December Commencement: ACU Graduates Encouraged To Revel in What They Don't Know

for immediate release Dec. 12, 1997

The same four ways Medieval scholars approached the interpretation of Scripture may help today's graduates make sense of and contribute to their world, 225 graduating students were told during Abilene Christian University's December commencement Friday night in Moody Coliseum.

"Loosely paraphrased, these four senses are (1) a factual understanding of things around us, (2) creative intellects that give us ever new perspectives on our world, (3) a moral compass to guide our choices, and (4) a sense of the transcendent as we conduct our lives," said Dr. Thomas Winter, associate provost and associate professor of social work, who gave the charge to the class.

While the conferring of their degrees confirms the students' mastery of their disciplines, simply knowing facts is not sufficient, Winter said. ACU's faculty has sought to instill in them the ability to critically evaluate and judge competing facts and the ability to discover new realities as lifelong learners.

"Relish what you know; celebrate your ability to make judgments about what is known; take pride in your skills for discovering what remains unknown," he said. "Facts and knowledge are foundational to good citizenship."

Having the creative ability to see other perspectives of the world through art and literature is inherent in being an educated person, Winter said, and the undergraduates present especially have been challenged by broad creative experiences at ACU.

"As you go through life, reflect on the richness of the human experience," he said. "See the connections between things, and use your education to share with others, in ways which inform and enlighten them in language they understand."

While a Christian higher education can and does help students more fully develop a moral sense, Winter told of Ruby Bridges, the little African-American girl immortalized by Norman Rockwell who prayed every day for the people who threw insults and garbage at her as she entered a segregated school in New Orleans. She lived by the moral absolutes revealed by God in Jesus Christ through the Bible, he said.

"It actually may be easier to live morally in the public eye than in private settings; the challenge is for us to live as morally when no one is looking as when the world is focused on our actions," he said. "Hold onto the moral sensibilities you have developed in this extraordinary place. All choices are moral choices. Make them well."

While much of education focuses on what "we do know," there will always be "far more that we do not know," Winter said. Christians can recognize and value the seemingly unknowable realities of life, which transcend human experience.

"Through the unique combination of factual knowledge, analogy, moral reasoning and awareness of the transcendent, you can bridge the gaps among confessing Christians as well as between Christians and non-Christians," he said.

Winter summarized his four-fold charge: "Recognize that you have become learned in the process you are completing this evening; use that learning and remember that it reflects skills which must be used over a lifetime. Celebrate the creative, and use the richness of the arts and humanities as a tool for understanding and managing the factual. Live with integrity, even in the most mundane experiences of life. And above all else, revel in the great mysteries which remain outside your understanding."

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During the ceremony, three undergraduates received the Alpha Chi Award for the three highest grade point averages: Ryan Jessup, marketing major from Belton (4.0); Meredith Mosley, accounting/ finance major from Corpus Christi (3.975); and Chris Moore, accounting major from Hurst (3.968).

Also, William Bean of Northfield, Vt., received the J.W. Roberts Greek Award which goes to the outstanding Greek scholar in the graduating class.

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The following are facts about several interesting graduates: * Kathryn Echols finished her degree in journalism while her Air Force husband was on a one-year tour in Korea. Formerly stationed in North Dakota, the Echols knew they would be sent to Dyess AFB after the year in Korea, so Kathryn, a Texas native, moved south with her three small children. She even completed an internship at Dyess. Her husband is now home to see her graduate.

* Rajka Helesy, an elementary education and missions major from Zagreb, Croatia, plans to return to her home country in February as a vocational missionary. After seven years in the United States, she was somewhat fearful of returning to the volatile political environment. But by returning this summer to her small hometown church for an internship working with the youth, she said "God confirmed in my heart that was where I needed to go."

* Good grades run in the Jessup family of Belton. Not only is marketing major Ryan Jessup, graduating a semester early with a 4.0 GPA, his brother Kirk Jessup, a biology major, is graduating No. 8 with a 3.940 GPA.

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Last update: January 22, 1998