More Than A Diploma

Last night, I had the privilege and honor of speaking to the freshmen class about my experience here at AU. While on my way to the event, I prayed that the Lord would receive all glory and all praise for the words I spoke. I’ve gotten some feedback from friends that mentioned that I should share my speech here. All glory to God the Father.

Four years ago, I would have never dreamed that this place would be Home to me.

Four years ago, I toured Anderson. I knew next to nothing about college, except that I was sure I needed to go. I had never toured a college before and I hadn’t yet applied anywhere, but somehow, I wound up touring this University.

I had no idea then all that the Lord would do over the next four years. It’s been four years and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting countless friends that will be my bridesmaids one day, changing my major, not once or even twice, but three times, working four different jobs, gone to countless events, and drank tons of cups of coffee. I’ve met mentors and gone to intramural games and eaten birddogs and gone on mission trips. I’ve watched too many seasons of television and pulled too many late nights, desperately trying to study after said television. I’ve smelled the cookies that Mrs. Whitaker bakes for us, I’ve felt the green grass of the front lawn under my feet, I’ve heard the sound of hundreds of voices raised to praise the Lord. I’ve watched the faculty bend over backwards to give us the experience that we have. I’ve witnessed people cross from death to life in campus ministry events, within the residence halls, and many places in between. I’ve seen grace poured out. I’ve seen restoration in lives. I’ve seen the Lord show up over and over and over.

Each day of the last four years, I have been shaped by this place. By the students here, by staff like Scott Taylor and Winfred, by the professors that have deeply cared for me, by the worship here, by the prayers of my roommates, by the good, and bad grades, that I’ve gotten. By the Lord, who is evident here. By the love that is rooted in this campus. It is in the halls, in the classrooms, in the oak trees, and in the theaters. It is in offices, down hallways, up stairs, and, already, in the foundation of the new student center. Really, I believe that there is no environment more loving than this one.

These four years have proven to be some of my hardest days ever. I struggled and I’ve failed and I’ve let people down. I’ve found regret and I’ve hurt. But I wouldn’t change a thing if I could because all of that is the more-than-a-diploma that I’m talking about.

One of Anderson’s core values is commitment to the student. This means that this University is committed to doing more for us than just giving us a degree. This University is committed to building us up spiritually, mentally, physically, academically, and socially. Your tuition dollars pay for much more than just your degree and it is my prayer that, by the end of your four short years, you will know that.

You couldn’t give me enough money to go back 4 years ago and decide on a different school. You couldn’t convince me that Anderson isn’t one of the best places to be. And you surely couldn’t make me transfer, two years ago, six months ago, or even now.

I will be more than sad to graduate. The idea of leaving the place that has so deeply shaped me for four whole years is not a feeling that I welcome. I will not soon forget all four years I spent here. And on the day in nine short months, that I walk across that stage to shake Dr. Whitaker’s hand and receive my diploma, I will know, without a doubt, that I am stepping into the real world with much more than just a handshake and a degree. The life I’ve learned here is irreplaceable. Anderson is committed to showing you life and life abundantly. And of all the things I’ve seen here, I couldn’t trade a single one. It is my hope that you will continue on in this abundant life. That you will let Anderson take you on the adventure because it is one most worth taking.

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