Bethany College Sets Commencement Schedule

BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College President Scott D. Miller announced that the College’s annual Commencement activities will be held May 15-16, 2009.

A Baccalaureate service is set for Friday, May 15 at 8 p.m. in Commencement Hall at the College’s historic Old Main. The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, the first woman to serve as General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, will deliver remarks to the graduating seniors. Rev. Watkins earned her bachelor’s degree in French and Economics at Butler University and holds a Master of Divinity from the Yale Divinity School. She earned her Doctor of Ministry at Phillips Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1984 at Hamden, Conn.

President Miller will host a reception honoring parents and members of the Class of 2009 on the front lawn of Old Main immediately following the Baccalaureate service. In case of rain the reception will be held on the corridor of Old Main.

Commencement activities for the Class of 2009 will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 16 on the Quadrangle of Old Main. Rev. Watkins will be presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity and Bill Strickland, President and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation and its subsidiaries (Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) and Bidwell Training Center (BTC) in Pittsburgh) will be presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities.

Strickland will deliver the Commencement Address to the Class of 2009.

A Pittsburgh native and one of the nation’s leading social entrepreneurs, Strickland is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in American History and Foreign Relations. Strickland returned to Manchester, the inner-city neighborhood in which he grew up, and created a model for turning underprivileged people into productive workers. His business model proved highly successful, and he continues to replicate it across the country.

Strickland founded MCG to teach life skills to at-risk children through the arts. Students have the opportunity to take classes and workshops in photography, design, ceramics and more and learn from internationally known artists. In addition, MCG works extensively with jazz artists and audiences to preserve and promote jazz music through a variety of performances and recordings. Grammy-winning MCG Jazz is the most successful jazz subscription series in America.

Strickland also created BTC, an innovative partnership with local companies that provides displaced adults with the training they need to land jobs in those companies. Participants can earn an associate degree or complete diploma programs in fields such as horticulture, office technology and chemical laboratory technologies. MCG and BTC have each grown into $3 million-a-year operations.

Strickland has received numerous awards in recognition of his contribution to the arts and his community. These include the MacArthur Genius Award for leadership in 1996 and the Coming Up Taller Award, which was presented to him by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in a 1998 White House ceremony. He also served a six-year Presidential appointment as a Council Member to the National Endowment for the Arts and is a member of numerous boards and councils domestically and overseas.

Strickland is the author of “Make the Impossible Possible: One Man's Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary,” published in 2007. In 2008, he was named Pittsburgher of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine.

Rev. Watkins, the Baccalaureate speaker, delivered the sermon at the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service on January 21, 2009, at the National Cathedral. She was the first woman to give the address at the inaugural event, a tradition that dates back to George Washington and celebrates America’s diversity of faith.

President Barack Obama recently announced that Rev. Watkins has been named to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. One of 25 faith leaders appointed to the advisory council, she will serve a one-year term.

Known for her message of ecumenism and hope, Rev. Watkins is a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and serves on its Permanent Committee for Consensus and Collaboration. In 2006, she was a representative at the World Council’s General Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil. She served for two years as a missionary in the Congo and maintains ties with the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo. In 2007, she visited several Middle East countries and focused on the struggles of Iraqi refugees.

She is a member of the governing board of the National Council of Churches, based in New York City, and is a board member of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, a Washington, D.C.-based group that seeks to engage supporters in social justice causes.

Rev. Watkins served as pastor of the Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, Okla., for eight years. She worked as Director of Student Services at Phillips Theological Seminary in Oklahoma and Associate Vice President for University Relations at Phillips University. She has been a member of the Church's General Board Task Force on Reconciliation Mission and has served as Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma. In addition, she has been part of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue Group, which deals with the history of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and its relationship with other religious groups.

Immediately following Commencement, weather permitting, there will be a brief reception on the front lawn of Old Main for the 2009 graduates, their family and guests. A special Commencement Day Luncheon will be provided in the main Dining Hall from noon to 1:30 p.m. for members of the graduating class and their guests.

Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college. The College held its first Commencement on July 4, 1842.