On the Friday before commencement, like the rest of faculty and staff (and probably students for that matter), I sat at home gearing myself up for yet another on-campus, end-of-the-year event. This one was the Multicultural Celebration at Butler Church. My wife, Karen, and I grabbed a quick bite to eat, locked up the house and began walking to my last scheduled function before Saturday’s graduation ceremony at Selland Arena. You may already be able to deduce that my heart may not have been in the right place that night. My introverted fatigue (yes, I am an introvert—most people would never guess that) was shouting at me to take a rain check and just pass on this one. I chose to push through, and boy am I glad that I did.
When I arrived, I was greeted by a room full of visibly excited and ostensibly elated students and their families. I was drawn in immediately. Bre Wyse showed me to my seat up in the front of the room and sat me next to our amazing student body president that I’ve had such a wonderful time getting to know and work closely with over the course of the past four years. Veronica Mendez Garcia welcomed me with a smile and a friendly hello (since she’s a public figure around these parts, I feel comfortable mentioning her by name). I felt honored to be sharing a row with her. She is the epitome of a “transformed” FPU student. The Veronica of four years ago showed but faint glimmers of this poised, confident, professional, ready-to-address-an-audience woman that I witnessed that night. My heart swelled as I considered the number of folks on this campus that invested mightily into Veronica to help tease out all the God-given potential that was simmering just below the surface. She connected wonderfully to the room and truly motivated through her brief soliloquy.
As the ceremony went on, a young man spoke about how he had overcome numerous obstacles during his journey and that, as a first-generation student, he managed to pull though to be the first person in his family to hold a bachelor’s degree. I was fairly certain I heard what amounted to be the FPU equivalent of a “yo, Adrian, we did it”-like proclamation from the student to his peers in the room. At this point, if there was a dry eye in the house, I wouldn’t have been able to ascertain it through my, what must have been, dust-induced moist eyes. Go figure it would get so dusty in the worship center at just this time.
As the program drew towards the end, a young woman who four years ago happened to be in a CP152 First-Year Seminar course with one of the best instructors the FPU Collegium has ever witnessed (I’ll give you one guess who—OK, it was me), recited a beautiful prayer in Spanish over the audience. Her composure, grace and eloquence were acknowledged by all. How had this student matured so much in four years? She truly is such a tremendous example of the type of scholar/citizen that blesses us for four years and then goes out to make a profound impact on the world.
The night couldn’t have been more perfect for me. Celebrating these monumental achievements with these magnificent students reinvigorated my heart and made me so incredibly excited to be attending commencement the next day. I was mindful of the notion that those of us who get the privilege to engage with these students are richly blessed by this experience. We meet them well into their developmental journey and God graciously permits us the privilege of walking with them for a brief season of life.
We—the instructors, coaches, mentors, advisors, supervisors and friends—not only teach but also get to learn with our students AND through them. Purposeful transformation, I’ve discovered, takes place in all of us through this profound educational ecosystem called FPU. I remain humbled and honored that God has chosen me to be a participant. The Multicultural Celebration was a welcome and beautiful reminder of just how fortunate we are to do this work.