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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

‘Forever a Tiger’

Iowa Wesleyan Class of 2018 graduates Saturday
May 07, 2018
Photo by: Grace King The Class of 2018 accepted their diplomas during commencement Saturday, May 5, shaking hands with university President Steve Titus and stopping for a photo on their way across the stage.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Iowa Wesleyan University Class of 2018 crossed over from college students to career ready Saturday, May 5, with the words of commencement speaker Col. Patrick M. Coen ringing in their ears: You will always be a Tiger.

As students eagerly anticipated shaking hands with Iowa Wesleyan University (IW) President Steve Titus as he handed them their diploma, Coen, an IW graduate and current superintendent of the Burlington Community School District, reminded soon-to-be graduates that this is not an end, but a milestone.

“Go out into the real world, improve humanity and forever be a Tiger,” Coen bellowed, stepping up to the edge of the stage without a microphone and gesturing to the students donned in cap and gown.

During the ceremony, Titus honored graduating student Christian Henriksen with the prestigious President’s Award and announced Dr. Jason Edwards as honoree of the Chadwick Teacher of the Year Award.

The President’s Award is given to a graduating student every year for extraordinary and cumulative impact on the university throughout their years as a student. This student shows exemplary leadership, demonstrates responsibility and has a high academic performance.

Titus introduced Henriksen as a student who stood out over his “remarkable” four-year career at IW and was one of the most exceptional students he had ever had the pleasure of teaching.

“(Henriksen) welcomes people with authenticity and inspires people with his walk of faith,” Titus said.

Christian Henriksen graciously accepted the President’s Award, taking a moment to encourage his fellow classmates and reminisce over the past four years.

Henriksen recalled stepping onto campus as a freshman, walking to football camp with butterflies in his stomach and nervous adrenaline coursing through his body. Five words, seemingly so simple, popped into his head that day; words he was gifted when he graduated from Mt. Pleasant Community High School mere months before.

“Be strong, and be courageous,” Henriksen said to his peers.

Henriksen asked his classmates if over the course of their college career they had ended up somewhere unpredictable, following it up by asking them to celebrate the unexpected with strength and courage.

“This is the next step,” Henriksen concluded. “College has come to a close. Be humble in leadership, resilient, be strong, and be very courageous.”

Following Henriksen’s speech, Titus introduced Edwards, Professor of Music, as Chadwick Teacher of the Year. Each year, the Teacher of the Year recipient is someone who shows academic and professional excellence, maintains quality interactions with students, and supports student development.

Titus said Edwards works tirelessly to teach students to become educated audience members in addition to performers, all while tirelessly nurturing the next generation of college students.

Edwards accepted the honor voicing his appreciation for the nomination. “My fellow colleagues are just as deserving of this,” he said. “We don’t do this for the awards, we do it for the students.”

As Coen began the commencement address following the presentation of awards, he echoed Henriksen’s sentiment, advising students to be adaptive and embrace change.

Coen also addressed faculty who sat across the aisle from students in Ruble Arena. “You are doing God’s work,” he encouraged. “Without you, we don’t have this. They are going to change our world because of you. Don’t ever lose sight of that.”

Coen reminded students that just because they have a diploma doesn’t mean they no longer have the support of the professors who got them to this point, saying that if they ever get scared or stuck to call “one of these guys,” the faculty who will help them “unconditionally.”

While Coen told them to celebrate their accomplishments, he also reminded that the real world was knocking. From here on out, it is a question of how graduates will carry on the mission of IW.

“You are fully prepared. That Iowa Wesleyan degree will take you places,” Coen said.

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