by Elizabeth Clarke
Congresswoman Julia Letlow delivered a message centered on hope and faith, as the commencement speaker for the first graduating class from Louisiana Christian University.
Louisiana College achieved university status in the fall of 2021.
LCU conferred 249 degrees – 171 undergraduate and 78 graduate –at its 167th Commencement Exercises Saturday.
“You have proven yourselves diligent, dedicated, disciplined, and determined, or you wouldn’t be sitting where you are today,” Letlow told the Class of 2022. “And though you may feel some things have finally come to a conclusion, the truth is you are just beginning. You are on the threshold of something new and fresh and fulfilling.”
Both she and LCU President Dr. Rick Brewer remarked and applauded this year’s class, who faced an unprecedented number of challenges outside of their control — in addition to the normal college stressors — hurricanes, tornadoes, and two years of COVID quarantines, masks, isolation and distance learning.
Brewer also acknowledged many of the positives the university has experienced during the graduating class’s academic tenure—security upgrades earning LCU the safest campus in the state designation in 2020, significant residential hall renovations, WiFi upgrades across campus, and the additional dining options of Starbucks, Subway and Pizza Hut, just to name a few.
“I wholeheartedly believe that these past few years have provided you with more opportunities for growth, adaptability, resilience and lessons than many who have come before you,” Letlow said. “In facing this health crisis of gigantic proportions, your training on this campus has already undoubtedly prepared you for a world that doesn’t always go as planned. And it won’t. Life is unpredictable – tough and beautiful, all at the same time.”
Letlow shared from her heart the devastating loss of her husband, Luke, to complications from COVID-19 in December 2020, just days before he was to be sworn into the office that she now holds. She had a toddler and an infant and a full-time position at the University of Louisiana Monroe at the time.
“It was during this immensely difficult time in my life that the Lord showed me that two things can be true at once,” she said. “A person can be full of grief and still choose hope for the future. And it is that message of hope put into action that I want to impart to you today. Always choose hope!”
“As you move forward from this day, you will find that life will be full of many mountaintops, but there will also be valleys you will have to walk through. And as much as your parents and I would love nothing more than to shield you from them, they are a part of this life for a reason. When these trials find you, I encourage you to lean into the hurt.
Feel it. Be curious about what it is there to teach you. Learn from it, be transformed by it. And then the most important part: Don’t stay in it, yet choose to continue moving forward with hope.”
Letlow was presented with an honorary doctorate in public administration by Brewer and Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Cheryl Clark.
In addition, Dr. Ken Johnson, an LC alumnus, was presented with the Distinguished Service Award, for his decades of service to the university. He has provided free medical care to students on campus every Wednesday since 1987.
Four distinguished graduates offered their thoughts of their time at LCU: Trinity Foster, of Deville; Hosie Thomas III, of Shreveport; Erich Loewer, of Crowley; and Vaylon DuBois, of Pollock. And 2021-22 Class President Kyaus Washington, of Alexandria, encouraged his fellow graduates on their next journey.
Brewer told graduates they would each receive two diplomas because they were a unique class.
“You are the first graduates of Louisiana Christian University. You started at Louisiana College, but you finished at LCU,” said Brewer, greeted by much applause.
“God is looking for a generation to raise up to be Christian thinkers, no matter what occupation you go into,” he said. “LCU seeks to prepare graduates and transform lives. Lives that are transformed, transform communities, transform culture, transform famiies, and transform all the people they come in contact with.”
Graduates participating in Commencement represented students completing degree requirements in December 2021, May 2022 and August 2022.