At 112th Goshen College commencement, federal judge encourages graduates to keep love at center of lives and first nursing master’s degrees are awarded


Total number of graduates: 288
Number by category: 14 candidates for master of science degrees, 7 candidates for master of arts degrees, 183 candidates for bachelor of arts degrees, 34 candidates for bachelor of science degrees, and 50 candidates for bachelor of science in nursing degrees.
Number of double majors: 33
Number of students graduating with highest honors — grade point averages of 3.9 to a perfect 4.0 (based on grades as of December 2009): 23
Number of students graduating with GPAs of 3.60 and above (based on grades as of December 2009): 90
Number of states represented in this year’s graduating class: 20
Number from Indiana: 139
Number of countries represented (other than U.S.): 10
Number of graduates by top programs of study: Nursing, 50; Organizational Leadership, 32; Business, 17; Biology, 16; Social Work, 15; Communication, 13; History, 12; Art, 11.

View photo albums from Graduation Weekend 2010 »

GOSHEN, Ind. — Goshen College’s Class of 2010 received degrees on Sunday, April 25 after they were described as the light of the world by President James E. Brenneman and encouraged to become immortalby the chief administrative law judge of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Class of 2010 consisted of 288 graduates – 21 candidates for master’s degrees, 183 candidates for bachelor of arts degrees, 34 candidates for bachelor of science degrees, and 50 candidates for bachelor of science in nursing degrees.

A highlight of this year’s commencement was the conferring of the college’s first master’s degrees in nursing. Master’s of science degrees as family nurse practitioner and clinical nurse leader were conferred to 14 students.

At a morning baccalaureate worship service in the college’s Church-Chapel, President Brenneman preached on the Scripture Matthew 5:14-16, where Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Commenting on the Scripture, Brenneman stated, “What an audacious, awe-inspiring vision for what it means to be entering into life beyond your diplomas: You are the light of the world. There’s something about knowing who we are as declared so by Christ himself that can become one of the most liberating truths guiding our destinies.”

While Brenneman conceded that many graduates might have doubts about their abilities and their futures, he urged them to embrace their purposes and potential.

“There are enough darkened and shadowed and sorrowful and hurting places in the world, and within each and every one of us, to know that the world needs you, the world needs us. We need more light among us,” Brenneman said. “When Jesus says, you are the light of the world, let’s accept what he says of you and me and all who wish to emulate or follow him in life.”

Brenneman challenged the graduates, their parents, family members and friends, as well as college faculty and staff, to consider the many ways to be of service to the world just as a multitude of light sources serve many purposes — to restore sight, provide comfort, aid in work, to communicate, to entertain and to give pleasure.

“God planted within each of us spiritual DNA, a particle of light, a sliver of heaven that awaits its destiny as God’s child of light. We are an energy source, a center of hope, a means of illuminating darkness of all kinds in a hurting world. Jesus simply declared it so. The question for us today and every day is one of belief: Do I believe? Do you believe that Jesus meant what he said about me, about you?”

While Brenneman acknowledged it is tempting to stay hidden in the darkness, to avoid our calling and to stick with old and familiar ways of doing things, he urged the graduates to seek their true calling and to be a light of hope and healing to others.

“Being light is simply being a person whose life shines forth the hope, grace, truth, forgiveness and love the world so desperately needs,” Brenneman said. “Each of you represents one of nearly 19,000 other living Goshen College alumni, points of light, shining on every inhabitable continent on earth and now in uninhabitable continents. So, join them, join us, and shine forth, graduates, shine forth.”

Later in the day, at 3 p.m., 135 current and retired faculty members led the graduates in a procession into the gymnasium of the Roman Gingerich Recreation-Fitness Center for the 112th Goshen College Commencement. Rainy weather forced cancellation of the usual procession across campus. A brass ensemble, directed by Associate Professor of Music Gregg Thaller, greeted the procession.

President Brenneman welcomed a crowd of more than 2,000 people gathered for the joyful ceremonies.

“For some of you, this day was a foregone conclusion; for others it’s a dream come true. For all of you, today represents the miracle of a 100,000 graces: the grace of your parents and grandparents, teachers and coaches, mentors and friends, binders and books, the God of all grace, and this little place with a giant calling, our alma mater, Goshen College,” Brenneman said.

“My heart swells with delight when I look out on this sea of faces and behold a mighty tsunami, a tidal wave, an unstoppable force for good in a world needing healing and hope. You join a throng of Goshen College graduates on every inhabitable place on earth, in all walks of life, who bring honor to God and to each other, little by little, peace by peace.”

After an invocation and the hymn, “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,” Brenneman introduced the commencement speaker — Ronnie A. Yoder of Alexandria, Va., the chief administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Before becoming a judge, Yoder was in private practice law for 14 years in New York City and Washington, D.C. In addition to his legal career, Yoder sang professionally with the Washington Opera and with local churches from 1985 to 1996. His father, Raymond Yoder, was a class of 1931 alumnus of Goshen College and an artist. After his father’s death in 1997, Yoder helped establish the Ray Yoder Scholarship for art and sculpting at Goshen College.

In his commencement address, “A Niche for You — Immortality,” Yoder talked about his father, his journey to becoming a federal judge and he encouraged the graduates to establish college scholarship funds for others. He also offered advice on finding a niche in life and finding common ground with others.

Yoder, who noted his Amish and Mennonite background, said he has centered his life on the teachings of Jesus and the lessons he learned from his parents, including: set your dreams high and don’t give up on yourself or your dreams; leave a place better than you find it; don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today; and when in doubt, don’t.

