Westmont graduates more than 350

Bagpipers lead professors and graduates onto the field Saturday morning for Westmont College"s commencement. CARMEN SMYTH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS
Bagpipers lead professors and graduates onto the field Saturday morning for Westmont College”s commencement.
CARMEN SMYTH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

At Westmont College”s Russell Carr Field on Saturday, 367 members of the Class of 2014 made their way to the podium to receive their diplomas and head out into the world while friends and family cheered.

The Christian college”s commencement featured choirs, awards, tributes to faculty both living and dead, and a rousing commencement speech by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church.

Some 367 graduates were joined by family and friends at Westmont College"s commencement Saturday. Pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Church gives the commencement address.  Graduates decorated their mortar boards for Saturday"s ceremonies.
Some 367 graduates were joined by family and friends at Westmont College”s commencement Saturday.


Pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Church gives the commencement address.


Graduates decorated their mortar boards for Saturday”s ceremonies.


Dr. Warren, who many know from his speech at President Barack Obama”s 2009 inauguration, was scheduled to be the commencement speaker last year, but his son Matthew committed suicide a month before that was to happen.

That tragic event was briefly touched upon by other speakers, but it did not enter Dr. Warren”s speech.

Instead he talked about learning to let God love you and letting yourself love Him back.

“There would be no love in the world if God wasn”t the God of love,” he said. “No man will ever love you like Jesus Christ does. No woman will ever love you like Jesus Christ does.”

He spoke about this life being a “test and a trust,” a brief millimeter of a journey compared to the one in eternity.

With that in mind he turned to the graduates, who were just about to step into the future, and tried to put their diplomas into a greater perspective.

In heaven, he said, God will not ask where you went to college or where you went to church, but “What did you do with my son Jesus Christ.”

That’s the salvation question, he said.

The other question will be “What did you do with what I gave you?”

And that’s the stewardship question. And while the graduates would soon be holding diplomas in their hands, Dr. Warren asked them to ask themselves, “What is in your hand?”

He was referring to the story of Moses and the burning bush, when Moses throws down his staff and it turns into a snake, but when he picks it up it turns back into a staff again.

It was a convoluted explanation, suggesting that everything must be devoted to God, from income to identity.

He then led to crowd in a prayer, beseeching God: “May you do miracles in the lives of these graduates.”

But it wasn’t all serious. Dr. Warren concluded, “If you don”t follow me on Twitter, you”re going to Hell.”

Westmont President Dr. Gayle D. Beebe presented Dr. Warren with an honorary degree for his service to the larger Christian college community.

Several graduates were singled out for awards.

Alison Hensley and C.J. Miller both received the Dean”s Award for excellence in the classroom, achievements in athletics and a deep faith in Christ.

The Dave Dolan award honors a student who makes significant contributions to the community, and this year it went to Paige Harris for her many accomplishments.

The Kenneth Monroe Award went to both Myvy Ngo and Matt Bennett for their academic achievements, including a 3.87 and a 3.61 GPA respectively.

The commencement also honored adults in the community, and awarded a Westmont Medal to Harold and Annette Simmons, neighbors of the college and good friends to it. Harold died recently and Annette spoke only briefly.

After the lengthy reading of the Baccalaureates, punctuated by happy families cheering them on, the ceremony closed with a benediction from Ben Patterson:

“My prayer for each student here today,” he said, “is that they love the Lord and love the world, that they work for nothing, that they take all they have and be poor, that they love someone who does not deserve it, that every day and in everything they practice resurrection.”

Kaley Johannesson, 22, finished four years of study in communications.

“It hasn’t fully hit me yet, but it”s been a great four years, and I’ve been blessed to spend it in such a beautiful and nurturing place,” she said.

The Midwest native visited Westmont when her older brother studied there and knew she wanted to attend. Now she”s looking at going to Germany and Ireland to study conflict resolution, and then go to Atlanta to find work.

Another communications grad was Michael Cahalan, 22, who came from Monterey to Westmont because of its liberal arts education. He said he liked the number of majors and the breadth of study here.

“They teach you in such a way that you are well-equipped for the world,” he said, “and you are taught in so many subjects that it makes you a well-rounded person.”

Surrounded by a number of family members taking turns getting photos, Mr. Cahalan said he will be moving to Santa Cruz to work at Mt. Hermon Christian Conference Center.

“I’m excited,” he said. “But immediately I’m going to enjoy my family and spend sometime in Santa Barbara outside of school.”

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