RIVERSIDE — Graduates received praise and encouragement in front of some 12,000 friends and family during April 30 and May 1 commencement ceremonies at California Baptist University in Riverside.
Combined applications for spring commencement ceremonies included seven candidates for doctoral degrees, 537 for master’s degrees and 934 for undergraduate degrees for a total of 1,478 applicants.
Ronald Ellis, CBU president, said during the ceremonies that the students’ accomplishments have come with sacrifices.
“Each of these graduating students has arrived at this point because of a shared commitment to the challenging, yet rewarding endeavor of higher education. Each one has overcome obstacles to achieve this goal,” Ellis said.
“Graduates, you have faced many difficulties and yet you persevered. We congratulate each one of you. The faculty and the entire university family join me in saying we are proud of you and we pray God’s blessing upon you.”
Ellis also took a moment to recognize a special guest at the 2 p.m. ceremony April 30 — Juanice Brister Williams, a member of the first graduating class of then-California Baptist College. CBC opened in September 1950 and hosted its first commencement ceremonies May 31, 1954 at First Southern Baptist Church in El Monte. Ellis noted that Brister received a bachelor of arts in music degree and went on to serve with her husband, Glenn, for 53 years in church music ministry.
“Juanice Brister Williams now resides in Tucson, Arizona. An item on her ‘bucket list’ was to sit on stage in the CBU Events Center during commencement. Today, that dream is realized,” Ellis said.
CBU recognized the efforts of several students who achieved excellence in their academic accomplishments.
Alexis Ohmar, a student from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, received the Min Sung Kim International Student Award, presented to one who has made outstanding contributions to the CBU community. Rebekah Bernal of Winchester was the recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Senior Award. Bernal earned a bachelor of science in biochemistry and molecular biology with a 4.0 GPA. Jose Macias, an early childhood studies student within the division of online and professional studies, earned the division’s Student of the Year recognition, graduating with a 4.0 GPA.
Michael Nolen, chair of the CBU board of trustees, encouraged graduates on behalf of the board to use the Great Commission training they received at CBU to benefit others.
“Graduates, my hope is that for each of you the return on the investment will be great through the blessings that you experience, and as you bless others throughout your lives. May each of you continue to seek and to ‘Live Your Purpose,’” Nolen said, quoting a university slogan.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, was commencement speaker.
“Today is a day to celebrate and to be thankful,” Ezell said. “Thankful for the professors that have poured into your lives and thankful for your parents who have made sacrifices along the way.”
“God has a purpose for your life and many doors are going to open as a result of your training at CBU,” Ezell said. “Life also has challenges and how you respond to that is going to determine how successful you are … . Our circumstances do not reveal our view of God but God can shape the way we view our circumstances.”
Ezell encouraged the graduates to fulfill the gospel mandate to fulfill the Great Commission.
The Class of 2019 represents CBU’s largest graduating class ever with 2,581 students in fall, spring and summer ceremonies.