Yoder said he embraces racial and ethnic diversity by choice and circumstance; he attends five churches, including two that are predominantly African-American, and has grandchildren who are Chinese, Chinese-American, Japanese-American, and English-American.

Yoder said that he and his father never could have imagined the many “mind-boggling” scientific and social changes during their lifetimes. Yoder also said he also never could have imagined becoming a federal judge, an opera singer and a heart surgery survivor.

In that spirit, Yoder encouraged the graduates to keep an open mind about their futures: “The economic distractions of recent times may seem to raise clouds over your jobs and dreams. Be not afraid. You can embrace the future. You can affirm that future. You can change that future. You can fulfill your dream. You will find your niche.”

Yoder suggested that Jesus Christ — through his teachings and life — established a model for embracing and the unity of the human family.

“Jesus said to love the children of the world — not black children or white children, or Baptist or Anabaptist, or Christian or non-Christian children,” Yoder said. “He never permitted religion or creeds to stand between himself and all the people he invited to share in a Kingdom of Love, where a God of Love was available to all people. In his radically inclusive way, he invited all others to do the same — every gender, religion, culture and creed; and we are called to do no less.

“The conflicts of the world are philosophical and we must learn to address those conflicts philosophically. If we are to confront ideologies of hate, we must be prepared to live, explicate and promote a philosophy of love, unbounded by symbols and creeds, but seen and understood by looking through transparent symbols and creeds to the truths beyond them to which they point.”

Yoder advised graduates to create a spiritual presence in the center of their lives to serve as a source of strength, encouragement and understanding. “Having identified and affirmed your center, you will find your niche,” he said.

Yoder concluded his address by calling on the graduates to “keep faith alive, keep hope alive and keep love alive. Go forth into all the world and worship a God of love that love may be manifest in your lives and in God’s world.”

After Yoder’s address, there was recognition of retiring faculty members — Lee Roy Berry, associate professor of political science, and Floyd E. Saner, director of instructional technology and professor of computer science. Together, they provided 41 and 26 respective years of service to the college.

The 288 graduates then received degrees and signed their names in the Goshen College book – a tradition linking them to generations of alumni.

Presiding over the 112th commencement was President Brenneman, who congratulated graduates after their names were announced by Academic Dean Anita K. Stalter. Assisting in the presentation of master’s degrees were David Ostergren, director of the graduate program in environmental education, and Brenda Srof, director of the graduate program in nursing.

Also taking part in commencement were two parents of graduating seniors: Aldine Musser, the mother of Melody M. Musser of Stephens City, Va., who offered the invocation, and Rolando Santiago, the father of Karla R. Santiago of Lancaster, Pa, who gave the benediction.

After the benediction, faculty and administrators lined the main corridor of the Recreation-Fitness Center and applauded the departing seniors. The “applause tunnel” tradition also takes place at the beginning of each academic year to welcome students back to campus.

Represented in this year’s graduating class were students from 20 states, including 139 from Indiana, and from 10 countries.

The class included 33 graduates with double majors. Twenty-three students graduated with highest honors – grade point averages of 3.9 to a perfect 4.0. In addition, 90 others were on track to achieve GPAs of 3.60 and above.

The academic program with the largest number of graduating students was nursing, which held its traditional pinning ceremony the day before commencement to recognize the 26 individuals who completed through the traditional, four-year program. In addition, 24 individuals were granted degrees through the bachelor of science in nursing degree completion program and 14 individuals got master of science degrees. Other top majors in the Class of 2010 were Organizational Leadership (32), Business (17), Biology (16), Social Work (15) and Communication (13).

Of the graduates, 85 took the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility, a national program at more than 100 colleges and universities. By signing the pledge, the graduates promised to “explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.”

Students and faculty planned the morning baccalaureate service. It featured an instrumental prelude by graduating senior Daniel Moya, a peace, justice & conflict studies major from Bogotá, Columbia.

The service formally began with a welcome by Betsy Houser, a youth ministry major from Phoenix, Ariz., followed by a congregational hymn, “Come, we that love the Lord.” Allyson Crosby, a peace, justice & conflict studies major from Spencer, Ind., delivered a senior reflection in which she discussed how professors and course work at Goshen College taught her about faith, reconciliation, peace and personal healing.

Following another congregational hymn, “Wonderful grace of Jesus,” the Scriptures for the service (Psalm 119:105 and Matthew 5:13-16) were read by Anna Srof, a nursing major from Goshen, and Jheny Nieto, a social work major from Three Rivers, Mich.

After President Brenneman’s sermon, a 19-member choir performed “Shine on Me,” a traditional spiritual, accompanied on piano by Anna Showalter, a music and history double major from Waynesboro, Pa.

Next, the entire congregation recited a baccalaureate litany, written and led by Arienne Johnson, an English and Bible and religion double major from Reston, Va. The litany concluded with the sentiment from Johnson: “Today I stand again at these city gates, looking into the unknown and clasping my candle whose wax was crafted long before me and molded by this community. The dark unknown no longer scares me. You’ve shown me the worthlessness of worldly baskets. You’ve taught me the necessity of trust. Today is our day for light.”

The baccalaureate ended with the congregational hymn “You are the Salt for the Earth.”

Other events during the busy weekend at the college included a senior program, which showcased the artistic, comedic and musical talent of the Class of 2010, a senior art exhibit, academic receptions for graduates and their families, a reception for adult programs and an evening reception hosted by President Brenneman and his wife, Dr. Terri J. Plank Brenneman.

— Written by Richard R. Aguirre

For more information about this release or to arrange for additional photos, contact Jodi H. Beyeler, director of the campus news bureau, at (574) 535-7572 or, or Richard R. Aguirre, director of public relations, at (574) 535-7571 or


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a 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,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit