Greene County News
CEDARVILLE — Students from the largest graduating class in Cedarville University history will receive degrees at the school’s 120th commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 7, in the Doden Fieldhouse. The class of 2016, comprised of 761 undergraduate and graduate students, surpasses last year’s record of 745 graduates.
The historic class also includes the inaugural graduates in the professional pharmacy program from the Cedarville University School of Pharmacy. The 48 pharmacy students will receive the first doctoral degrees (Pharm.D.) after they successfully completed the seven year program. In all, Cedarville will award 89 graduate degrees.
This commencement includes the awarding of an honorary doctorate to the first African-American to enroll at Cedarville University in 1954, as well as graduates who came to Cedarville on blind faith.
The Rev. James D. Parker Sr., will be awarded the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Parker came to Cedarville in 1954 and persevered through cultural and personal struggles. As the first African-American student ever at Cedarville University, Parker faced pushback from some in the student body who did not want him on campus.
But Cedarville president Dr. James T. Jeremiah told students who opposed Parker’s presence that they should accept him or withdraw, because Parker was coming regardless of their opinions.
A personal tragedy in 1955 disrupted Parker’s education. He returned to his Portsmouth, Ohio, home to help support his family after its home was destroyed by a fire. Parker also took other breaks from college to help fund his college education.
Ten years after enrolling, Parker finished his studies and graduated in 1964 with a degree in history. He used his education and love of the Bible to begin a pastoral ministry that lasted more than five decades at churches in Ohio, New York and Washington, D.C.
“I’ve been blessed beyond belief,” he said. “I’m still trying to wrap my mind around all that God has done for me. I’m elated to be able to return for commencement in May to receive my honorary doctorate, and I’m extremely thankful to Dr. White and the board of trustees for selecting me. It’s very humbling.”
The class of 2016 also features several students who came to Cedarville with almost no knowledge of the university, the surrounding area or even the United States.
Enoch Jayasundara and Benita Samuel will both walk across the stage to receive their degrees, and for each, it’s the completion of a journey that began in blind faith.
Jayasundara, a native of Sri Lanka, had never heard of Cedarville until his father happened to see a billboard while visiting family friends in Springfield, Ohio. After reading an email from his father encouraging him to take a look at Cedarville, Jayasundara knew it was the right place for him.
“I had no knowledge of Cedarville University or Ohio before my father told me about it,” he said. “But when I read the mission statement and read more about Cedarville’s vision, I knew that it was where God wanted me to be.”
Samuel has a similar story. Born in India and raised in the United Arab Emirates, she had a friend who attended Cedarville, but had no other connection to the school. When she began looking to transfer from a university in England, the door opened for her to come to Cedarville.
“It was just obvious through the process of applying to Cedarville and applying for my student visa that I was meant to be here,” she said. “The visa process can often be extremely long, but mine went through quickly and it became clear that I needed to walk through the door that God had opened.”
Jayasundara will graduate with a degree in information technology management while Samuel is receiving her degree in applied communication.
The university will also honor several students for their academic accomplishments. Two students, to be announced at the ceremony, will receive the President’s Trophy, while 12 students will be presented with the Faculty Scholarship Award for achieving a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
The students include the following: David M. Anson — Swansea, Ill.; Jonathan W. Barlow — Westerville, Ohio; Erica C. Corbiere — East Sandwich, Mass.; Sarah A. Fox — Belmont, Ohio; Steven T. Hartman — Cedarville, Ohio; Michael B. Kuhn — Ona, W.Va.; Rachel A. Lamb — Lebanon, Ohio; Joseph D. Morley — Verona, Wis.; Kelley C. Pugh — Chesapeake, Va.; Ryan M. Sanderson — North Huntingdon, Penn.; Emily S. Shinkle — Springfield, Ohio.