FOCUS Founder Curtis Martin Speaks at Benedictine College's 2018 Commencement

2018 Benedictine College Commencement

Monday, May 14, 2018

Students Celebrate at the Conclusion of 2018 Commencement Ceremonies

Those attending the Benedictine College Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 12, saw 444 undergraduate and graduate degree recipients walk across the stage in the Ralph Nolan Gymnasium. They also heard a moving speech from one of the nation’s leading inspirational speakers, Curtis Martin, founder and CEO of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), who was the event’s keynote speaker. FOCUS started in 1998 with its first chapter on the Benedictine College campus.

“Great things begin at Benedictine College,” said Martin, referencing both the beginning of FOCUS and the beginning of their lives outside of college. “They’ve developed a reputation here for launching leaders into every area of the culture. Something unique is going on here that is not going on at very many other places.”

He went on to tell the graduates that they have not been taught what to think. Rather, they have been taught how to think.

“We live in a world where people need to know how to think,” he said. “But you’re not at just a Liberal Arts school, you’re at a Benedictine Catholic college, so you’re not just being taught how to think. You’re being taught how to live.”

At the conclusion of his speech, he led the audience in the Memorare prayer for all the graduates and all the situations they will find themselves in as they move on to the next step in their lives. (Click here for more about Curtis Martin at commencement.)

Dr. Kimberly Shankman, Dean of the College, directed the annual exercise, which began with a prayer from Sister Esther Fangman OSB, Prioress at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, one of the founding institutions of Benedictine College.

There were two Valedictorians for 2018. Both Jami Haren, a Mathematics and Secondary Education major from Portland, Oregon, and Hannah Voss, an English major and Rhodes Scholar finalist from San Antonio, Texas, completed their academic careers with perfect 4.0 grade point averages. Haren will be the middle school mathematics teacher at St. Benedict’s Catholic School, Atchison, in the fall. Voss will go on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Literature at Durham University in England.

The day also featured the announcement of the annual Fran Jabara Leadership Award winners. Each year, the award is given to select graduating seniors at each private, four-year Kansas college. The award indicates the high level of ability the recipients have displayed as well as the respect with which their peers and teachers view them. This year, the Jabara Leadership Awards went to Anne Lind, a Marketing and Finance Major from Lenexa, Kansas; Molly Tynan, an Accounting Major from Denver, Colorado; and William Keiss, an Economics and Philosophy Major from Aurora, Colorado. All three had been active in the college and surrounding communities and had served in ministry programs or on mission trips.

In another special moment during Commencement, Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis introduced the students who were discerning religious life. Chris Goodwin, Morgan Mueller, Dominic Schaefer and Douglas Wahl will be entering the seminary after graduation. Minnis called them “the next leaders of the Church.”

Near the end of the ceremony, Sydney Wolf, who also completed her degree in Nursing, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.  Lt. Col. Zachary Kerns, Commander of the Army ROTC Pony Express Battalion, conducted the ceremony. Wolf will begin her career as an Army Nurse this summer.

The ceremony concluded with one of the graduates, Katherine Ross, a Music and Theology major, singing the Benedictine College Alma Mater, O Lord of Ev’ry Blessing, followed by the closing prayer from the Right Reverend James Albers OSB, the Abbot at St. Benedict’s Abbey, one of the founding institutions of Benedictine College.

The day before Commencement featured the traditional photo of graduates around the Benedictine “B” on the ground in from of the Haverty Center. That was followed by the March of Light, a procession up the Raven Walk, through the Grotto and into the Abbey Church for Baccalaureate Mass. The Most Reverend Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas, was the principal celebrant and homilist. He expressed excitement for the graduating class to get out into the world, and told them he holds them to a very high standard.

“Here at Benedictine College you have been pursuing the truth. This will always lead you to God,” he said. “The terminal degree for a Benedictine College student is not the bachelor’s, it’s not the master’s, it’s not the doctorate. It is to be a saint.”

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.