La Sierra’s president leads crowded convocation, inspires students to change the world

La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey delivers the annual convocation address to a packed church on Sept. 27
La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey delivers the annual convocation address to a packed church on Sept. 27

Sept. 28, 2012

By Darla Martin Tucker

La Sierra University officially launched the new academic year on Sept. 27 with its annual convocation service, an event that jammed the La Sierra University Church with students, faculty and staff and heralded another record year for the institution.

The processional of faculty and administrative leaders in traditional academic regalia led off a service of music and prayer highlighted by La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey’s address, “One University Changing the World.”

Despite the varied cultural, linguistic, religious and academic backgrounds represented at the university, “we are all, individually and corporately, part of one university—a university in which each of us plays a unique and important role,” Wisbey said.


“Today, what are you committed to?” the president asked. “What plans burn in your soul, what wakes you up in the middle of the night, what fills you with anticipation?  How are you going to change the world?”

He cited Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatever our hands find to do, we are to do it with all our might,” and Proverbs 16:3, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

He recalled visiting La Sierra’s honor students in Istanbul, Turkey this summer with his wife, Deanna, and their attendance at a Sufi worship service by an order of Islam founded in the 13th century. The service included a dance by dervish devotees dressed in long white robes, felt hats and black cloaks. They bowed to each other to acknowledge the divine breath that has entered all human beings, removed their cloaks, bowed to their master, and began to spin.

“Whirling dervishes are representative of the moon and they spin on the outside of the master who is representative of the sun,” the president said. “Spinning on his right foot, the dervish receives God’s love through the upward facing palm, it flows through his heart, and then down the left arm.  They view themselves as a conduit, channeling God’s love outward to the rest of the world.”

He cited the work of 10 faculty, staff and students as examples of ways in which La Sierra’s family is making a widespread, rippling impact on the world. They included senior chemistry major and researcher John Payne who is seeking a cure for leukemia; senior global studies/political science major and former International Justice Mission intern Kate Case who will lobby state leaders for anti-human trafficking legislation; faculty members Trisha Famisaran and Warren Trenchard who led in the development of the “One in Christ” campaign calling for an end to gender discrimination in the ordination of Seventh-day Adventist ministers; and Student Financial Services Assistant Director Audrey Gaspard’s efforts to help international students and their families by packaging and delivering hundreds of food baskets each month, an effort funded by a nonprofit she and her husband established called International Student Pantry.

Wisbey recounted, “As I think back to that night in Istanbul, I can see the dervishes begin to spin, one at a time, released by the master, orbiting within a galaxy of worship and praise, embracing the world.”

“Let us never forget we change the world when we give voice to someone who has none,” Wisbey said, “We change the world when we prepare for lives of service.  We change the world when we fight for justice.  We change the world when we live and act ethically.”

Freshman pre-dental hygiene major Kayla Wollin was inspired by Wisbey’s talk, and by “all the students that dedicated portions of their lives to serve people who needed help,” she said.

Wollin is anticipating life as a university freshman. “I am most looking forward to meeting new people, gaining friends, and going to social events and trips,” she said. Her primary concerns going forward are financial issues, “and the stress and work of classes.”

Senior psychology major Madeleine Salazar is looking forward to completing degree requirements in March and heading to graduate school in the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business with a possible future career in human resources. She was also inspired by the address “One University Changing the World.” “It was full of wisdom,” she said. “He’s basically telling us to accept challenges and see where we can go. He’s telling us to go for it and prove ourselves.”

Click here for a slideshow of photos from convocation:

Watch the annual convocation:

Academic Convocation 2012 from La Sierra University on Vimeo.

  • Last update on  October 05, 2012