When Booth College became Booth University College in 2010, the change signified the broadening of the mission and impact of the institution. With students at its Winnipeg campus and in 35 countries around the world, the reach of Booth University College continues grow. The recent Convocation and conferral of degrees marked the first time that credentials have been awarded under the new name.
The celebrations commenced on Sunday morning with a moving Baccalaureate Service. Drawing upon a tradition that dates back to 1492 at Oxford University, the Baccalaureate Service was an opportunity for the Booth community to gather in worship to honour its graduating students and to confirm their commitment to serving the community. Two students, Megan Bartel and Peter Hickman, provided reflections on the impact of their Booth University College education. This was followed by a ceremony in which graduating students were invited to take a rose from the Mercy Seat and to give it to someone who provided exemplary support to them during their time of study. It was touching to see students present roses to family members, professors, friends and others who had played a significant role in bringing them to this moment.
In his message, drawing upon Acts 17:16-28a, Commissioner William W. Francis, the Chancellor of Booth University College and territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory, reminded all present that it is in God that we “live and move and have our being.” In response to the commissioner’s message, the congregation sang Graham Kendrick’s hymn:
God of the poor, friend of the weak,
give us compassion we pray.
Melt our cold hearts, let tears fall like rain.
Come, change our love from a spark to a flame.
After a prayer of response led by Dr. David Neale, Vice President and Academic Dean, the service concluded with an affirmation of our faith through the singing of the song, “In Christ alone our hope is found.”
The Convocation Ceremony took place at Knox United Church and was supported by the Heritage Park Temple Band. After a rousing march that accompanied the procession of the graduating students into the church, the President of Booth University College, Dr. Donald Burke, opened Convocation. In his opening remarks, Dr. Burke noted that the countless activities that lead to this moment of graduation all come into focus as the students are awarded their diplomas. Public ceremonies such as this, he said, “…can lift us from the banality of the mundane and elevate us to a higher plane of insight and understanding—and I hope to a higher plane of purpose as well.”
After the Valedictory address by Bachelor of Social Work graduate Jamieson Dyck, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Dr. John Rook, read from Psalm 8.
The Convocation Address was delivered by Dr. Justin Cooper, President Emeritus of Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ont. Drawing upon his experience in Christian post-secondary education, Dr. Cooper exhorted the graduates to strive to serve as Christ did.
The afternoon moved quickly to its high point with the presentation of 41 certificates and degrees. Among the graduating students were 12 Salvation Army officers who have completed their B.A. program through Booth’s Extended Learning Network. The graduates also included two who have completed the Certificate in Chaplaincy, two who have completed the new Bachelor of Arts program in Religion and 25 students who have completed the Bachelor of Social Work program. Each graduate who was able to be present was hooded by the President and presented with a parchment by the Chancellor.
After the degrees had been presented, the recipients of two special awards were announced. The Chancellor’s Medal is given to a graduating Winnipeg campus student who has achieved a high academic standing and who has contributed both to the life of the university college community and to the wider community. This year’s recipient was Megan Bartel who also received a Bachelor of Arts degree. Captain Peter van Duinen, corps officer at Rainbow Country Church in Parry Sound, Ont., was announced as the recipient of the General’s Medal. This award is granted by the General to an extended-learning degree graduate who has achieved a high academic standing and who has demonstrated potential for leadership and an understanding of the distinctive ministry and theology of The Salvation Army, including the doctrine of holiness.
Near the end of the Convocation ceremony, two significant transitions in leadership of Booth University were recognized. After serving on the Board of Trustees for the past five years including four as the Chair of the Board, Dr. John Rook was acknowledged for his contributions. As its Chair, Dr. Rook guided the Board with skill and wisdom. In addition, Commissioner William Francis was recognized for his service as the Chancellor of Booth University College. As Chancellor, Commissioner Francis served as both the titular and spiritual head of the institution. Transition in these two important roles will occur in the coming months.
After the excitement of Convocation, the graduating class dispersed to take up their roles. Some returned to ministry in which they have served for many years, but now with the knowledge that they are well-equipped to meet the challenges before them. A majority of the social work graduates have already found employment and will begin their work in a variety of agencies, including Salvation Army ministries. Some will continue their studies in graduate programs. But regardless of the path they have chosen, all left knowing that their Booth experience has prepared them for the future.