From May 1st – 3rd, this Commencement Weekend celebrated the many achievements and successes of our Washington Adventist University students. It was the first Commencement, since 1904, to be held on campus, on the WAU Commons. From the outstanding turnout this past Sunday, despite COVID-19 restrictions, we can expect future ceremonies to remain in-house on the WAU campus. “On this the 106th Commencement Weekend, 275 students will receive a variety of graduate, undergraduate, associate, and certificates,” said Dr. Weymouth Spence. “Washington Adventist University is certainly a place where we produce graduates who bring competence and moral leadership to their communities.”
There were many who could not attend the ceremony in person, having been displaced or relocated for quarantine measures due to the pandemic. Nonetheless, they were encouraged to join the live broadcast to celebrate virtually from wherever they were. Attending the graduation ceremony from her home country, Bermuda, Sihlé Sharrief-Hayward, the Class President of the Class of 2021, did not let the distance prevent her from addressing her fellow graduates.
“Now, in 2021, who knew that graduation would be in the middle of a pandemic,” Sihlé acknowledged. “With all praises to the Most High, we made it.” She encouraged them to remember and be persistent in their current goals or destinations, having had the determination to complete their degrees despite the pressures and uncertainties they have faced this year and will continue to face in the coming years. “So, as long as you keep in mind our class scripture, Galatians 6:9, and our class motto PUSH (Persist Until Success Happens), the places we can go will be endless.”
Before each of the graduates walked across the stage and received their diplomas, the speaker for the 2021 Commencement ceremony, William Miller, a member of the WAU Board of Trustees, shared his message “God’s Places.” Inspired by the 2021 class theme, “Oh, the places you’ll go,” Miller expressed, “To the graduates of 2021, from Washington Adventist University, metaphorically, shortly you will be escorted right through the gates of service, the Gateway to Service. Will the physical geography of the community you inhabit be transformed because you have decided that the inner geography of your soul is so connected to the God of Heaven that they will put you in charge of all that they have?” He continued, “The values of heaven are truth, equity, justice, honesty, integrity, mercy, and compassion…And so, the geographical world that you and I are a part of are in desperate need of these values to be lived out.”
The 2014 and youngest Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist and founder of the Malala Fund for girls’ education, also addressed the graduates of 2021. “You have achieved one of the most important things in your life, and this is your education…,” she said. “Some of you will become doctors, engineers, composers, and nurses like my friend, Marie-Claire [Kaberamanzi, 2021 Nursing Graduate, and fellow advocate for children’s education]. But remember, that education does not end here in university…continue learning throughout your life, not just from books, but from the people around you.”
This year’s WAU 2021 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters was awarded to Henok Tesfaye, President and Chief Executive Officer at USP Parking. Tesfaye embodies the 2021 class motto PUSH (Persist Until Success Happens). He worked tirelessly as a parking lot attendant with persistence and determination and became the CEO of the one largest parking company enterprises in the United States. Tesfaye is passionate about giving back to the community that helped support him along his road to success. He is the Chairman and one of the founders of the non-profit organization, Mary Joy Foundation, which seeks to help children and seniors in Ethiopia to have access to facilities like education and healthcare.
Finally, it is our honor to send our congratulations to the Class of 2021! Through the many tedious lectures, exams, and papers, you have finally made it to the end of this finish line. Your hard work has paid off, so take the time to celebrate! We look forward to seeing each of you, new WAU alumni, find further success as you work towards the next step in your life.