Wangerin encourages Goshen College graduates to embrace kindness and righteousness during 106th commencement

GOSHEN, Ind. — During the 106th Goshen College commencement weekend April 24-25, students not only received degrees to honor their hard work, but were also able to celebrate and reflect. Acknowledging shared community, national and international events with significant impact on their lives during their undergraduate years, the chosen theme for their commencement “Creation groaning, yearning for peace, embodying hope.”

Master storyteller and Christian theologian Walter Wangerin Jr. delivered the commencement address, “‘For the sake of ten’: Saving the world from destruction,” April 25 in the Roman Gingerich Recreation-Fitness Center as 198 graduates, their families, friends and professors celebrated the culmination of their college journey.

Basing his message on the Old Testament Scripture that relates God telling Abraham that for the sake of 10 righteous people he would not destroy the world, Wangerin, the Valparaiso (Ind.) University Jochum Professor and writer-in-residence, offered four points to graduates to know and follow in their lives: “kindness for another human, conviction of our common humanity despite our differences, confidence that the Creator loves you and knows your name and righteousness,” he said. “For your sake, God will not allow the world to be destroyed.”

As he paced back and forth across the stage, Wangerin, the author of 20 spiritual books for children and adults, told several stories to illustrate how kind and righteous individuals can make a difference. He talked about his son, who was a member of a nearly all African-American high school basketball team that played many all-white basketball teams. One time, as the team was driving into a predominantly all-white town where they were to play, the bus passed a burning cross. The angered coach and team could hardly play the game; but in the second half, something changed. Wangerin’s son started patting the other team on the back whenever they did well and soon it was reciprocated. “Their kindness created a new game on the court,” he said. After the game was over, both teams together stopped a fight from happening.

One hundred and ninety eight degrees were conferred during the ceremony, and 17 students will receive their degrees during May ceremonies at Goshen College-Sarasota, the college’s satellite school in Florida, bringing the total of Goshen College’s 2004 graduates to 215.

During the student-led Baccalaureate service Sunday morning, President Shirley H. Showalter offered the sermon, “The Creation Groans: Do You Hear It?” based on Romans 8:17-28.

She said, “To groan is to connect the physical world of sound and flesh to the metaphysical world of Spirit. To groan is to restore passion to our faith and to refuse to sanitize the connection between love and suffering.”

In a world of much destruction and despair, Showalter wanted to leave an image of construction with the graduates “to help imagine what others think is impossible: a world where love triumphs over fear through Christ’s triumph over death. A world that is not yet finished and that awaits your contribution,” she said. “…The gap between what is and what should be or could be seems very great. But our very capacity to realize this gap, which makes us groan, is the motivating force to strive for and achieve things that would otherwise be impossible. … Go therefore and hope, building on the foundation of a risen Christ who goes before us and has already conquered fear and death.”

This year’s commencement also marked the 100th Goshen College commencement ceremony to take place in the city of Goshen. In 1903, the Elkhart Institute moved to Goshen and became Goshen College. The first class to graduate on the new campus was in 1904.

The commencement ceremony ended a weekend of celebration activities which included a senior nurses’ pinning, departmental receptions, senior art exhibit, the Senior Extravaganza talent show and a president’s reception.

In years past, commencement has been held at the end of May, but the weekend of festivities for graduates and their families was moved up to April 24-25 this year so that seniors who plan to complete their Study-Service Term requirement abroad during the summer are still able to walk with their class during commencement services. Thus, all the diplomas this year were empty because nearly all the students will be returning for a month of classes during Goshen College’s unique May Term.

Goshen College, established in 1894, is a four-year residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” Kaplan’s “Most Interesting Colleges” guide and U.S.News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit

Editors: For more information, contact News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or