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HU graduation: 'It is up to us'

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POP: A group of Huntington University graduates use party poppers to celebrate their accomplishments on Saturday before the commencement ceremony.
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SMILE: Econimics, financing and accounting major Giovanni Martinez Martini, right, and marketting and management major Ignacio Poncio, left, laugh as they wait for the ceremony to begin.
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POSE: (From left) Education majors Maddie Richer, Amanda Seaman, Sabrina Bethel and Mckenzey Denneystand together one last time as undergraduates.
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WALK: Nearly 300 graduates make their way into the fieldhouse as they all walk through campus one last time together representing the Class of 2019.
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HOLD ON: Education major Maddie Richer smiles as she holds onto her cap while talking with fellow seniors before the ceremony.

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

The 214 graduates that received their bachelor’s degrees from Huntington University (HU) on Saturday have seen the university change over quite a bit since they began nearly four years ago.

Before the university awarded 295 degrees in 69 different degree programs, which included 45 graduate degrees and 34 doctoral degrees, HU President Sherilyn Emberton addressed the crowded field house to reminisce on the recent changes.

Since 2015, Emberton said the university has built the Ware Plant Science Production facility and Welcome Center, while also investing in the campus’ Forest Glen Park. It also added a master’s degree program in business administration, with the first cohort of that program receiving their degrees this year.

During that time, the university also expanded its operations to Arizona, awarding its first six degrees to students in Peoria this year.

In 2015, HU also inaugurated the Haupert Institute for Agricultural Studies, which saw its first group of four-year graduates walk the stage on Saturday, and in honor of those student’s commitment, the university invited U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Ted McKinney to give a keynote address.

McKinney leads the development and implementation of the department’s trade policy, oversees and facilitates foreign market access and promotes opportunities for U.S. agriculture through trade programs and high-level government negotiations.

His speech centered around the importance of building a life on a solid foundation, using the story of the foolish builder from the book of Matthew 7:24-27 to illustrate his point.

Unlike the foolish man who built his home on top of sand, McKinney encouraged the graduates to build their live’s foundation on bedrock.

“Knowing Huntington University like I do, you graduates have a pretty good foundation,” he said, as he talked about knowing many of the students from his time serving as Indiana State Department of Agriculture director from 2014-17.

After growing up on a pig farm in Tipton, Ind. and spending 19 years with DOW AgroSciences and 14 years with Elanco, McKinney said he has learned through his recent years spent traveling more than 350,000 miles in the air across 21 different countries that having a strong foundation in Christ is important.

“I’m beginning to see the world in a different light,” he said. “The world is changing. Populism tends to be on the rise in many regions of the world… We’re slipping – if not completely abandoning – sound science, at least in my world.”

He shared advice he learned from a former boss that he says has helped him get where he is today. He said each student should not just believe the things that friends, colleagues or even the news says but rather investigate each topic turoughly to form a deeper understanding. 

He said the new trend is to use a billy club instead of extending the hand of friendship, so he challenged them to use the tools they’ve picked up from HU to impact the world.

“If there was ever a time for foundational learning, faith-based practice, trust in following the Golden Rule – to begin a meeting or ending a meeting with prayer – it is now,” he said. “And I think you have the goods to do it. So my challenge is – it’s time to give back.”

No matter if that means being the best parent or running for public office, McKinney said they need to base their foundation in truth and spirituality, using a strong moral compass to navigate their future.

Before Vice President Mike Pence gave him a call to come to Washington, D.C., McKinney said his life took a lot of unexpected turns through various roles before he landed where he is today, but he attributed his success to God’s plan for him.

“This is a divine journey, and it is for all of us, no matter where you go… None of that was my doing,” he said.

He said he hopes each graduate is prepared for their journey to begin, which started by building a strong foundation at HU.

“If God opens that door and you’re coaxed to walk through that door into another chapter of your life, I hope you’ll take that and I hope you’ll lead with faith,” he said.

Senior Class representative Nathanial D. Fosnough also encouraged the group to build on their foundation, this time in regards to community engagement.

“I believe you will continue to impact the community everywhere you go,” Fosnough said. “Remember what you’ve done here and continue to do it out there in the world, for our impact does not have to lie to rest here but can continue to be built up for generations to come. It’s up to us.”