Commencement speaker: Be open to God’s call
The Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, bishop of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, told LaGrange College’s Class of 2018 on Saturday that life is more about answering a calling than building a career.
“I suggest that you open your own lives to discern God’s calling,” she said. “God doesn’t only call preachers, God calls every human being to use his or her unique gifts in service to God and to humanity.”
Haupert-Johnson was the speaker for LaGrange College’s 187th commencement ceremonies held on the Residential Quad.
President Dan McAlexander welcomed the graduates and guests, celebrating the morning’s weather. Rain had been forecast for Saturday.
“Isn’t it a glorious day?” he said. “And it isn’t raining!”
McAlexander recognized those who have impacted the students – family and friends, as well as LaGrange College faculty and staff.
“It is our hope for you that as you prepare to begin this next phase of your lives, that you will carry the ideals of your alma mater’s mission out into the world – challenging minds, inspiring souls and searching always for truth.”
Rebekah Jamison Lee presented the senior gift to McAlexander. The “Pay It Forward” campaign featured a record senior participation of 70.83 percent.
Garrett Wallace, this year’s recipient of the Waights G. Henry Jr. Leadership Award, said his time at the college changed him in ways he never imagined.
“As college should do, my experience helped me to expand my thinking and forced me out of my comfort zone,” he said. “My conversations with peers, my course readings … my service in the community all challenged my own sense of identity and caused me to think about my place in the world and how I could build relationships with all kinds of people.”
Wallace shared his favorite quote, “Many things can only be seen through eyes that have cried,” but he added to it.
“But even more can be seen when we cry with people and shoulder burdens with them,” he said. “I believe that my faith calls me to the margins of society. It’s so much easier to hunker down with our own tribes. But there is a better path, one Jesus calls the narrow path. It is a path that enriches the lives of everyone, not just a few.”
An honorary doctorate was presented to Nancy Newman Durand ’68 of LaGrange and Haupert-Johnson before the commencement address.
In speaking to the 266 graduates, Haupert-Johnson called herself an “academic nerd,” explaining that she loved everything about going to college – so much so that she went to law school so she could stay in school. But once she became a lawyer, she came to a surprising realization.
Despite having a successful legal career, she said she was miserable.
“I knew that, while some people were meant to practice law, I was not one of them,” she said. “My carefully ordered life seemed empty.”
That’s when she stopped and listened to another voice.
“I decided I would create time and space to listen to God,” she said. “As a Christian I seek the direction of Jesus and the Holy Spirit ... And, for me, that has made all the difference.”
She urged the graduates to make time and space for God to speak in their lives.
“God is calling you to great adventures,” she said. “Yes, it is scary, and my observation is that most people either, like me, try carefully to order their lives to achieve a certain destiny or simply travel aimlessly, careening from career to career. But there’s a better way.”
She encouraged them to take what they’ve learned at LaGrange College and see what God is calling them to do.
“You, graduating class of 2018, are instruments in God’s hand,” she said. “I leave you to God’s care. Listen well and go as God leads you. You are God’s finest gift to the world. Go transform it with your giftedness.”
The 2018 class includes the first graduates of the college’s new RN-BSN (Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing) online program, as well as master’s programs in Strength and Conditioning and Clinical Mental Health Counseling.