Asking the hundreds of Anderson University’s new graduates to become “prophetic citizens,” commencement speaker Cheryl J. Sanders told them Saturday to retain their Christian values while forging their new careers and building their post-collegiate lives. “Prophetic citizens are not gullible; they are not easily deceived,” said Sanders, senior pastor of the Third Street Church of God in Washington, D.C., since 1997. “Prophetic citizens don’t suspend their outrage when people in high places do the wrong thing. “They see hospitality as a virtue, not a burden.”
Along with being the speaker for Anderson’s 89th commencement, Sanders was also awarded an honorary doctoral degree in divinity. Sanders is a professor of Christian ethics at the Howard University School of Divinity.
“She’s prepared herself well to serve as well as teach,” said James L. Edwards, Anderson University’s president.
Many of the about-to-be graduates were greeted with whoops and hollers as they entered the Kardatzke Wellness Center’s Ward Fieldhouse through a side door in a long procession for Saturday’s graduation ceremony.
The path to happiness, Sanders said, can be found in following God’s plan. And she prodded them to remember their Christianity as they begin earning paychecks in the work world.
“Prosperity, like peace, is a gift from God,” Sanders said. “The poor need not only action, but they need advocacy.”
Sanders wasn’t the only person receiving an honorary doctorate. Matilda Barber, a longtime fixture on many community boards and groups in Anderson, received an honorary doctor of humane letters.
“Matilda Barber is known throughout this city and central Indiana for her deep commitment to the well-being of our citizens,” said nursing professor Andrea W. Koepke in introducing Barber. “From an early age, she dedicated her life to serving those in need. She has held several positions of leadership in the nursing field and in the community, remaining active in her retirement.”
Barber, a former vice president of community relations for Saint John’s Health System, began her career with the health care group in 1964 as an instructor for the school of nursing. She has served on the Health Search Task Force and has volunteered at Saint John’s Children’s Clinic. She’s twice been appointed by an Indiana governor to serve on the state’s Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Council.
“Because you exemplify so many of this university’s virtues of faith, compassion and service, it is therefore wholly appropriate that Anderson University recognize you,” said Koepke.
Barber was humble in accepting the honorary doctoral degree.
“I’m indeed happy to receive this honorary degree,” she said. “To God be the glory for things done in my life.”
— Writer Shawn McGrath is a reporter with The Herald Bulletin in Anderson. Story and photo reprinted with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.
Persons who received honorary degrees during AU's commencement ceremonies included:
MATILDA BARBER, ANDERSON COMMUNITY LEADER: DOCTOR OF HUMANE LETTERS
Matilda Barber has had a distinguished career both as a professional and as a community volunteer leader. She served in the profession of nursing through St. John’s Health System. Barber was the first African-American to become director of nursing for St. John’s, and was later appointed to leadership responsibilities in community relations. She has served on numerous boards and commissions throughout the City of Anderson and has given her time to bridge relationships across the community.
RONALD V. DUNCAN, NATIONAL CHURCH LEADER: DOCTOR OF DIVINITY
Ronald Duncan holds the appointed position of General Director of Church of God Ministries, the chief executive officer for Church of God Ministries and the General Assembly of the Church of God. An alumnus of Anderson University, he has earned degrees at Christian Theological Seminary and Ashland University. Pastoral and staff ministry assignments include churches in Ohio, Indiana and Texas. He concluded service to the nation through the United States Army Reserve, where as chaplain, he attained the rank of Colonel. Dr. Duncan has led a process of strategic planning and bold leadership that is uniting the broad areas of church fellowship, making commitments to a future of growth, flexibility and leadership development. He is a strong supporter of higher education across the Church of God.
CHERYL J. SANDERS, CHURCH LEADER, THEOLOGICAL EDUCATOR: DOCTOR OF DIVINITY
Cheryl Sanders has emerged as one of the most noted and effective church leaders across denominations, centering in her role as Senior Pastor of the Third Street Church of God in Washington, D.C., and as Professor of Christian Ethics at Howard University School of Divinity. Educated at Swarthmore College (BA, Mathematics), and Harvard University Divinity School (M.Div.; Th.D.), her writings and lectures take her around the world. Author of more than 50 articles and numerous books, she regularly appears with comment in religious periodicals and is drawn into inter-faith circles of conversation on faith and the national life. She is a valued colleague in the work of challenging the next generation of leaders to commit to lives of service in the church and society.
ELIZABETH HARP YORK, DISTINGUISHED ALUMNA, PHILANTHROPIST: DOCTOR OF HUMANE LETTERS
Elizabeth York grew up in a pastor’s home, was one of the few freshmen to be selected for Robert Nicholson’s College Choir, married a physician, completed a degree at Rutgers University, became an effective business partner and nimble investor for family resources, and has lead the way to significant philanthropic commitments through the Anderson University School of Theology, the broader university, and other Christian causes. She is an energetic and avid leader who is at home in the world of ideas, collects children’s books, rare theological publications, encourages creativity and literacy in many circles of her life of faith and service. Her interest in Anderson University began with an annual gift to help fund the Harp Lectures at the School of Theology and has broadened to support a visiting lectureship, the funding of York Seminary Housing, and other projects on the AU campus. Along with her husband, Dr. James York, she has made an enormous difference to strengthen opportunities for ministerial students, programs in the arts and the entire learning community.