York University held its first spring commencement on Saturday in the Campbell Activity Center. Nearly 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 historic event and addressed graduates stating, “This morning you are joining a small percentage of others who were blessed with the resources, tenacity, and support to earn a degree. For that, you should be proud.

“Although it often feels like this ceremony celebrates the end of your degree; it isn’t. Instead, today we celebrate the beginning of this new season in your life. You are now better prepared to confidently, competently, and aggressively pursue new professional opportunities. We celebrate that York University’s commitment to providing you with a Christ-centered education has indeed transformed you from a student into a teacher in your particular field of expertise. As president of York University, it is my honor to welcome you to this amazing celebration!”

Kevin Heronimus, whose daughter was among those graduating with their master’s, was the featured speaker at this year’s spring commencement. Heronimus received his mechanical engineering degree from South Dakota State University and spent six years in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear officer teaching nuclear physics and reactor core dynamics. Following his military tour, he joined McDonnell Douglas Aerospace Systems in Huntsville, Ala., assigned as a thermal fluids engineer for NASA’s spacelab program. After four years with MIDSSC, Heronimus founded Advanced Composites Technology and Advanced Protective Coatings in Huntsville. The Advanced Protective Coatings division would become the LINE-X brand. He would lead this company as CEO to tremendous growth over his 22-year tenure. Also, during this time at LINE-X, he devoted a portion of his efforts to continued education and is a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Heronimus retired from his leadership role at LINE-X in 2015 in order to pursue other investment opportunities. He currently sits on numerous corporate boards and provides professional advisement specializing in company start-ups and corporate acquisitions. Kevin lives on a farm outside of Nashville Tenn., with his wife Deborah, and children Caleb (wife Peri), Rachel, and Gabriel.

“Graduates, today we celebrate your accomplishments, and we show our heartfelt appreciation to the parents and others who have supported your efforts on this journey,” Heronimus began. “You have had to endure late night studies and stressful exams, and many of you may find yourself slightly poorer today than when you began. To get here has taken dedication and sacrifice; for that we honor you.” 

Heronimus asked graduates to consider what their education would do for them. “Here you are ready to receive your degree, the reward for your years of dedication and hard work. Where do  you go from here?”

He then gave three tickets their degree would help them accomplish: 

  • It is a ticket to help you get a job in an area or profession you have desired.  
  • It is a ticket to learn. “Make learning a habit… To stay up in this world you cannot go mentally stagnate!”
  • It is a ticket to lead. “Your influence creates the opportunity to reflect and share your values with thousands of others as you go out and reach out from here. That Christ-based influence is sorely needed in today’s world, and I truly believe God will bless you when you stand strong and tall with His influence!”

 Kevin Heronimus

Mr. Kevin Heronimus


Referring to the book In Their Time, Heronimus talked about some of the great business executives of the 20th century and that their success was the result of being in the right place at the right time and their willingness to take risks. He told graduates, “Keep preparing yourself for the opportunity that may come along “in your time.” Put yourself out there! Remember no risks, no reward!”

Using his own story of struggling to start a company with his wife and taking the inherent risks involved to make it prosperous, Heronimus shared five lessons that if learned and applied would lead to success:

  • It is vitally important to be “All in”.
  • Failure is not an option. “Having everything on the line keeps you extremely focused and frugal.”
  • Be ready to change course if needed – the best path may be in another direction.
  • You can start with next to nothing and grow it into something quite large.
  • Biblical principles really do matter. “When you run your company or are just doing your job – if you are doing it right, your Christian influence will be recognized by all those around you.”

In closing, Heronimus stated that the question of where do I go from here is secondary to how I go about getting there. “Today, most of you have a plan, and it’s probably a good plan. But there will be times when plans change suddenly, when things might get extremely difficult, and you again have to ask yourself, “Where do I go from here? The Where may not be clear, but the How should be.

