On May 9, 2021, Southwestern Adventist University hosted the Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2021 at the Cleburne ISD Jeff D. Cody Auditorium. As was the case in 2020, graduates and families were able to experience a memorable, in-person ceremony at this larger venue.
The celebrations began on campus Friday evening with the Department of Religion’s Theology Commissioning Service. A recognition service for graduates from the Department of Business Administration and a dedication ceremony for those in the Department of Education & Psychology followed on Saturday afternoon. Later that evening, a pinning ceremony for the graduates in the Department of Nursing took place.
Officiating over Sunday’s graduation ceremony for his seventh and final commencement as president of Southwestern Adventist University, Dr. Ken Shaw shared, “You are on the threshold of joining an elite group of people, the alumni of SWAU. I pray that as alumni you will wave the SWAU banner high, that you will always live out our tagline of knowledge, faith and service by being life-long learners, growing in faith, and serving in your churches and in your communities. I also pray that God will abundantly bless each one of you.”
State Representative DeWayne Burns expressed well-wishes to the graduates through a video message. “You’ve all accomplished something great, and you did so with passion, perseverance and grit,” he said. “No matter what path you choose after today, pursue it with all of your heart and might.”
In his commencement address entitled A Strange Land, Pastor Calvin Watkins, president of the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the newly elected North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists vice president for evangelism and regional liaison, offered advice to the class. “As you step out into your destiny – Class of 2021 – remember this: your destiny is not decided by what other people say about you … Your destiny is decided by the plans that God has for you. That’s your destiny,” said Watkins. “If you stick with God, no matter where you find yourself, God is there with you.”
Yami Nevarez, senior class president, spoke to her fellow classmates, acknowledging the unique situation they had endured during the global pandemic. “We left our families, our homes and what was comfortable to defy the odds, obtain a career, become someone and surpass any adversities we would encounter along the way,” she said. “The path forward will be bumpy; we may fail at times and succeed in others. But, in those moments of uncertainty, seek God and trust his word as He will always be the answer.”
Prior to the conferring of degrees, Dr. Donna Berkner, vice president for academic administration, presented facts about the class. Of the 137 graduates, 44 were the first in their family to graduate and 33 have family members who previously graduated from SWAU. In addition, 2 sets of siblings, 3 sets of spouses and 12 parents graduated. Not to be missed was a graduate who received her diploma while carrying her newborn baby, this was even more fitting since Sunday was also Mother’s Day.
At the close of the ceremony, Tony Reyes, vice president for university advancement, welcomed graduates into the Southwestern Adventist University Alumni Association encouraging them to pursue the many opportunities that God will provide to serve Him and their communities.
The Class of 2021 experienced a year unlike what anyone expected before the global pandemic, making the celebrations of this past weekend even more sweet and memorable for the graduates, their families, and the faculty and staff. As the world returns to normal, Southwestern Adventist University remains committed to providing quality higher education in a Christian atmosphere for years to come.