State Senator Roth advises students, place service before self

Commencement speaker California Senator Roth advises to students to serve others before self.

June 19, 2013
By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( As creative writing major Leanne Galvan stood in a long line of graduates bedecked in black caps and gowns on a misty Sunday morning, she couldn’t believe it was finally happening.

Soon she and about 349 of her graduating peers at La Sierra University would march down the sloping campus walkways and onto Founder’s Green to eventually cross a stage and collect their hard-won diplomas. “It’s kind of unbelievable,” said Galvan, who aims to publish children’s books over the summer. “It’s been really fun because the teachers helped out.” Her long-term plans? “Whatever Jesus wants me to do,” she said.

La Sierra University graduated 350 students on June 16, including five first graduates of the university’s three-year-old Criminal Justice bachelor’s degree program. (Click here to view graduation photo albums.)

Ally Davidson, happy to receive her Bachelor of Arts in management.Following an awards presentation, La Sierra’s commencement speaker, California State Senator Richard D. Roth delivered an address titled “Yes, You Can.” Roth, voted into office last November, is an attorney and former high-ranking, 32-year member of the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps. His extensive civic service in the Riverside area includes serving as a past board chairman of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce, as president of Riverside’s Monday Morning Group, as a member of La Sierra’s foundation board, the Riverside Community Hospital Advisory Board, and the Riverside County Bar Association Board of Directors. His wife, Cindy Roth, serves as president and chief executive officer of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce.

Roth admonished La Sierra’s students to place service before self and to be guided by service, integrity and excellence, the core values of the Air Force. He recounted his entry into the military in 1972 and pursuit of a law degree, both decisions fueled by the expectations and influence of others, as well as a desire for financial success. “I was thinking of that …red Ford Mustang convertible with a white interior,” Roth said. “I thought public service was for those who couldn’t make it anywhere else.”

Roth served in the Air Force JAG Corps providing legal counsel and support but couldn’t wait to complete his active duty term and begin making money through civilian law practice. At the urging of his superiors, he remained in the Air Force through the reserves after entering the private legal field. He began earning the money he had desired, but the achievement rang hollow. “I should have been happy beyond my wildest dreams. Unfortunately I was not,” Roth said. “I began to realize I was actually happiest when I was serving others through the Air Force, such as when I counseled young military men and women, solving family legal obligations, and preparing wills and powers of attorneys.”

“I wondered why that was so satisfying,” Roth continued. He thought about the core values upheld by the Air Force, the comparatively low military pay for providing legal counsel to service members, and finally concluded, “It was that opportunity to serve others, not myself,” he said.

Happy graduates celebrate their achievement.He cited the sacrifices of military personnel in service to their country including the much-published account of former NFL player Pat Tillman. The football player gave up a multi-million-dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist with the U.S. Army in the months following the 9-11 attacks. Tillman was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.

“Not all who served are famous, but all are heroes in my book,” said Roth.

After retiring from the Air Force reserves, Roth attempted to find satisfaction through his law practice, “but I was unable to do so,” he said. “So when I was asked to take on the challenge of serving as a state senator I jumped.”

“I ran for office because I believe we have a health care crisis in inland Southern California,” with too few primary care physicians and other providers in practice, he continued. “It’s a social justice issue. It’s an issue that demands solution. I accepted the challenge because I believe that in some small way I may be able to contribute to that solution.”

In closing, Roth cited a military cadet maxim, challenging La Sierra graduates to  “risk more than others think is safe, care more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible. …If success is measured by impact, I know you will be successful beyond all expectations. Yes, you can.”

In remarks to students, President Randal Wisbey advised the graduates to remain close to God. “Bind yourselves to the One who can heal the broken-hearted,” he said. “We send you forth to continue this good work that has been nurtured in you through your time at La Sierra.”

La Sierra’s commencement ceremony included the presentation of the President’s Award, Dean’s Awards and Alumni Awards to various students. Wisbey also presented an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Odette Ferreira for distinguished leadership of the Adventist Colleges Abroad program which was established at La Sierra in 1962. The program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It is now based at the Maryland headquarters of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Ferreira, who is fluent in eight languages, has served as ACA’s director since 1995 and has overseen its development into a worldwide program.

Jason Ross, celebrating his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.The Distinguished Faculty Award was presented to Winona Howe, professor of English, for her student mentorship, support of colleagues and consistently high rate of work involving an average of three conference presentations a year over a 20-year period.

Early in her career Howe received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, a pivotal experience that shaped her future research. Her efforts included helping establish the Library Undergraduate Research Prize at La Sierra.

Nancy and Hermogenes Guerpo received the Jay J. Nethery Award for their length service to La Sierra, their commitment to students, to God and their campus. The university has employed the couple for 17 years. Nancy Guerpo is La Sierra’s director of residential life, and Hermogenes Guerpo serves as assistant to La Sierra’s athletics director.

La Sierra’s graduates expressed joy, relief and gratitude as they celebrated the completion of an academic milestone.

Emily Gifford, who completed course requirements in December, graduated with a major in Global Studies and a minor in music. She plans to enroll in a graduate public health program at Loma Linda University. “I’m going to miss my teachers,” Gifford said prior to the graduation ceremony. “They were awesome.”

Joseph Osorio, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in finance, celebrated commencement with upwards of 50 family members who arrived from around Southern California and other countries. “Family is one of the beautiful things God gave us,” he said. “It’s a blessing to have my family out here.”

“I’m happy for his achievement,” said Osorio’s mother, Emma Osorio who flew to California from El Salvador for her son’s graduation. “What I want for him in his life is to serve others,” she said.

“This day was amazing. I’ve been waiting for it for four years,” said John Sheldon Hadley who graduated Summa Cum Laude with both a Bachelor of Arts in management and a Bachelor of Science in accounting.

“Like all parents, we’re proud,” commented Hadley’s father Steve Hadley. He and his wife, Vicky, are both La Sierra alums and traveled from San Diego for commencement. “We’re very grateful. It’s an environment where [students] can keep their moorings to their faith while they transition into the adult world,” he said.

“It’s a happy day. A great Father’s Day,” said Donna Boehmer whose son, John Boehmer graduated with a Bachelor of Science in accounting.

Said Boehmer’s father, Ric Boehmer, “I enjoyed it from the start. I don’t think my smile changed the whole time.” The couple traveled from North Carolina for their son’s graduation.
John Boehmer reminisced his La Sierra experience. “They keep it like a tight-knit family. You have a lot of fun, work hard and learn a lot,” he said.

  • Last update on  June 20, 2013