95th Annual Spring Commencement
One hundred thirty-seven Bluefield College seniors accepted diplomas, Saturday, May 6, during the school’s 95th Annual Spring Commencement, which featured two speeches from distinguished graduates and a keynote address from Dr. John Yo Han Kim, pastor of Riverside Community Church in Daejeon, South Korea.

95th Annual Spring Commencement

By Chris Shoemaker | May 8, 2017 | RSS

One hundred thirty-seven Bluefield College seniors accepted diplomas, Saturday, May 6, during the school’s 95th Annual Spring Commencement, which featured two speeches from distinguished graduates and a keynote address from Dr. John Yo Han Kim, pastor of Riverside Community Church in Daejeon, South Korea.

Dr. Kim, who also serves as station manager for the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC), a broadcasting ministry committed for the past 70 years to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, spoke to graduates about the “Wow!” moments of life. Traveling with the FEBC’s world-renowned Korean Children’s Choir, which provided special music for Commencement, he asked the seniors to consider the fact that happiness doesn’t necessarily come from a great job, the right salary, or a perfect spouse.

“We have all these desires, and we wonder what is ‘it,’ what would make me happy,” Dr. Kim said. “‘It’ is a relationship with God through Christ. The very fact that we are here today is a ‘Wow!’ story. I hope that even as you gather around the lunch table today with family and friends that you are able to share your ‘Wow!’ stories.”

Dr. Kim challenged the students to find the “Wow!” moments of life through the beauty of God’s creation -- a sunrise, a sunset, birds singing, a child’s smile, a trip to the beach or a hike -- or in the small, mundane and ordinary things in life.

“I also hope you can say ‘Wow!’ when it comes to relationships,” Dr. Kim said. “Can you imagine your life without the people you deeply care about? How empty would that feel. Relationships are so precious, but I wonder how often we pause and say ‘Wow!’ or pause to offer a prayer for those we love and need so dearly.”

Finally, he told the students that he hoped that could say “Wow!” a lot when they considered God’s grace and activity in their lives.

“As you continue on your journey, we commend you for the work well done and pray for your future,” he said. “You have a very exciting future ahead of you. No matter where you are and no matter what you do, I hope you’ll say one thing a lot, and that one thing is ‘Wow!’”

The college also presented an Honorary Doctorate degree to Dr. Kim for his outstanding personal accomplishments, service and leadership. The author of seven books, Dr. Kim is chair of the PK Scholarship Foundation, which provides vital financial aid to students studying in South Korea and abroad. He is also founder and director of WAFL, a non-profit organization that organizes benefit concerts to support charitable causes, such as Compassion International.

“This Honorary Doctorate degree provides an opportunity for the college to express appreciation to Dr. Kim for what he has accomplished through his pastoral leadership in his community,” said Bluefield College president Dr. David Olive. “Dr. Kim, because of your servant leadership and your consistent faithful service to God and His kingdom, we at Bluefield College defer upon you the degree of Honorary Doctor of Divinity.”

Two distinguished Bluefield College seniors offered Commencement addresses as part of the program: Breanna Buterakos, a traditional English major from Bluefield, Virginia, and Amanda Heller, an online School of Education graduate student from Chesapeake, Virginia.

Buterakos, who essentially grew up on the BC campus after her parents became math professors at the school when she was just five years old, spoke of the “moments of realization” she experienced at the college and of the privilege she had over the last several years to discover the answer to the probing question proposed by renowned author C.S. Lewis: “what do they teach them at these schools?”

“First, they teach that God is present in everything,” said Buterakos. “From the intricacies of the human biological systems to the order of a math equation to the beauty of a well-written poem, God is evident. God’s plan for each of us has been fostered and encouraged time and again by every professor. On the days when we wondered what criminal justice has to do with a chemistry major, Dr. Farmer and Dr. Walls reminded us that the world is a broken place in need of a savior. On the days when we wondered what sports have to do with psychology, our coaches reminded us that even Jesus had his team of disciples. On the days when we wondered how Spanish is relevant to a passion for music, Dr. Zalduondo reminded us that Spanish allows us to share His love in multiple languages. On the days when we wondered what math has to do with…well…anything, my dad reminded us that math is the DNA, the unshaken foundation of science that makes up the system of the universe. They teach us that God will guide us even as we move on.”

Buterakos said BC professors also taught her the value of “friendships, family and personal connections” and that “knowledge is power.”

“As we go forth today,” she said to her fellow graduates, “let us always remember the words of one of my personal heroes, Spiderman. With great power, comes great responsibility. We as graduates have been gifted something priceless by our professors, and it is our responsibility to use our knowledge in a way that honors God, each other, and brings purpose to this world.”

Heller, who earned her master’s degree in education while teaching third grade in Chesapeake, spoke of how the college has impacted her life and of the “lifelong, Godly friendships” she developed with classmates at BC. She also encouraged her classmates to “remain positive” and “do the best you can do in the next steps that lie ahead.”

