York University held its spring commencement on Saturday in the Campbell Activity Center. Over 100 students crossed the stage to receive their degrees—the seats and bleachers filled with proud parents, excited family members, and friends. President Sam Smith welcomed everyone to the event and addressed graduates stating, “Graduates, as you sit here today, you become a part of a select cohort. Individuals who have been blessed with the resources, the fortitude and unwavering support to earn a degree.”

“Although today may seem like the culmination of your academic journey it marks not an end but a new beginning. Today we celebrate the dawn of a new chapter in your lives. Equipped with the skills and knowledge garnered by your time at York University you now stand poised to embark on a new professional endeavor with confidence, competence and determination. Our commitment to provide to provide you with a  Christ-centered education has transformed you from students into professionals in your respective fields, an achievement definitely worth celebrating. And as the president of York University, it is my privilege to extend a warm welcome to each and every one of you on this glorious occasion!”

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Dr. Sue Crawford was the featured speaker at this year’s spring commencement. Dr. Crawford serves as the city administrator for the City of York, Nebraska. She has worked with city leaders and community partners, including York University, to strengthen community collaboration in York.

Dr. Crawford drew attention to the passage Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece, created and recreated in Christ Jesus, to join in the goo works that God does, the good works that God prepared to be our way of life.”

“Each of us is a masterpiece created for delightful purposes,” said Crawford. “And each other person we meet is a masterpiece to be respected and treated with dignity.”

Crawford asked the graduates to consider how masterpieces are formed through many trials and visions, molded and remolded. That mastery requires constant practice and repetition. She also asked them to consider that no part is too small when we acknowledge that God has a greater plan stating, “We are a masterpiece in a larger mosaic.” 


sue crawford speaking

Dr. Sue Crawford

Painting God as the potter she said, “The clay can be formed into many different shapes for different uses with different types of beauty and function. It’s a wonderful image to think of all creation, all humans in all ages, were created from the same clay into diverse masterpieces, each with its own shapes and functions.”

Crawford pointed out how the graduate’s experiences, guided by professors, coaches and mentors, while developing skills across different disciplines, has encouraged them to remain in a state of transformation. 

“To help you realize that you are of great value today, yes, and yet, you can still be more and grow more and do even greater works and be of greater service. As you leave this place intentionally designed for constant learning, improvement and transformation, it now becomes your responsibility to stay in transformation mode. And to constantly be open and striving to become evermore lovely masterpieces that serves the functions for which you were created.”

Crawford addressed life’s struggles as opportunities to be continually reshaped and remolded referencing that the “failure that most embarasses us is the key to our most important ministry.” 

Finally, Crawford, highlighting Psalm 1, encouraged the graduates, “As you leave York University, I pray that you will hold dear to the truth that you are a masterpiece, created for good works, and that you will continue to push yourself and others to grow and learn. Don’t listen to or join the scoffers, but instead be the resilient and refreshing tree by the river that prospers and brings life to others in all that you do.” 

After Crawford‘s address, Provost Dr. Shannon Leinen recognized some of the academic achievements of the graduating seniors, calling attention to those who were wearing honor medallions inscribed with the university seal. Asking each group to stand, the audience applauded for those who graduated Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Cum Laude. Leinen also recognized both master and bachelor graduates who were wearing a medallion with a gold ribbon signifying cumulative 4.0 grade point averages for all their time at York University.

Dr. Shannon Leinen also awarded retiring professors Dr. Michael Case and Dr. Tim McNeese with Faculty Emeritus status. To be eligible for Faculty Emeritus, the following criteria must be met:

  •   Obtain the rank of associate or full professor
  •   Served as full time employees for at least 25 years
  •   Have a substantial record of performance as demonstrated by noteworthy teaching and significant service to the institution


“Dr. Case is a personal friend, an example to many of us employed here. His experience, wisdom, and perspective will be missed by many.”


“Dr. McNeese has been described as a colorful storyteller, a man of wit,  and person of integrity.  He has the gift of hospitality, event planning, public speaking, and a deep understanding of research and of the Bible.”


Leinen then presented the Dale R. Larsen Teacher of Achievement Award. Given annually to a full-time faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to York University, this year’s recipient was Dr. Michael Case, 32-year professor of Bible.

“Beyond his exemplary teaching and scholarly pursuits, Dr. Case has demonstrated unwavering service to the institution, tirelessly advocating for the well-being and success of both their students and colleagues. He was noted by his colleagues as someone with a profound spiritual commitment and a positive attitude, professionalism, and collaborative spirit making him a beloved figure among students and peers alike,” added Leinen.

The ceremony continued as graduates lined up to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas from President Smith with a smile, a handshake, and frequently, a hug. Graduates were then hooded by their escort with the color of academic regalia that represented their field of study.


president and provost

President Smith & Dr. Shannon Leinen

President Sam Smith then introduced and presented a new award in honor of the late Dale McNeill, a local florist, former YU adjunct professor and long-time friend of the university. The first recipient of the Dale McNeill "Bloom" Award was Dr. Garrett Best. “Dr. Garrett Best’s boundless passion, unwavering dedication, and visionary leadership have given life to the Equip Conference—a program that not only enriches our campus community but also serves as a beacon of inspiration for the greater Church community in the Midwest. Dr. Best's commitment to realizing his dream has resulted in a remarkable contribution that continues to bloom and flourish on our campus.”

