Class of 2014 encouraged to make decisions with passion, courage and patience

Lissette Figueroa, a nursing major from Goshen, celebrates receiving her degree following the April 27 commencement service.


Members of Goshen College’s Class of 2014 received undergraduate and graduate degrees on Sunday, April 27 after being advised by speaker Joyce Bontrager Lehman to make decisions in life with passion, courage and patience.

The Class of 2014 consisted of 246 graduates who were awarded the following degrees: 159 Bachelor of Arts, 56 Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 13 Bachelor of Science, 13 Master of Science as family nurse practitioners and 5 Master of Arts in Environmental Education.

The graduates were led in a procession by current and retired faculty into the packed Roman Gingerich Recreation-Fitness Center’s Gunden Gymnasium for the 116th Goshen College Commencement.

In her commencement address, “The Imperative of Providence,” Bontrager Lehman described her decision to come to Goshen College to teach accounting in 1997 and her subsequent decision to work for Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) as turning points in her own life of seeking providence.

First, Bontrager Lehman advised the graduates to pursue passions and “do what you love.” Though she acknowledged that accounting and business might not be everyone’s passion, she gave a shout out to the business graduates and encouraged them to help solve global poverty.

“There will never be enough government aid money or philanthropic capital – the private sector must also participate and that requires people with both the skills and passion to move it forward,” she said. “And I’m not talking about businesses giving money away – I’m talking about finding market solutions that improve the lives and opportunities of the global poor.”

Goshen College commencement speaker Joyce Bontrager Lehman told graduates to make bold choices and not to be afraid to make career- and life-altering changes.
Goshen College commencement speaker Joyce Bontrager Lehman told graduates to make bold choices and not to be afraid to make career- and life-altering changes.

Second, have courage to take risks and make difficult decisions, advised Bontrager Lehman. “A lot of decisions are not made because of fear – financial fears, fear of uncertain consequences, fear of failure or even fear of what people with think,” she said. “Bold decisions take courage, and it’s not easy to walk through one open door without knowing exactly where it will lead.”

Finally, Bontrager Lehman said that preparation takes time and patience is needed, along with faith. “You need to get to be good at what it is you want to do,” she said.

“So whatever it is – start your own business, find a cure for malaria, be a master teacher, take your family on a trip around the world, climb a mountain, run a marathon, write a novel – come to it with passion, with courage, and with patience. Figure it out. Commit. And providence will move.”

Bontrager Lehman was a program manager on the Financial Services for the Poor team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, after working in international development with the Mennonite Economic Development Associates, World Bank and USAID. Bontrager Lehman also taught accounting at Goshen College for two years (1997-1999). She grew up Amish in Kalona, Iowa, graduated from Eastern Mennonite University in 1965, received a master’s degree from the Bentley Graduate School of Management and now lives in Keene, N.H.

Goshen College Registrar Stan Miller, who is in charge of planning commencement and is retiring after 32 years of service to the college, was recognized during the ceremony – which coincidentally fell on his 65th birthday.

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.

At the baccalaureate worship service in the morning before commencement, President James E. Brenneman delivered a sermon titled “Footprints: Evidence of History and the Promise of Future.”

“As evidence of history, footprints of past pilgrims may serve as our guides, but that cannot be the end of the story for you,” he said. “It is also the case that your very own footprints leave trace evidence for others of where you’ve been. You bear some responsibility to leave some clues for others to learn from.”

246 graduates were awarded degrees at the 2014 Goshen College Commencement ceremony.
246 graduates were awarded degrees at the 2014 Goshen College Commencement ceremony.

Brenneman said, “If you always walk the straight and narrow and only in the footprints of those who have gone before you, never taking risks … then I’m not sure you are necessarily hearing the voice of God.”

Whether called to prestigious positions with fame or positions of service with no glory – both of which Goshen College graduates have pursued, Brenneman noted – “a meaningful life is about the footprints you leave behind.”

Brenneman shared several pieces of advice from his own father. “Take the first step and accept that you will sometimes misstep and fall. Better that than take no step at all. All of you, trust me, will stumble and fall. Just remember, especially then, that God’s mercy and steadfast love will never forsake you no matter what.”

Second, he said, “the pilgrim’s way of God is sometimes known only in hindsight.”

Brenneman concluded, “we know even now that the footprints you leave behind … have been shaped by the core values of your alma mater and will evidence the truth indeed that ‘Blessed are they, whose footsteps walk in the way of the Lord.’”

Almost 130 graduates 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.”

Other events during the busy weekend at Goshen College included a senior program, which showcased the talent of the class of 2014, a senior art exhibit, academic department receptions for graduates and their families and an evening reception hosted by President Brenneman and his wife, Dr. Terri J. Plank Brenneman.


Total number of graduates: 246

13 Master of Science degree recipients
5 Master of Arts degree recipients
159 Bachelor of Arts degree recipients
56 Bachelor of Science in nursing degree recipients
13 Bachelor of Science degree recipients

Number of double majors: 17
Number of students graduating with highest honors — grade point averages of 3.9 to a perfect 4.0 (based on grades as of December 2013): 20
Number of countries represented (other than U.S.): 16
Number of states represented in this year’s graduating class: 25
Number from Indiana: 131

Number of undergraduates by top programs of study:

55 nursing
14 molecular biology/biochemistry
13 business
12 biology
12 elementary education and special education
12 organizational leadership