Seniors, Dr. Stephen Jones bid farewell at commencement

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Seniors, Dr. Stephen Jones bid farewell at commencement

Erik Howell, Marcus Sanchez and Katie Howell celebrate their after the 2013 commencement ceremony. Photo: Molly Waits

On May 9, Bob Jones University will say goodbye to the class of 2014, comprised of 882 students and friends.   

This class includes 69 student earning their associate’s degree, 631 earning their bachelor’s degree and 182 earning their graduate degree. Their ambition is evident in their top three majors: nursing with 46 graduates, business administration with 45 and elementary education with  31.

This class was also geographically diverse, with 829 U.S. students and 53 international students. The students from the U.S. are spread out across the nation, with the top three states being South Carolina with 219 students, Pennsylvania with 52 students and Michigan with 44 students.

But, while the class statistics are interesting, they generalize 882 unique individuals. 

Engineering major Jared Guyaux is one of those individuals. 

Looking back on the past four years at BJU, Guyaux said he would recommend one activity to all students: going on an outreach ministry.

He started attending a detention center during the second semester of his sophomore year. He said he went every week for a year before he was completely comfortable..

His perseverance paid off when he led someone to Christ for the first time. His name was Sam. Unfortunately, Guyaux was not able to return to his friend Sam’s cell for a month. However, when he saw Sam, he was amazed. Sam was reading through the entire Bible on his own, and he was already in Acts. “It’s all God’s work, and He just uses us,” Guyaux said.

Apparel, textile and design major Caroline Hughes and English major Emma Galloway found joy in performing, saying the best opportunity at BJU and their best memories at BJU came from participating in dramatic productions on campus. 

If being the center of attention is not appealing to you, Hughes said you shouldn’t worry because hanging out backstage is the best part anyway. “It’s not about the standing on stage experience; it’s about the backstage experience,” she said.

Galloway agrees, saying she is still very close with her castmates from Little Women, which was produced at the end of the fall semester. “We became a family because we had to act like a family,” she said.

But Guyaux, Hughes, Galloway and their classmates aren’t the only ones reflecting on past memories. On commencement day, Dr. Stephen Jones will also bid farewell, and he, too, appreciates his time at the University.

Guyaux still remembers the first time he saw Dr. Jones. He was visiting his sister at BJU, and they went to see the Shakespearean play Much Ado About Nothing. Dr.  Jones, who was performing in the play, had to grow out his facial hair for his role, and Guyaux remembers a petition going around for him to keep it. 

Three years later, during his junior year, Guyaux had Dr. Jones as a prayer group partner, and he remembers the Jones family inviting the whole group over for pizza. Guyaux said talking with Jones and his wife in their home setting humanized them. “I realized they have problems, too, and they get through them in the same way: looking to God for grace,” he said. 

As an Academy student, Galloway remembers being in seventh grade when Dr. Bob Jones III’s resignation was announced. She laughs as she remembers the drama this caused for junior highers. She said they were filled with uncertainty, speculating that this could be the end of Bob Jones University as they knew it. 

But Galloway said her fears were relieved at that year’s Gold Rush Daze Faculty Body, which featured a fake coronation. During this humorous ceremony, Dr. Bob III jokingly lifted a crown from his head and placed it on Stephen Jones’ head as a symbolic gesture. Everyone cheered and applauded in excitement. “It made me feel immediately at ease,” she said. 

Like Guyaux, Galloway also remembers seeing Jones in Much Ado About Nothing. His acting abilities solidified her trust in Jones. “He seemed like the cool uncle that you wanted to be like,” she said. 

But, last December, Galloway watched as the “cool uncle” of campus had to resign for health reasons. She said she was shocked and saddened. But, even then, she knew he was holding back to save the students from further worry. “He’s been through more dark valleys than he let us know,” she said. 

Galloway said Jones now seems at peace because he knows he made the right decision, even if it was a hard one. She and Hughes admire him for making this decision for himself and for his family. “There was an added respect, not a loss of respect,” Galloway said. 

Dr. Jones sees this situation as a reminder of the universality of trials, and the resulting opportunity for growth. “Together we’re learning about God’s goodness and control of every situation He allows to touch us as His children,” Jones said. 

But though he is at peace with his decision, he is still sad to leave. He said that he will always remember the class of 2014 as the last class to graduate under his leadership, and he sends them out with love and prayers.   

And, no matter how many countries or years separate the graduates from BJU, they will always find help from their home base. “We’ll be in your cheering section throughout your lives as you know and reflect our great God,” he said. 

And, addressing the broader BJU community, Jones expressed his gratitude for the love and support that he has received while serving the University. “As commencement approaches, each day reminds me what a privilege it has been to serve the University family as president these nine years,” Jones said. “Thank you all for your patience, love and prayers.”

Jones and the 2014 graduates now look to God for direction in the next steps they take in life. When making such decisions, Jones recommends reflection on Jesus’ words: “He who loseth his life for My sake will find it.”