He then announced a second recipient of the Dale McNeill “Bloom” Award: Dr. Shannon Leinen. “Dr. Leinen's outstanding leadership and tireless efforts in preparing our campus for accreditation have yielded outstanding results, earning our institution the highest scores possible. Her dedication to excellence has truly blossomed, leaving an indelible mark on our campus.”


“As we celebrate Dr. Best's and Dr. Leinen's achievements, let us also reflect on the enduring legacy of Mr. Dale McNeill—a testament to the transformative power of passion, creativity, and the relentless pursuit of beauty.”

The University Singers, conducted by Dr. Clark Roush, closed out the ceremony by performing “Don’t Leave Me Lord” and “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” before leading the audience in the singing of the Alma Mater.

 2024 Graduates

M.A. Education: Deborah Anne Armstrong***, Amber Lane Atwell***, Jackson Barnes***, Martha Blue***, Maggie Bottorff***, Nicholas Horstman Bratt***, Sarah Laverne Brown***, Juliana Rae Carlson***, Keelyn Blake Carlson***, Amanda Rae Condon***, Kayla Dagit***, Shannon Dahlgren, Hannah DeHart***, Jordan Ford***, Daniel Raymond Gray***, Jeffery W. Hacker***, Jessica L. Hacker***, Jaehyun Kim***, Heather D. Ladman***, Robin Everly-Leto***, Jordyn Dyan Lindsey, Sadie Martens***, Kelsey Maxell, Lacy M. McKenzie***, Pauline Michelle Myers***, Brittany Renee Nielsen, Nathan Nelson, Kristin K. Reimers***, Misty L. Ross***, Matthew L Rotherham, Kellie Sanchez, Erin Shaul***, Emma Stelling***, Riley Jane Toelle***, Hannah L Walters***, Stacey Lynn Watts, Amber Weber, Brittany Wiley***, Kori Williams, Jessa E. M. Yager***.

M.A. Organizational and Global Leadership: João Gabriel Bastos Montezuma Ferrazz, Giovanni Froldi, Madison Gookin***, Parker William Hughes, Doreen Ariana Lopez***, Jessica Simants***, Blake Christopher Spurgeon***.

*** 4.0 GPA

Bachelor's Degree: Folashade Oyinkansola Akinola, Katherine Arceo**, Danielle Armendariz**, Braden Matthew Austin***, Zane Barnett**, Jarod Belden**, Jason Riley Bias-Rollins, Andrew Joseph Bond, Noah T. Boyd, Dalton Thomas Brandt, Gregory D. Bryant II, Timberly Carr***, Alyssa Civitak, Joshua Cole, Trevon O’Neal Dennis, Emily Marie Deuel*, Kamrie Dillan*, Makayla Lynn Dinkler***, Cole Doebele*, Allison Clay Doppenberg*, Salvador Fernandez**, Katy Figueroa Garcia, Thomas Fogle, Riley Jean Gilbert, Gracie Goldsmith-Ding, Deonnie La’Salle Graves, Rashid L. Green, Skylar Abigail Gripp*, Brooke Erin Halterman***, Morgan Hamm, Samara Hannel, Xuriyah Mercedes Harry, Ian Randall Heck**, Anthony Bryan Hodson, Imani Ty’Azia Honey, Bruce Wayne Johnson III, Lia Michele Krohe, Leah Lane-Embray**, Matias Madriaga Santibañez, Orlando T. Marroquin, Jordan Marble, Devon’dre Jahari Mayfield, Owen R. McClung, Emmanuel McGill, Jessica R. McGrath**, James M. Mockry, Elijah Zachary Mullet, Kayla Noelker**, Patrick de Oliveira Nunes**, Trevor Amel Peterson, Shianne Philipp*, Maryn Elizabeth Phillips***, Marcos Piao*, Shawn Pierre, Daniel Raul Polo Ortega**, Rebekah Powell**, Katelin Maree Reyes, Ryan Thomas Romero, Diego Rubio Asín***, Isaiah Israel Santana, Jasmine Tatiana Scarbrough, Olivia Marie Shannon***, Marilyn Silos Montellano***, Hannah Splattstoesser***, Kylie Lorraine Tiran, Breanna Kay Underwood, Ascha Faith Utter***, Elijas Watson, Ella Rose Whitaker**, Brooklyn Paige White**, Josiah James Young*.

***Summa Cum Laude - GPA of 3.85 or higher ^4.0 GPA
**Magna Cum Laude - GPA of 3.60 or higher
*Cum Laude - GPA of 3.40 or higher

Associate’s Degree: Gabriel de Paula Pina Barbosa, Daniel A. Canarsky-Galo, Gabriel A. Canarsky-Galo, Thomas Stephen Clifton, Marissa Gaylor, Malorie J. Stofel.

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