The Graduates of 1997
It's a Big World Out There!
By Connie McDougall
A young business graduate adjusted her mortarboard, clamped a sprig of ivy in her teeth and grinned into the camera. "I did it!" she hollered. She, along with hundreds of other happy students, friends and families participated in Seattle Pacific University's annual Ivy Cutting and Commencement ceremonies on June 13 and 14.
The kick-off graduation event, Ivy Cutting, marked its 75th anniversary this year. And the next day's Commencement at Seattle's Mercer Arena featured Father Richard John Neuhaus, president of The Institute of Religion and Public Life in New York City, as speaker. But the focus of both celebrations was on the black-robed graduates. In all, 834 students were invited to participate in Commencement: 689 undergraduate degree recipients, 141 master's degree recipients and two doctoral degree recipients. Each had a story to tell, reflecting the variety and depth of an SPU education.
Kathryn de Oliveira
Born to American missionary parents in Brazil and raised there, Kathryn de Oliveira came to Seattle Pacific in 1993 as a 25-year-old freshman -- "a little older than most," she says with a smile. Four years later, she graduated with the highest award SPU bestows upon a student, the President's Citation.
"She is an excellent student," says Assistant Professor of Music Myrna Capp, who taught de Oliveira piano pedagogy, and advised her on her senior project. "I'm so pleased with Kathy's paper that I'm suggesting she present it to the state music teachers' convention next year."
Capp adds that de Oliveira had a special influence on other students. "She played a mentor role at times. She was more mature, and being from another culture, she brought a different perspective with her."
As a child, de Oliveira attended a Bible school run by her parents, then went four years to Bible college. There she met and married a Brazilian man, and the two came to Seattle. At SPU, she essentially "started college over," intensely studying music, something she already knew well.
"I have been teaching music since I was 12," she notes, yet it was as a student she excelled. "I enjoyed the small classes and made friends of professors here."
In the future, de Oliveira hopes to teach private lessons as well as perform in her adopted country, the USA.
As Ramon Quichocho received his diploma, he may well have been thinking of a line from Psalm 34 which he's often repeated to himself over the last few years: "This poor man called, and the Lord heard him."
Quichocho is from Tinian, a small South Pacific island about 100 miles from Guam. "It's a pretty place," he says, "like Hawaii, and though we didn't lack for food, there were few opportunities, especially education."
Seeking a better life, the family moved to Guam when he was ten. Quichocho attended high school, then followed a brother to America. "I enlisted in the Army Reserves," he says, "to pay for community college. I prayed about going to a Christian campus and as I look back, I know that God is awesome."
Thanks to a Cheney Foundation grant for merit scholars, loans and work-study, Quichocho enrolled at Seattle Pacific, majoring in economics and helping to found the first business club for undergraduates. As Associate Professor of Economics Doug Downing says, "He's the kind of student you want, one who goes out and makes a contribution."
The first of his family to graduate from college, Quichocho enters law school this fall, then plans a return to Tinian. "There's growing industry and tourism," he says of his island. "There will be more opportunities for my people."
Opportunity is important to most graduates, but it takes on a special meaning for some. Ask Annie Washington who, at 51, earns her degree in psychology this summer and hopes to use it counseling homeless women.
Washington grew up in Texas, where segregation was law. "I remember sitting in the back of the bus. I went in the back doors of restaurants. Some places had signs that said 'For whites only.'"
In 1963, she recalls, "President Kennedy changed all that and we could go anywhere we wanted."
A few years later, Washington moved to Seattle and raised her family in the North. Then, almost 30 years after Kennedy's stand against segregation, Annie Washington returned to school. Following two years at a community college, she transferred to Seattle Pacific in 1994. "I wanted a Christian environment," she explains. She also wanted opportunity, a "quality education to get a better job."
Classes were hard at first, but she found support and mentors in her professors. Her determination impressed Associate Professor of Psychology Del McHenry. "Annie had thoughtful persistence," he says. "Work and school were her life. I'm convinced she's someone who will be a real credit to SPU."
Washington also delights in her achievement. "I've worked hard and I've made friends here, of all ages and races."
Peter Venable is spending most of his summer in the wilderness where there are no phones, faxes or computers. It's an interesting choice for one who returned from 10 weeks on European Quarter the night before Commencement; and who received the 1997 Wesley E. Lingren Award for being the top graduate in the University Scholars honors program.
Yet a summer of solitude makes a lot of sense for a young man who defies stereotypes. While studying for a degree in computer science at Seattle Pacific, he managing to master computers while reading Plato and poetry, singing in the choir and playing trumpet.
The son of missionary parents in the Philippines, Venable grew up knowing the world was more than a shopping mall and that all people don't look like him. It's a perspective found in his senior honors project, a 70-page, cross-disciplinary paper called "Time: A Speculation."
Venable's stellar talents are recognized by professors in diverse disciplines."It's frustrating to specialize," he says, although this fall he begins graduate work in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.
Nevertheless, he plans to keep a foot in the humanities. "When I applied for European Quarter, I was asked, 'What does this have to do with your major?'" he laughs. "I told them, 'Nothing. That's the point.'"