At most universities, one speaker gives the commencement address to encourage or challenge the graduating class.
But here at BJU, students in the graduating class have the opportunity to encourage the audience and one another with testimonies of how God has worked in their lives during their time at the University.
“You hear a variety of people testifying of God’s goodness in their lives,” said Dr. Dan Smith, BJU’s registrar and the director of the commencement program. “I think that makes a big difference in our commencement in comparison to other colleges.”
Smith said that to his knowledge, having the graduates give testimonies during commencement has always been a part of graduation. “It’s a tradition,” he said.
However, the testimonies are not only tradition but also a crucial part of commencement. Smith said the testimony time gives graduates a chance to tell what God has done for them during their college years.
In addition, relatives who have never been exposed to the Gospel may come and hear a gospel testimony. Or it may be an opportunity for them to be exposed to the Gospel in a unique setting.
According to Smith, Dr. Stephen Jones has emailed a letter to the prospective graduates, encouraging them to submit a testimony of how God has worked in their lives during their time at BJU. The testimonies are brief — only about 100 words — and come from many different vantage points.
“Some are financial, some are health and some are academic,” Smith said. “We like to have a variety of different focuses on the testimonies.” Seniors should submit their testimonies to the Records Office by April 1.
Smith said the number of students who give testimonies depends on the size of the graduating class, and they try to spread out the testimonies among different degrees.
Graduate testimonies make BJU’s commencement unique and special. “One of the things I hear from faculty and others is that the testimonies at the end of the year are really one of the highlights,” Smith said.
Mrs. Jennifer Cox, assistant dean of women, said she loves hearing how God worked in the graduates’ lives during their years at BJU. “It’s very exciting, and I really enjoy them a lot,” she said.
Dr. Ken Renfrow, faculty member in the department of keyboard studies, said he thinks the testimonies are the best part about graduation. “It’s fascinating to hear all the stories about God’s provision coming from people of all different walks of life.”