“Make a Christlike difference; others will take notice. Today, more than ever this world needs more young people like you… the type that York University produces. We need you out there making a difference and sending a strong message that doing things as Christ would – taking that high road, doing what is right ethically and morally, basing your professional life on those Biblical principles that are not old fashioned at all – really are the principles needed for success in today’s world!”

After Heronimus‘ address, York University Provost Dr. Billy Lones 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. Lones 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.

Lones 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. Erin DeHart, chair of the division of professional studies and the education program. “This year's recipient fully embodies every aspect of this award and is known for excellence in the classroom and around campus. Anyone who knows this professor, knows her passion for York University and the students,” said Provost Lones. “She can be seen going the extra mile by teaching at the prison, leading Bible studies with students, and welcoming groups of students into her home. She is known for running fun and engaging opportunities for all of our students on nights and weekends, and advocating for those in need. 

erin dehart award

Dr. Lones and Dr. DeHart

“This year's recipient has been instrumental in building the Diversity Club on campus, designing our Study Abroad opportunities, and providing leadership around Nebraska due to her work alongside the State Unicameral and Department of Education. She is a supportive and engaged Division Chair and trusted advisor to many,” added Lones.

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.

The University Singers, conducted by Dr. Clark Roush, closed out the ceremony by performing “Goin’ Home on a Cloud” and “I Know I’ve Been Changed” before leading the audience in the singing of the Alma Mater.


2023 Graduates

M.A. Education: Randa Banks***, Tiffany Beedle***, Erica Bellows, Kaelyn Ensminger, Colleen Leeson***, Benjamin Lindsay***, Pamela Luke***, Kari Miller***, Kelsey Nabity***, Hadley Sejkora, Greg Smith, Nathan Smith, Kaeli Surber, Rachel Vergil***, Katelyn Wanek-Ludholm***, Todd Westover***, Elizabeth Wisdom***, Jonathan J. Zumbrennen***.

M.A. Organizational and Global Leadership: Jennifer Dabbs, Brianna Eckerberg, Timothy Fowler***, Rachel Heronimus***, Kendra Mamea***, Daniel Mandungu, Aubrey Myers, Kiara Pesina, Cole Satterfield, Ruth Thomas***, Keenan Thorburn, Julia Trujillo, Kiana Villarreal, Naomi Warren.

*** 4.0 GPA

Bachelor's Degree: Gabrielle Adams**, Kassandra Ayala, Mattia Beske**, Kobe Bonner, Kaden Boyce*, Logan Brown, Riley Brown***, Jose Calderon, Tyler Chavis*, Brent Clark, Conner Cogswell, Elias Coppinger**, Kelsey Coppinger***, Samantha Crump***, Liam Curtin, Elias Dallmann***, Gage Davis**, Hannah DeHart***, Emily Eggar**, Emily Fergeson, Sheila Fon, Grace Gaer*, Maria Geesaman**, Luka Gelb, Madison Gookin***, Elizabeth Higgins, Parker Hughes, Giavanna James, Ashlee Jimmerson**, Shawnau Johnson**, Yionis Keith, Isaiah King*, Charles Konstantino, Eli Lane-Embray***, Alejandro Loera, Elizabeth Logan**, Tyler Loureiro, Antony Mac-Dowell**, Erika McClung, Desmond McSellers, Alexa Moreno*, Allison Myers***, Carlos Arguelles***, Autumn Ortiz**, Cody Pederson, Natalia Pérez***, Rachel Petts***, Johan Rodriguez, Miguel Sarubbi*, Treyton Scully, Joseph Serrano, Trevor Spence*, Jordan Strong***, Erik Talton, Sebestyèn Tamàs**, Xavier Thompson, Sophia Trujillo, Kieyerah Twombly, Jaysson Valle, Cathryn Whitehead, Cooper Wilkins, Bryce Winkler***, Blayne Winkler***.

***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: Noah Broderson, Skyler Jacobson, Abbi Link, Izabella Morse.


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