Events General News News Releases

Canadian Mennonite University Celebrates Class of 2016

Eighty-nine graduates honoured during university’s annual commencement exercises

“What are you going to do with your degree?” is a question all university graduates are familiar with. Jonas Cornelsen tackled the query head on during his valedictory address at Canadian Mennonite University’s (CMU) graduation service.

“I believe the opportunities we have had to sit in class or outside of class and wrestle with deep, complex questions about life, about faith, and about the world have… enhanced also our capacity to love each other, to love God, and to love all of creation more deeply,” Cornelsen (BA, Four-Year, Political Studies, Communications and Media) said during the service, held on Sunday afternoon, April 24 at Immanuel Pentecostal Church.

During the address, Cornelsen meditated on the Class of 2016’s graduation verse, Philippians 1:9: “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight.”

Jonas Cornelsen, Valedictorian for CMU’s class of 2016

“Education is a great gift and we can all respond in gratitude by humbly sharing the knowledge and insight we have gained and (received) from others, by showing love to all of those we meet, living by the Creator’s grace, Christ’s example, and the Spirit’s hope in a broken world,” Cornelsen concluded. “That is what you can really do with a degree.”

It was an eloquent, hope-filled message delivered toward the end of a weekend filled with reflection, laughter, and tears as graduates and families enjoyed stories, songs, presentations, and meals along with CMU faculty, staff, and current students.

The graduation service culminated with CMU President Dr. Cheryl Pauls conferring 84 undergraduate degrees, four Master of Arts degrees, and one graduate certificate in Biblical and Theological Studies.

“On this day of celebration, we collectively honour work well done by 89 fine men and women,” Pauls said before addressing the graduates directly: “We as faculty and staff draw courage in the generosity of being that shapes your faith, your character, your tangible skills, and your vibrant imagination.”

CMU President Pauls (centre) with 2016 President Medal winners Kathleen Bergen and Jonas Cornelson
CMU President Pauls (centre) with 2016 President Medal winners Kathleen Bergen and Jonas Cornelsen

Pauls awarded President’s Medals to Cornelsen and Kathleen Bergen (BA, Four-Year, Biblical and Theological Studies) in recognition of their qualities of scholarship, leadership, and service.

Earlier in the service, Sister Lesley Sacouman delivered the graduation address.

Sacouman, who co-founded Winnipeg’s Rossbrook House, which has provided a safe haven for tens of thousands of children, and who currently works with newcomers to Canada, urged listeners to consider the question: “Where for you does your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet?”

Sister Sister Lesley Sacouman, who co-founded Winnipeg’s Rossbrook House, challenged the graduates to provide “compassionate and principled leadership” in her address

“Graduates, the world needs you. The world needs compassionate and principled leadership,” she said. “May God’s merciful gaze embolden you to walk through the door of mercy and embrace the…suffering Christ in your midst.”

At With Gratitude, a CMU graduation weekend event at which graduates share their experiences through spoken word or musical performance, Beth Downey Sawatzky (BA, Four-Year, English) reflected on how the faculty, staff, and students at CMU have cultivated “an institutional culture of kindness rather than one of prestige or competition.”

“If I have learned anything at CMU that will stay with me no matter what the future holds, it’s that if we as Christians truly believe what we claim to believe, we can always afford to be kind,” she said. “I hope whatever I become—professor, priest, mother, all or none of the above—I hope whatever I become that I will be rebelliously kind; that I will be as rebelliously courageous as my mentors of the last five years have been.”

CMU’s class of 2016

Speaking at the same event, Nonsi Sibanda (BBA, Business Management) shared how she was fortunate to move from Zimbabwe to study at CMU.

“I got an opportunity to grow in a place where my career options are not limited (and) where there is hope for a bright future,” Sibanda said.

She added that prior to coming to CMU, she understood business and Christianity as two separate domains with no connections. Studying at CMU’s Redekop School of Business showed her otherwise.

“Business for me is not about the love of numbers anymore,” Sibanda said. “It is about the joy I have in my heart to serve others in an honest and in a diligent way.”

The Graduation Service and With Gratitude presentation were part of a number of events that occurred during graduation weekend, including a gala dinner on Friday, April 22, Spring Concert on Saturday, April 23, and Baccalaureate Service the morning of April 24.

Image gallery from the weekend’s events here.