“Make sure you remember that others are watching you through your successes, as well as through your failures,” said Heller, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Bluefield College in 2014. “You are equipped. You have made it to this point of graduating from college, and you have valuable knowledge that allows you to step forth and succeed in your next steps. However, keep in mind that success does not define you.”

Heller also challenged her classmates to find their identity in Jesus Christ, which is the key to finding joy in life, she said. An identity in Christ, she added, comes with God’s “perfect” and “unconditional” love, which drives out any fear we may have of the future.

“Be fearless,” Heller said, “but not because you can do anything, but because you can do anything through Christ who gives you strength. Find your identity in Christ, and he’ll lead you through this varied, yet wonderful journey that lies ahead.”

The 95th Annual Spring Commencement also included scripture reading by Phyllis Owens, associate professor of education; the singing of hymns and the BC alma mater, led by Dr. Charles Priest, associate professor of music; the graduates’ induction into the BC Alumni Association, led by Alumni Council president Brandon Caldwell; and greetings from the BC Board of Trustees, offered by chair of the Board Ken Russell.

“It’s a true privilege to serve this school” said Russell. “It has a mission of creating servant leaders who are going to go out into the world to represent Bluefield College and to represent our Lord and Savior. Students, when you are making choices over the next few years, think about which ones are the choices you have been trained to make by our faculty, by our staff, and the commitments you’ve made to your fellow students to do so. Go out into the world and be the student leader you have been trained to be.”

View hundreds of photos from Spring Commencement.

Watch the full Commencement program.

Listen to Dr. John Yo Han Kim's speech.

Listen to Breanna Buterakos' speech.

Listen to Amanda Heller's speech.

Listen to the Korean Children's Choir.

Candidates for graduation were presented by Dr. Marshall Flowers, vice president for academic affairs, and Rebecca McCoy-Reese, president of the faculty, and Dr. Olive completed the conferring of degrees. Spring 2017 candidates for the master of arts in education included:

Amanda June Heller, Chesapeake, Virginia
Cassandra Annette Justice, Richlands, Virginia
Virginia “Jenna” Fae Hovis, Lebanon, Virginia.

Candidates for the Honors Program included:
Gabriele Mary Elisabeth Morgan, Rock Hill, South Carolina
Hasan Yousuf Muzaffer, Bluefield, Virginia
Misbah Muzaffer, Bluefield, Virginia
Hannah Tatum, Athens, Greece
Kimberly Ashley VanDyke, Boone, North Carolina.

Candidates for the bachelor of arts degree included:
Jara Armstrong, Princeton, West Virginia
Christian Barham, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Whitney Alexis Browning, Bluefield, West Virginia
Breanna Rose Buterakos, Bluefield, Virginia
Arminda K. Dolinger, Bristol, Virginia
Stephanie Anne Dunning, Painted Post, New York
Patrick Gough, Toronto, Ontario
Heather Renee Hagerman Horn, Whitewood, Virginia
Rebecca Paige Havens, Rocky Gap, Virginia
Tehillah Grace Johnson, Martinsville, Virginia
Heather Leann Sharp, Bluefield, Virginia
David White, Crab Orchard, West Virginia
Michael T. Wood, III, Tazewell, Virginia.

