Although this year’s graduating seniors are departing Palm Beach Atlantic University and its award-winning Workship community service program, Wendy Spencer, the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, urged the more than 250 graduates on Saturday always to “keep the spirit of service” alive wherever they go.
Spencer, who was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate as CEO in April 2012, was the featured speaker during the ceremony at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, which included the presentation of honorary degrees to a philanthropic couple with a long track record of service to PBA.
Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, takes a selfie with the audience during Palm Beach Atlantic University's fall commencement ceremony.
During her commencement address, Spencer noted that service can be helpful to one’s career, and she offered research to support that claim.
For those who are unemployed, volunteerism can increase the likelihood of getting a job by 27 percent, and for those living in rural areas, it can increase that likelihood by 55 percent, she said.
“So I’m here to say that service is not only good for the community, it’s good for your career,” she said.
CNCS is a federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund and other programs. Together these programs engage more than 5 million Americans in service and volunteering to improve lives, strengthen communities and foster civic engagement.
Spencer noted that CNSC also administers the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which recognizes institutions of higher education that are building a culture of service for their students, faculty and the community. PBA has been included in the Community Service Honor Roll for all eight years of its existence, she said.
“Graduates, you will forever be linked to a legacy of service from your time here at Palm Beach Atlantic University,” she said. “So your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to think about how you can infuse the spirit of service in everything you do.”
Spencer noted that in the coming weeks, PBA will celebrate its 3 millionth hour of community service to the community. “Can you imagine what our nation would be if every college and university embraced this kind of mission and culture? It would be amazing,” she said.
Palm Beach Atlantic University President William M. B. Fleming Jr. (far left), School of Music and Fine Arts Dean Dr. Lloyd Mims and Provost Dr. Gene Fant Jr. applaud John J. Rinker and Sheila Alvarez Rinker during the presentation of their honorary doctoral degrees from PBA.
Along with Spencer’s address, another highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of honorary doctoral degrees to John and Sheila Rinker, president and vice president of the charitable Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Foundation.
The Rinkers are the 27th and 28th recipients of an honorary degree from PBA, joining such previous recipients as Riley Sims, Donald E. Warren, Theodore Roosevelt Johnson, Marshall E. Rinker Sr., Charles Colson, Billy Graham, David Mahoney, Helen K. Persson, Vonette Bright, Rich DeVos, Admiral Vernon Clark and most recently in 2013, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Sheila Rinker said she was most privileged and deeply moved to receive the degree from “a university that has been an intricate part of shaping the lives and potential of so many young men and women” since its earliest days.
John Rinker, whose father was a previous recipient, spoke about how pleasing it is to follow in his footsteps. He also thanked students for choosing PBA and for the values that they will take with them on their journey.
“You are the kind of folks that we sorely need, particularly in this world as it is today,” he said.
Also during the ceremony, two of PBA’s Outstanding Graduates offered reflections on their time at the University.
Michelle Boss, who graduated with a degree in English and secondary education, talked about the importance of building relationships during the college years.
“I would encourage you to become engaged in the things around you,” she told her peers. “Continue with the value of Workship. When you serve your community, you become a part of it more quickly too.”
Ashley Taylor, who graduated with a degree in music education, told her classmates that “a barely passing approach to life is so dangerous and unfulfilling. We must constantly battle against a good-enough mentality and strive for more.”
A spirit of excellence has been set in our hearts and minds by our creator, who is perfection, she said.
“When we pursue this quality of the Lord, not for our own success but for its own sake, we bring glory to God.”
Others on the program included Director of Workship Kate Magro, who offered the invocation; West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, who gave the greeting; and the Rev. Dr. Robert Norris, pastor of Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach, who gave the benediction.