Graduation can be an intimidating step into the real world, as well as an exciting beginning to life after college.
At this semester’s Commencement, Dr. John Willis will speak to graduating seniors. He plans to encourage them and celebrate with them as they take an important step toward their futures.
Willis, who serves as an elder at Highland Church of Christ, has been a professor of Bible at ACU since 1971 and is the Burton Coffman Chair of Biblical Studies. In addition to teaching, he has written several Bible commentaries for ACU’s Living Word commentaries and traveled to numerous countries across the world.
Students on campus who had Willis as their professor know he remembers each of them by name, and he always welcomes them to his home, said Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, provost.
To select Willis as the Commencement speaker, graduating seniors nominated faculty members, who were then reviewed by the provost’s office. The office discussed each nominee and made a recommendation to VanRheenen, who contacted Willis to see if he was willing to speak.
“It is quite an honor to be selected,” VanRheenen said.
Willis said he was honored and thankful he was chosen by students to speak.
He said he has given thought and time to preparing a speech for Commencement that will have a positive impact on graduatingÂ students.
“I’m hoping and praying it’s going to be an encouragement to all that are graduating,” he said.
Willis said his speech will be a supportive push for students to lift up their hearts and minds as they pursue a future in a culture that is often discouraging. He will speak from the Bible to encourage students to look back and remember the people and experiences that have brought them to their present situations, to look around and ponder the teachers, mentors and friends who supported them and to look forward to the opportunities and challenges which lie before them.
“We’ve been saying a lot in our society about the terrible economy we live in,” Willis said. “We have all kinds of problems: health problems, family problems; but by the faith of God, we need to lift up our hearts.”
He said he enjoys teaching students throughout their college careers, although at the same time it is hard to see them leave.
“It’s a mixed bag. It hurts me to see them leave, yet that’s why we work with them,” Willis said. “They move on…I feel like we all grow together. I learn as much from them as they do from me.”
Willis will speak at Saturday’s Commencement, which will have two ceremonies. The ceremonies will be at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.