Judson honoree encourages grads to give dignity for all
Judson University celebrated 110 students who graduated during its 80th commencement ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Dec. 8 at Herrick Chapel on the Elgin campus.
The day's commencement keynote address was presented by Bob Lenz, who received an honorary doctorate during the 10 a.m. ceremony.
An international speaker and founder of Life Promotions, which is based in Neenah, Wisconsin, Lenz talks with thousands of high school age youth about an anti-bullying message. He is also an author and the prime motivator of The Dignity Revolution, an anti-bullying movement embraced by schools across the country. His "Dignity Revolution" book has been distributed to 30,000 high schools nationwide.
In the 10 a.m. commencement ceremony, 65 students graduated from the Division of Professional Studies' Masters, MBA, Master of Arts in Human Services Administration and Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership and Adult Undergraduate, evening adult students, Bachelor of Arts programs.
At the 2 p.m. commencement program, 45 students graduated from the Traditional Undergraduate program and the Master of Education in Literacy program.
In his message, Lenz congratulated the students and the university for accomplishing its mission of "equipping students to be fully developed, responsible persons who glorify God by the quality of their personal relationships, their work, and their citizenship within the community, the nation and the world."
He went on to say that the university's motto of "Christ, the Light of the World" is so needed in the world today.
He encouraged students to continue serving as this light and being ambassadors of Christ's love, but not to "play God." He encouraged them to see people for themselves as God sees them, and not objectified or forced to fit into one mold or an ideal set by society or the world. We all have dignity, he said.
He shared his story of not feeling dignity as a young person who had a brother, Tim, with cerebral palsy and a sister, Lois, with special needs. Further, his own speech impediment made him feel unworthy by society's standard. As a young student, a teacher once told him that God must love him more than his brother and sister with special needs and he became so furious that his friends had to be hold him back and seek another teacher for help.
This other teacher, who later became his coach, refuted the idea immediately. Yet, said Lenz, this story demonstrates how society misunderstands God's love and purpose for all people. Instead, Lenz believes in behaving with and giving dignity for all, a message that he shares with youth across the country in his school presentations.
Attitudes such as this, he says, keeps people from knowing their real identity and makes them feel welcome in church, or less than worthy. He says these feelings of exclusion and marginalization are keeping youth today from attending church.
"I'm here to proclaim that you have identity based on creation. You've been born in the image of God and he brought you back by Christ's blood. When you believe that proclamation, you are humbled and (through) humility, we will invite everyone to the table," said Lenz.
He ended his presentation by inviting his professor to the stage. Lenz invited his sister, Lois, who has Down syndrome, to sing "Alive," a song that encourages us all to be friends and "alive in love and life," a song she first sang at their brother Tim's funeral.
Judson's graduates and families were so moved they responded with a standing ovation in both ceremonies.
During the morning program, Judson recognized Lenz with an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree during the 10 a.m. ceremony for his work as founder of Life Promotions, as an inspirational speaker sharing with thousands of teens each year in schools, rallies and conferences an anti-bullying message, and as founder of Lifest, an outdoor music festival that attracts 20,000 visitors annually to a family experience of music, worship and learning together.
Judson bestowed posthumously a Bachelor of Humanities degree to Janice Segers Warne. Warne served 40 years in the education field and was a champion on behalf of preschool-age children.
She had completed a significant number of hours toward her degree at Judson, but left the university to support her family. Warne was unable to complete her degree before her untimely death on June 25, 2017. Her husband and children traveled from Ohio to receive the award on her behalf.
During the morning and afternoon ceremonies, several graduates were honored with awards for service and campus leadership.
In the morning program, Business Administration-Division of Professional Studies graduate Andrea Nicole Heiniger of Elgin was recognized with the Student Service Award -- Adult Professional Studies Undergraduate, which recognizes the graduating adult student who has best exemplified sincerity and dedication to Christ, excellence in academic achievement and promotion of the goals and mission of Judson University.
During her time at Judson, Heiniger often mentored other students and offered encouragement and prayers to members in her cohort. Professors have said that her heart for the Lord is evident in how she serves others. She currently works for her family business Kellenberger Electric.
In the afternoon program, Master of Education in Literacy-Division of Education graduate Meredith Demma of West Chicago received the Road to Damascus Award, which recognizes a student with the most dramatic transformation in the way the student embodies literacy education.
Demma was praised for moving away from being a person who was simply "following programs and rarely questioning" to blossoming into "one who raised a confident and consistent voice as a passionate student advocate."
Kristina Shimkus of Mahomet, received the university's highest recognition for scholarship, the President's Scholar Award. This award honors the graduating senior in the traditional program who has demonstrated distinguished academic achievement in the context of a Christian liberal arts program and adhered consistently to Judson ideals.
Shimkus has been on the dean's list every semester. She is graduating with a degree in Music Business Entrepreneurship. While at Judson, she tutored students in music theory and contributed to Chapel ministry through playing guitar, singing on stage and providing technical support.
While studying at the Contemporary Music Center in Nashville, Tennessee, Shimkus was recognized for her pursuit of academic excellence and strength of character.
Pastoral Leadership major and graduate Trevor Skorburg of Algonquin was awarded the Student Service Award -- Traditional Undergraduate, which is given to the graduating senior who best exemplified sincerity in dedication to Christ, achievement in academic pursuit and promotion of Judson University ideals. Skorburg is the recipient of the Edgar Boss scholarship, an award for academic merit and integration of theology. He is also an active Theta Alpha Kappa member, which is the National Honor Society for religious students and theology. Along with his academic achievements, Skorburg has served in ministry internships at Light of Christ Church in Algonquin, Poplar Creek Church in Bartlett and The Chapel in McHenry.