May 9, 2022

‘Your Purpose Does Not End Here’: 600-Plus Graduates Look to the Future


Building on the foundation laid by Palm Beach Atlantic’s pioneering first class, the class of 2022 launched into a world of limitless possibilities.

Several members of the Class of 1972 sat near the stage at Monday’s commencement ceremony, which marked the 50th anniversary of their graduation. Before offering a prayer from the founding class, 1972 graduate Geraldine “Gerry” Padgett reflected: “This is the most wonderful event of my life.”

Marshall E. Rinker School of Business Outstanding Graduate Melina Willson quoted PBA founding President Jess Moody in her graduate reflection, in which she encouraged her classmates to “Dream the impossible dream.”

“Your purpose does not end here. We are just getting started,” said Willson. “Your purpose is to love God, love people and live into your God-given gifts.”

Travis Miller, the Outstanding Graduate for the Lloyd L. Gregory School of Pharmacy, also shared a reflection. He acknowledged the hardships his class faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought the world to a halt just as he and his classmates were hitting their stride, academically and socially.

“As a class, we didn’t let this change of plan throw us off course,” Miller said. “If I could use one word to describe our class, that word would be ‘resilient.’”

Citing Jeremiah 29:11, he encouraged his classmates, “God has a plan for each one of us, and He wants us to glorify him in everything we do.”

West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James offered similar words of encouragement, inspired by his mother, who was in the audience at the South Florida Fairgrounds. She was a teenage, single mom in Wichita, Kansas, when segregation was in full effect. She dropped out of college and worked as a maid to support James, who went on to graduate from Harvard Law School.

He urged graduates, “Never let your current circumstances define your dreams or your future … your dreams should be bigger than your current world.”

Commencement speaker Dr. Jimmy Scroggins, the lead pastor of Family Church and a PBA trustee, talked to graduates about taking responsibility “for your own lives but also what is going on in this world.” He underscored his point with a story about one of his sons who, as a young driver, crashed into the gate at the entrance to their neighborhood.

When his son told him what happened, Scroggins went to pick up the pieces of the gate. The security guard lectured him, prompting him to reply, “It’s not my fault.” The guard responded, “Sir, it may not be your fault, but if you’re his dad, it’s your responsibility.”

To the graduates, Scroggins said, “There are many things that are not your fault, but they will be your responsibility.” He told them to turn to Proverbs 3:5-6 and to the example of the Lord Jesus when the responsibility seems like too much to bear.

“He never sinned. He loved people, and He taught people, and He healed people, and He spoke truth to power and He stood up for people who could not stand up for themselves,” Scroggins said. “When he was in his young 30s, people who he loved crucified Him on a cross … The one who never sinned took my sins, and made my sins His responsibility.”

To the graduates, he said, “Jesus would look at you and he would look at me in this tremendous time of change and advancement and say, ‘Graduates, you can do it. You can make a difference. You can change it and you can make it better.’ The problems of this world are very real, and they are not your fault. But graduates, this is your world. This is your mission, and this is your moment, and this is your responsibility.”

After Scroggins’ remarks, the graduates received their diplomas. Provost Dr. Randy Richards noted that PBA awarded its first Ph.D. Shawn Allen earned the Ph.D. in Practical Theology.

Richards also commended Amber Lewis, who was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army after completing the Army ROTC requirements. Outstanding graduates from each school were recognized, as was Corts Award for Outstanding Teaching winner Professor David Athey.

Photo 1: Geraldine Padgett, a member of PBA’s founding class, speaks before offering a prayer from the Class of 1972.

Photo 2: Melina Willson encourages her class to “dream the impossible dream,” quoting PBA founding President Dr. Jess Moody.

Photo 3: President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn takes a photo with Rachel Ann Schmidt and Schmidt’s dog Teddy.

Photo 4: Graduates sign a banner.

Photo 5: Graduate Renesha Viljean poses for a photo with her family at commencement celebrations at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

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