Inspiring Graduation Weekend

August 21, 2023

KEENE, TEX. – From May 5-7, 2023, Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) celebrated its graduation weekend. Departmental ceremonies were held on Friday evening with a commissioning service for the religion and theology majors. Stephen Brooks, Southwestern Union executive secretary, reminded graduates, “Even though we live in a dark world, we need to not adapt to darkness but let the light of Jesus shine through you.” 

On Saturday, the Education and Psychology Department held its dedication to Christian service. Keynote speaker Rosibel Ordóñez shared her inspiring journey, which was followed by graduate awards and recognition. The School of Business also held a recognition and ethics oath ceremony.Jonathan Turk, professor, challenged graduates with the importance of values-based leadership, emphasizing that character and integrity are essential on their journey. At the nurses’ pinning ceremony, professor Danielle Sinclair inspired graduates as she spoke about what a calling to nursing truly means.

On Sunday, graduates, parents, relatives, friends, staff and faculty gathered in the Leiske-Pultar Gymnasium to watch 106 graduates receive their diplomas. Ana Patterson, president, remarked, “We gather this morning to recognize the academic achievements of our graduates and to honor the fulfillment of the mission of Southwestern Adventist University, which is to inspire knowledge, faith and service through Christ-centered education.” She thanked all those who played a role in the success of the university and its students, noting that the class of 2023 was, “empathetic, determined and resilient.”

Penny Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Texas Health Huguley Hospital Fort Worth South and AdventHealth’s Southwest Region, shared an inspirational commencement address based on Matthew 7:24-27 titled, “Where Will You Stand?” She encouraged the class of 2023 to trust God with their plans, “God will get you where He wants you, and He will do it in His time and in His way,” she said. She also emphasized the importance of building a solid foundation on the Rock, Jesus Christ, finishing her address with this wisdom: “Our job is to make sure the foundation is on the Rock.”
Class President Ashlyn Tyler delivered the senior class response. “No matter what happens in this life, God is watching over us, and I will praise His name,” she began. “No matter the challenges when you look back on your time here, I urge you to focus and remember the good things, the connections, the friendships that were built. Let our praise be because we have gotten to experience something so incredibly special and heartwarming,” Tyler challenged the class of 2023.
Donna Berkner, Ed.D., vice president for Academic Administration, conferred the degrees and congratulated the candidates for reaching this milestone in their lives. Other guest graduates who requested to participate in SWAU’s graduation ceremony rather than their universities included former faculty member, Michael Agee, receiving a doctor of education degree; Men’s Residence Hall Dean William Iverson receiving a master of science in outdoor education; alumna Lindsey Johnson receiving a master of music degree; alumna Van-Dai Ly receiving a doctor of medicine degree; Orland Rosales receiving a Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Ministry; and faculty member, alumna of the year and Texas Conference vice president for education, Kisha Norris, receiving a doctor of education degree in leadership and Management.

As the weekend celebrations closed, Tony Reyes, vice president for advancement, thanked parents, friends and donors, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, for making the dream of Adventist education a reality for the class of 2023. The ceremony ended with a welcome from Alumni Department Director Rosy Arizaga to the SWAU Alumni Association as she encouraged the new alums to continue to stay connected and engaged with SWAU. More information and photos are available at 

By Tony Reyes

Vice President for Advancement