Saturday’s commencement speaker, Rev. Wayne Padgett ’72 shared his memories as the PBA’s first student government president and member of the first graduating class.
During an emotional speech, Rev. Padgett, who’s had a long and distinguished career as a pastor, recalled when he met Dr. Jess Moody, founder of the University.
“Fifty years ago, I experienced two miracles,” Padgett told the audience gathered at the Expo Center at the South Florida Fairgrounds. “I got on a bus at two o’clock in the morning and traveled from North Florida to the new Palm Beach Atlantic University campus in West Palm Beach.”
From the bus station he took a cab and not even the taxi driver knew where Palm Beach Atlantic was. The driver led him to First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, where he saw a man in the parking lot and he said, “Excuse me, sir, can you tell where Palm Beach Atlantic is?” And the man said, “Right here! This is it.” The man opened the door of the taxi, pulled Padgett’s two suitcases out and said, “I’m Dr. Jess Moody.”
Padgett became emotional when he spoke about Dr. Moody, age 93, who died the evening before Commencement. Dr. Moody served as PBA’s founding president in 1968 while he led First Baptist Church as its pastor.
Padgett then recalled his second miracle, and that’s when he met his wife Geraldine, his “faithful soul mate for 46 years.” He spoke about their children—both PBA alumni—a daughter who graduated in 2000 and a son who graduated in 2004, continuing to bind them to PBA.
“Every year miracles have been taking place in the lives of the students who attend Palm Beach Atlantic and today, you are one of those miracles,” he said. “Of course, the greatest miracle that we know is the miracle of Jesus Christ, whose birthday we are anticipating a few weeks away.
“But I want to talk to you about the miracle of you. And you are found in the name of Jesus. You cannot spell Jesus without including you [u]. The blessing that God has given you, a miracle in your life, it is for you to experience from this moment on. You have all been touched by the Almighty God Himself and His Son Jesus. If it wasn’t for him, where would you be today?”
Padgett’s words resonated as the 280 graduates along with the rest of the crowd still hung to Clayton Proctor’s ardent words. As the outstanding graduate of the MacArthur School of Leadership, Proctor, just moments before, had delivered a fiery speech that seemed more like a sermon right from his own future pulpit.
“My Savior Jesus Christ gets all the glory for everything that I’ve accomplished here [at PBA],” said Proctor, who also gave the University credit for pushing him out of his comfort zone. “If they hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Several times, he quoted the apostle Paul, who was never satisfied with the status quo. He said, “I’m forgetting those things that are behind me, and I’m reaching toward those things that are ahead.”
“Paul was always looking for the next thing, reaching toward what was next. And that’s what PBA helped us do,” said Proctor. “It pushed us so that we could be reaching for the next thing. And my challenge to each and every one of you is this: don’t be satisfied with where you are now. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. Instead, press forward.
“Press toward the mark because we serve a Savior who wants us to continue on, to finish our course with joy. If you keep pressing on, there’s no limit what God can do through you,” he said.
Also during the ceremony, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, who is completing her eight-year term in March, delivered her last speech at PBA Commencement as mayor, and thanked the graduates for being such a bright light in the city.
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