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ETBU confers 105 degreesduring fall commencement

By Special to the News-Journal
Dec. 12, 2017 at 6 p.m.

President of ICUT Ray Martinez gives a charge to the East Texas Baptist University graduating class Saturday.

East Texas Baptist University awarded degrees to 105 graduates Saturday during a commencement ceremony in Baker Chapel of the Ornelas Spiritual Life Center.

ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn presided over the ceremony as 82 students received undergraduate degrees and 23 received graduate degrees. ETBU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Sanders, assisted by the academic deans, presented the graduating class.

"This is the largest fall commencement in the history of East Texas Baptist University," Sanders said. "ETBU first awarded associate degrees in 1919 and bachelor's degrees in 1945. Commencement has always been a special time in the life of the university. It is an event that celebrates the relationship between students, staff and faculty. It is also a time for the university and the family of the graduates to join in pride and celebration."

Ray Martinez III, president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, gave a charge to the graduating class as keynote speaker.

Martinez received his bachelor's degree from Southwestern University and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. Prior to joining ICUT, Martinez served as chancellor of Western Governors University-Texas, held senior government relations positions at Rice University and with the Texas A&M University System, and was the director of the Higher Education Committee in the Texas Senate.

Martinez encouraged students by offering a testimony to God's faithfulness through his personal faith experiences.

"Whatever comes next in your career, you will undoubtedly experience failure," he said. "When I began my career and as I continue in professional life, I often feel out of place and overwhelmed. However, the Lord used it all for my good and the glory of his kingdom. He brought success in his timing and by his plan. Failure is a necessary ingredient to success; it is the road to character. As you set out, remember the inner virtues you have cultivated here at this Christ-centered institution."

Samantha Busby, a bachelor of arts graduate in international studies, was announced as the President's Award recipient. This award is given to the graduating student who is the best representation of a Christian leader, scholar and servant. While at ETBU, Busby served with the Baptist Student Ministry, remained involved at Friendship Baptist Church in Marshall, made the Dean's List with Honors every semester, and was an active member of Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honor Society.

"Samantha Busby's career here at ETBU shows us the fruits of discipline and devotion. She is well recognized for her service and leadership within and beyond the classroom," said Jerry Summers, professor of history and dean of the School of Humanities. "Samantha is a top student in our history program. She is smart, but it is her attitude toward the world, work and service that sets her apart. Through these qualities and accomplishments, Samantha Busby is an inspiration to our ETBU community."

ETBU master of business administration graduate Sydney Sumpter gave the invocation. Graduation featured readings of the ETBU theme verses. Special music was performed by ETBU's Concert Choir directed by Justin Hodges. Dean of the School of Communications and Performing Arts Thomas Webster directed worship. Music throughout the service featured organist Cathy DeRousse and the Faculty Brass Quintet.

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