In the life of Fresno Pacific University every beginning depends on an ending. Every starting point has a history. Every commencement depends on a completion. At 10 o’clock Saturday morning May 6, 2017, in Selland Arena the Symphonic Band and organ broke into the rousing fanfare and processional music written by Professor Walter Saul that began the spring commencement ceremony. The curtain at the northwest entrance separated and 5,000 supporters cheered for the entering 500 graduates, faculty, administrators and trustees in full academic regalia.
The beginning of that grand celebration marked the end of months of careful preparation to ensure that this great event would be a fitting culmination of the long years of demanding and dedicated labor of learning by teachers and students. All along the way, that labor was constantly and professionally supported by staff who ensured everything necessary was available, from lights in the parking lots to books and Internet connections in the library; from laboratory equipment and supplies to athletic fields and training room supplies; from sending the first letter of admission to posting the final grade and issuing the notice of approval to participate in commencement.
It is an enormously complex and demanding process. There are a thousand ways for things to go wrong and in the end only a few ways for everything to finish properly. A very small percentage of people ever complete a degree or professional credential from a selective Christian university like Fresno Pacific, and it is no wonder that so many friends and family gather to celebrate this special achievement. Still, it is appropriate that the event which marks the completion of a degree is called a commencement. The ending of one long and determined effort marks the beginning of a whole new set of opportunities to use that degree and the education it represents to do God’s will in service to humanity.
The commencement speaker this spring was Barry Black, Ph.D., D.Min., chaplain of the United States Senate. His address amplified the statement of Jesus that serves as the biblical reference for the Fresno Pacific brand: With God all things are possible. Black challenged the graduates and all those who have supported them to take on the challenges of life knowing that “failure is not an option” for those who seek to do the will of the Almighty God who has promised that by faith in him, all things are possible. The close of his inspiring address brought everyone to their feet in boisterous appreciation. The applause that affirmed this commencement would mark not only the completion of a degree from Fresno Pacific University, but also the beginning of a life in which, by God’s grace, failure is not an option in response to God’s call.
God’s will can be accomplished in new and powerful ways in the life of each graduate and in the circles of influence that will surround them wherever they go and whatever they do. It was a beautiful completion and a powerful moment of commencement. It is why Fresno Pacific exists and why it must succeed. It is why the challenging present must be prologue to the glorious future.