunchtime in the Barbara Hodel Center (BHC) dining commons sees certain side booths fill to double and triple capacity. Seniors pull up extra chairs, wanting to be close to their friends, knowing that change is hanging overhead, waiting to separate them by hundreds of miles or more.

“I have my last class this afternoon,” says one senior.

“I have 40 more pages of practicum, then finals, and then I’m done,” adds another.

Senior Rachel Reiley posted on her Facebook profile a picture of herself wearing her graduation gown and writing a paper on her laptop. The caption: “My graduation gown is my muse.” Like her, mostly, the class of 2010 faces life ahead with anticipation. Some seniors are looking forward to further education, attending grad school on top scholarships. A few others, like Christy Hailes, who actually graduated at the end of the fall semester, are already employed. Hailes, a CLA: Education major, works at a Christian private school in the area.

PHC President Dr. Graham Walker speaks during the Fall 2006 Convocation

Both PHC President Dr. Graham Walker and Provost Dr. Gene Edward Veith express a special kinship with these students, the ones who chose to attend Patrick Henry College at the same time as Drs. Walker and Veith took up their current positions.

“In some ways, I am a senior too,” explains Dr. Veith. “As I have learned how to work in this community, addressing its unique issues, this is the class that did it with me.”

This year’s Commencement weekend, which features a new Baccalaureate ceremony on Friday, May 14, at 7:00pm, will provide a special chance to glorify God for His work in so many lives over the last four years. PHC Chancellor Dr. Michael Farris will preach the Baccalaureate sermon at this special, traditional worship service. The Saturday morning’s Commencement ceremony welcomes Bishop Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church, as the speaker.

Bishop Jackson, 2010 Commencement speaker

Bishop Jackson has written several award-winning books and spoken on numerous radio shows. As founder and Chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition (HILC), he has declared that the church and its leaders must lead the way to protect America’s moral compass and heal our nation. His resume also includes significant secular business experience. Read his full bio on the Commencement Schedule webpage and RSVP for events.

The end of a school year provides a key time both for reflection over the prior year and to look forward at the next. Drs. Walker and Veith highlighted the joy that the PHC community has received from its newest building, the Barbara Hodel Student Life Center, which the campus dedicated in the Fall 2009 semester.

“The Hodel Center says visually to the world that PHC is here to stay. Students have a much more complete campus,” noted Dr. Walker, pointing out how the coffee house area has especially become a focal point. Dr. Veith, meanwhile, marvelled that he “can’t believe we’ve only had it one semester.

Graduating senior Cate Pilgrim as Roxane in Eden Troupe's Fall 2006 production of Cyrano de Bergerac

“It enabled some big events, such as the lecture presented by Chinese economist Dr. Zhao, which drew audience members from Washington, D.C. and all over the area, as well as the public reading by John Erickson,” he remarked.

Even more than physical advancements on campus, Dr. Walker stated that he is “very pleased with the way chapel services have grown.” Especially in the music guilds, “student leadership has really grown in its capacity.” With a blend of hymns and biblically-based contemporary worship, each team of students has improved its ability to lead peers in one of the three campus-wide chapel services each week.

Dr. Veith said that Christian Study Groups have also provided a practical foundation for affecting the culture, with their once-weekly study of the life and times of William Wilberforce and the Clapham Circle. Aligned perfectly with the College’s goals to impact the world “for Christ and for liberty,” Chuck Stetson’s edited book of essays taught students “how Christians can be involved in secular culture and government—in an effective way,” said Dr. Veith.

“It’s not just about political involvement and action,” he outlined, “but by winning over the culture by the attractiveness of love and mercy—the Christian ethic.”

Graduating senior Jonathan Roose (R) during the coffee shop dedication of the BHC

In one or two corporate chapels each week during the Spring 2010 semester, seniors presented their testimonies. Dr. Walker saw in their words hearts and lives dedicated to the things that matter.

“The general tenor of the senior testimonies culminated in last Friday’s faculty appreciation night,” he smiled. “Their desires are in the right place. They thanked their professors—but even more than that, it was the reasons they gave for being thankful. For serving individually. For humble spirits.

“It’s worth having these beautiful buildings to house such a spirit,” Dr. Walker commented.

Kati Graupner, a December 2009 graduate, and her fiance, graduating senior Matthew Exline, after a PHC tradition -- Matthew's engagement "bobtism" in Lake Bob


These seniors are high achievers. In the last four years, they have won national moot court titles, spent a year in China, spent a year under mentorship from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, won essay contests, interned in many fascinating venues, served in the community, and so much more. Like Rachel Reiley, who has worked with the Purcellville Rescue Squad in Purcellville and participated on campus in leadership positions from the Student Ambassador program to soccer, they have tossed themselves heart and soul into building their college and the surrounding area. But their achievements do not rise to the top in their minds.

“You can’t lead until you learn to follow. That’s why I value things like respect,” said Reiley in a senior profile in the PHC Herald. “Academics are not everything. Sports are not even everything. Life is about the people you interact with and invest in.”

Looking forward to the next school year and the College’s ten-year anniversary, President Walker gave a small foreshadowing of future news.

“Our strategic planning process has matured to the point where we have a clear plan looking toward the next ten years,” he said, “and the Board of Trustees has given clear directions on how to move from here to there.”

To RSVP for the 2010 Commencement ceremonies, click here.