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Commencement 2004

Maybe it’s too easy to lump Southwestern College alumni into a group.

Because they tend to be described as a single unit, we forget, sometimes, that “Builders” is a plural composed of many, many individuals. Commencement 2004 told that message and underlined it 430 times.

Ryan Miller, who was honored as an outstanding business graduate, pointed it out. “There’s a story behind each one of us you see graduating today,” he said.

There was Andrew Singh, who spoke at baccalaureate of his childhood in India. “When I was 10 years old, I would look up at the sky and ask my mother if I would ever be in a plane going to another country,” he said. “Today my dream is fulfilled because my God has been with me.”

And there was 77-year-old Wallace Gray, who had taught at Southwestern College 40 years but jubilantly claimed the new graduates as fellow alumni as he received his honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Some were eager to leave Southwestern for the real world; others were apprehensive about uncertain futures.

Megan Otto summed up a common emotion: “I come before you as a graduate who does not know what she’s going to do with the rest of my life, and I’m okay with that. I’ve been prepared for however God wants to use me.”

Not only were their backgrounds different, they celebrated their accomplishments in unique style—one graduate with Hawaiian heritage was festooned with dozens of congratulatory leis.

By the time the afternoon had finished, more than 300 graduates of the eligible 430 had walked across the stage, and in the process had become part of the Builder alumni.

The Class of 2004, 430 individual stories.


Robert Kelly (l), executive director of the Kansas Independent College Association, was presented the Servant Leadership Award, and Wallace Gray received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at Commencement 2004.

Dr. Merriman,

I am writing in celebration of my husband’s accomplishments. I felt strongly that you and your faculty need to hear the personal appreciation that my family and I sincerely feel for the part that you played in my husband’s achievement.

After five years of evening classes, my husband, Ryan Miller, is nearing the end of this education al chapter…

I am so proud of him and understand clearly that his education and experiences at Southwestern College have enabled him to confidently strive for and achieve his leadership goals and potential.

He is a wonderful role model for our three boys, a leader in our church always aspiring to please God first, and a wonderful asset to his employer.

I felt it was important to express to you my sincere thanks, and let you know that I will be forever grateful to the faculty and staff at Southwestern College for encouraging my husband to be steadfast in persevering towards his educational goals….

Mrs. Patta Miller

(Excerpted from a letter to President Dick Merriman)

Be brave,


Sue (Lewis) Hale '66, a new member of the Southwestern College Board of Trustees, delivers the Commencement address.

• Wisdom is like rain. Sometimes it takes a while to sink in. I didn’t realize what bits of wisdom I’d accumulated until years after I graduated. You may not be fully aware yet of all the lessons you have learned in your time at Southwestern. But as the years pass, and with some introspection on your part, they will become more evident.

• You may stay in the field in which you have earned a degree, you may end up in a totally different area, or as happens often, you may have several careers.

• But I have found that the key to being happy in a career is doing something you look forward to every day. And the greatest satisfaction is seeing other people reach their goals

.• The first step toward accomplishment is believing in yourself. Your horizons are only limited by your imagination!

• You can’t quit. What seems impossible at one time can be quite probable at a different time.

• Take the education, and the tools you’ve earned and do your best to make the world a better place. We can’t do it all at once, and we can’t do it overnight; but if enough of us try, and keep on trying, we can make a difference.

(excerpted from Sue Hale's address)