667 receive Westminster diplomas
June 3, 2007
Deseret Morning News
By Catherine Smith
Sherif Basta came to Utah in 1990 as a Kuwaiti refugee during the Persian Gulf War. He graduated Saturday with a master's of business administration from Westminster College with 666 other students earning both master's and bachelor's degrees.
Basta finished his degree in only a year and a half.
"The MBA program is designed so you can finish as fast as possible," Basta said.
Alisha Panunzio, who also graduated with an MBA, ended up at Westminster after a fall and broken cheek bone kept her from attending Harvard.
However, she wouldn't trade her experience at Westminster for any other.
"It's an amazing institution with amazing possibilities," Panunzio said. "Everyone (that's here) wants to be here."
The college bestowed 465 bachelor's degrees and 202 master's degrees, plus distinguished student awards to Kayla Smith, Ray Bradford and Solomon Awan.
Jonny Bradshaw received his MBA and gave the student address. He encouraged students to share their gifts, just as their teachers shared gifts of knowledge with them.
"Always reach for goals that are bigger and better than yourself," he said.
Three honorary doctorate degrees were presented to D.N. "Nick" Rose, Ginger Gore Giovale and Steve Baar.
Baar, a professor emeritus of Westminster College, gave the commencement address. Michael Bassis, president of Westminster College said Baar was the spirit of the college and his mark remains on the students and the faculty.
"He loved the work and he loved Westminster," Bassis said.
Baar discussed the state of the world and the problems the graduates face. He emphasized learning from past events, such as the Vietnam and Korean wars.
"It is our failure to learn from the past that is most troubling," Baar said. "There is a curious new form of apathy."
Students no longer protest on campuses about war, climate change and human rights, he said. Society, he said, has "lost our collective will to focus."
"What we've learned is to expect the worst from everyone," he said.
Baar ended by saying people can choose to make a difference, and he encouraged students to take with them the values of Westminster they love and re-create them in their lives. He told of his joy in helping students and being part of their dreams.
"Some of you, like myself, may be fortunate enough to find yourself in someone else's dream," he said.
After graduates received their diplomas, Bassis encouraged them to give back to the school and to the world. He said they had given back in deciding the name of the school. The board had discussed changing the name to Westminster University.
The students were asked to make known their thoughts, and the board recognized those desires. Bassis announced that the name would remain Westminster College, which both graduates and their families applauded loudly.