Candidates for the bachelor of science degree included:
Sabrina L. Absher, Richlands, Virginia
Jean-Emmanuel Ahouman, Montreal, Canada
Richard Vicente Apigo, Federal Way, Washington
Markel Aramberri Anacabe, Deba, Spain
Pamela Marlene Arwood, Honaker, Virginia
Ibrahim Sajor Bah Jr., Woodbridge, Virginia
Alvalous R Barbour, Bassett, Virginia
Alexandra Shea Bartley, Honaker, Virginia
Morgan Elizabeth Bise, Rural Retreat, Virginia
Lesia Jane Black, Hillsville, Virginia
Megan M. Black, Wytheville, Virginia
John Gregory Blankenship, Forest, Virginia
Henrietta M. Bonds, Roanoke, Virginia
Kimberly Dawn Brewer, Draper, Virginia
Michael W. Brown, King William, Virginia
Paula Francine Brown, Charlottesville, Virginia
Melissa Michelle Buchanan, Bluefield, Virginia
Daniel J. Budd, Culpeper, Virginia
Teresa Lipscomb Burks, Bedford, Virginia
Benny Maynard Burrell, Richmond, Virginia
Brandon H. Call, Franklin County, Virginia
Melissa Ann Carrico, Wytheville, Virginia
Kayla Autumn Clifton, Tazewell, Virginia
Jennifer Lyn Collins, Bland, Virginia
Naomi Nicole Hatfield Cook, Honaker, Virginia
Keisha Leigh Dove, Christiansburg, Virginia
Elizabeth Anne Eden, Bluefield, Virginia
Gabrielle Lavada Marie Edens, Abingdon, Virginia
Christopher Ray Epperson, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Franklin Rolando Espinoza, Jr., Galax, Virginia
Kristin Ann Ewing, Lynchburg, Virginia
Matthew Ferreira, Tulare, California
Devon L Fitzgerald, Natural Bridge, Virginia
John Neil Francis, Roanoke, Virginia
Derek M. French, Bland, Virginia
Kristie Schaffer Fronk, Christiansburg, Virginia
Khadier J. Fulcher, Oxford, North Carolina
Baily C. Garin, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Dawn Goodman, Roanoke, Virginia
Deneysha Kashun Goods, Danville, Virginia
Quincy Verness Gravely, Ridgeway, Virginia
Norman E. Gray, Sr., New Kent, Virginia
Thomas Eli Hairfield, Willis, Virginia
Jedidiah Nathan Halla, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Noah Alexander Hamlett, Lynchburg, Virginia
Kyle Hanna, Bluefield, Virginia
Lee Christopher Paul Harris-Brown, Perth, Western Austrialia
Karlesha S. Hines, Lawrenceville, Virginia
T'Keyah Mone't Hines, Stuart, Virginia
LeRico Hopkins, Nashville, Tennessee
Kenneth T. Horton, Hillsville, Virginia
Holly Griffin Houser, Hillsville, Virginia
Alonzo Donnell Howard, Caroline County, Virginia
Michele Thomas Hurt, Bristow, Virginia
Lee Derrick James, Detroit, Michigan
Taylor Lewis Jones, Rocky Mount, Virginia
Daniel Scott Jordan, Berwind, West Virginia
Vanessa Lynn Kennedy, Rocky Gap, Virginia
Valeriya Lebedeva, Moscow, Russia
Danyale Lundy, Woodlawn, Virginia
Larry C. Lundy, Jr., Galax, Virginia
Emily Beth Mallamaci, Bluefield, West Virginia
Lisha L. McCargo, Roanoke, Virginia
Christopher McCowan, Grundy, Virginia
Dawn Marie McIsaac, Bland, Virginia
Kenneth E. Meadows, Jr., Pulaski, Virginia
Delaini Elizabeth Middlebrooks, Lake Ridge, Virginia
Bogosi Moloisane, Pretoria, South Africa
Rodger W. Monday, Richmond, Virginia
Sierra Marie Morse, Richmond, Virginia
Charles Lee Mullins, Princeton, West Virginia
Melissa Mullins, Clintwood, Virginia
Angela Gleen Nard, Powhatan, Virgina
James Anthony Oliver, Roanoke, Virginia
Chandler Morgan Raynes, Pulaski, Virginia
Richard Jackson Reed, Smithfield, Virginia
Kelly Elizabeth Russell, Christiansburg, Virginia
Jacob W. Schober, Dublin, California
Carly Nelson Shrader, Richlands, Virginia
Sean Alexander Smith, Radford, Virginia
Whitney Brook Whistler Smith, Knoxville, Tennessee
Nolan Reed Soto, Goleta, California
Brienna Megan Sparks, Tazewell, Virginia
Gabrael Spencer, Riner, Virginia
Elizabeth Ann Stacy, Grundy, Virginia
Morgan Erin Stephens, Sunbury, Ohio
Shilah Mikae Stiff, Blacksburg, Virginia
Stephanie Darlene Sulit, Princeton, West Virginia
Kimberly Nicole Talley, Chesapeake, Virginia
Alexis Nicole Thompson, Bluefield, Virginia
Haley Thompson, Bluefield, Virginia
Stephen Lyle Underwood, Jr., Vinton, Virginia
Leslie Ann Velez, Norfolk, Virginia
Gabrielle Viers, Richlands, Virginia
Samantha Casey Waelti, Christiansburg, Virginia
Cameron James Whetzler, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Jessica Nicole Wiburn, Wytheville, Virginia
Aaron Williams, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Candidates for the bachelor of science degree in nursing included:
Jessica Ann Allen, Pearisburg, Virginia
Kathy (Amy) Combs, Fancy Gap, Virginia
Stacy R. Dautrich, Christiansburg, Virginia
Samantha Rhea Bishop, Pulaski, Virginia
Holly Hall Gray, Roanoke, Virginia
Jessica D. Hancock, Ivanhoe, Virginia
Saffie Kanu, Dumfries, Virginia
Leslie Nii Adjamah Lartey, Culpeper, Virginia
Tammie R. McGlothlin, Swords Creek, Virginia
Kristen B. Minnix, Richlands, Virginia
Caitlin Rose O'Connell, Mt. Jackson, Virginia
Lisa Holladay Plunkett, Glen Allen, Virginia
Ronesha Monet Robinson, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Fatmata Sanusi, Woodbridge, Virginia
Katherine Dawn Smith, Marion, Virginia
Ashley Nicole Tyler, Spotsylvania, Virginia.

Candidates for the associate of science degree included:
Caleb K. McGuckin, Brownstown, Michigan
Jessica H. Rakushin, Hamilton, Ohio.

Media Contact

Chris Shoemaker, Director of Marketing and Public Relations