Scriven tells grads, find passion within difficulty

Rachel Herchanova achieves a milestone.
Rachel Herchanova achieves a milestone.

June 21, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker

On a misty, cool Sunday morning, 338 La Sierra University graduates received more than their long-awaited diplomas; they received a message steeped in the realities of life and in the differences a strong faith can make.

Dr. Charles Scriven, president of Kettering College of Medical Arts in Dayton, Ohio and publisher of Spectrum magazine delivered a commencement address on June 19 titled “Perplexity and Passion.” In his opening comments Scriven commended the university and its faculty. “I admire La Sierra’s long record of welcoming and supporting provocative teachers. I am flat out moved by the resiliency of this place,” he said. “Graduates, you have been served by amazing people.”

Scriven talked to the graduates and to hundreds of their family members and friends gathered on Founder’s Green about finding passion past the inevitable disappointments and pains of life. He recounted the biblical story of Joseph, a rather spoiled teenager with God-sent dreams of leadership who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. Joseph nonetheless clung to his father’s faith throughout intense persecution, loneliness and betrayal and as a result became a deeply changed, empathetic man who saw the dreams of his youth fulfilled in amazing ways.

Scriven reminded the students of the importance of hanging on to their own faith in discovering a life of passion, a faith that has had the opportunity to develop and mature at La Sierra. “If the best people have no passion, the worst people rule. Not good,” Scriven said.


Dr. Charles Scriven delivered La Sierra's commencement address.
Dr. Charles Scriven delivered La Sierra's commencement address.


“We all live between dreams and disappointment. You can count on facing perplexity,” he told the graduates. “La Sierra University has given you faith, or the opportunity for faith. Even though bad surprises come into every house, you can make a difference. Maybe you will end up in a place you never thought of going. But the story says it will be worth the trip.”

As an example, he touched on his own poignant story of struggle when faced with a lost job and a lost marriage. “But I’m still so glad for what God has done for me I can hardly contain my joy,” Scriven said with emotion. “Overall there is joy, overall there is passion. I think what God has given me, God gives and offers everyone.”

Scriven also serves as board chair of the Adventist Forum. His books include “The Demons Have Had It: A Theological ABC,” “The Transformation of Culture: Christian Social Ethics After H. Richard Niebuhr,” and “The Promise of Peace: Dare to Live the Advent Hope.”

Prior to his address, Scriven received from La Sierra’s President Randal Wisbey the university’s Presidential Medallion “for extraordinary service to Adventist education, fostering dialogue within the church and reminding us that everyone matters,” Wisbey said.

In his opening remarks titled “Taking Your Place on the Path of Justice,” Wisbey noted that he arrived on campus four years ago as did most of this year’s graduates. The senior class included his son, Alexander Wisbey who graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University Honors program with a Bachelor of Arts in management.


Alexander Wisbey, son of La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey celebrates graduation from La Sierra.
Alexander Wisbey, son of La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey celebrates graduation from La Sierra.


President Wisbey encouraged the graduates to commit their lives to the values and ideals embodied by La Sierra’s Path of the Just, a walkway along the campus mall with continent-shaped gardens and monuments commemorating some of the world’s best loved humanitarian rights leaders including Reverend Desmond Tutu, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Ana and Fernando Stahl. A split rock at the head of a cascading fountain is inscribed with a verse from the book of Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” “It is our desire that your lives will faithfully embody this commitment,” Wisbey said. “…we are counting on you to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Click here to access the Graduation 2011 web page with links to photos from the weekend.

The ceremonies included the presentation of an Honorary Doctor of Laws to Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge in thanks for his commitment to the city and the university.

Loveridge, a former political science professor, has served Riverside 31 years, first as a Ward 1 councilmember beginning in 1979 and as mayor since 1994. He is a highly regarded regional and state politician and has served at regional, state and national levels in various leadership roles. Mayor Loveridge has also served as a member of the La Sierra University Foundation Board of Directors since its inception and has brought a number of La Sierra students into his office as interns, providing a sound foundation for these students’ future careers.

“It was a personal honor to be recognized and thanked,” said Loveridge following commencement ceremonies. “There’s something magical about graduations and I was proud to be a part of that magic today.”


Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge receives an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from La Sierra University Provost Steve Pawluk during La Sierra's graduation on June 19.
Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge receives an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from La Sierra University Provost Steve Pawluk during La Sierra's graduation on June 19.


As is tradition, the graduating class presented the university with a class gift, in this case, two gifts; an endowment scholarship and new lights for the gymnasium. Class President Keith Ybanez, who is headed for law school, told his fellow graduates, “If you have a dream now is the time pursue it, before you buy furniture.” He advised them to learn from their mistakes and not fear them. “Find out what you’re bad at. It will lead you to what you’re good at,” he said.

As the graduates and their entourages of family and friends spilled across Founder’s Green following graduation, one Business and Society/Pre-Law grad found herself surrounded by about 30 relatives and friends. Most were clad in pink t-shirts emblazoned front and back, respectively, with “Congratulations Stephany,” and “La Sierra Class of 2011.”  Stephany Venegas aims to become a business lawyer, but her biggest dream “is to help people who cannot afford lawyers,” she said. The Coachella resident’s next goal is a master’s degree in finance from La Sierra followed by a law degree.

Venegas described her La Sierra experience as “amazing. Just the fact that they bring God into the studies,” she said. Venegas’ sister also attended La Sierra and she was particularly influenced by an interview she gave at La Sierra while in high school. “I knew God was going to be present,” she said. Venegas knew she would be taught “not to leave God behind, not to forget about Him.”


La Sierra Class of 2011 President Keith Ybanez tells fellow grads learn from mistakes.
La Sierra Class of 2011 President Keith Ybanez tells fellow grads learn from mistakes.


David Choi graduated with a degree in biophysics and plans to attend pharmacy school. His studies were difficult, he said, and Choi thanked his professors for their assistance. “My professors were so good and helpful. Without their help I wouldn’t be where I am,” he said.

Amarleono Burnett, a professional chef, Detroit native and current Riverside resident, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies. “Exhilerated. Relieved. Fulfilled and blessed,” Burnett responded when asked to describe his thoughts and emotions upon receiving his degree. His friend and La Sierra alum Darryl Williams gave Burnett a congratulatory hug. “He sat right next to me when I decided to come here and he’s been right by my side all the way,” Burnett said of his friend.

Burnett attended culinary schools in Maryland and Washington D.C. in years past but decided he needed to bolster his education. Six years ago he saw a television advertisement for La Sierra while he and Williams were having dinner. “I looked up and said, ‘I want to go to that school.’ Two months later I was sitting in class.” While attending La Sierra, Burnett called upon his years of career and business experience and mentored La Sierra’s Students In Free Enterprise team prior to the team’s World Cup win in 2007. He also directed a SIFE project.

“God’s good,” Burnett said in between hugs from the numerous family members and friends who came to watch him achieve his goal. “It’s been a phenomenal experience coming back to school. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  June 21, 2011