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Monday, June 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Students’ connection to Whitworth won’t end after graduation

UPDATED: Sun., May 19, 2019, 10:27 p.m.

Justin Larsen receives a high five from Maddy Moffat after receiving his diploma at Whitworth's graduation on May 19, 2019 at the Spokane Arena. Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Justin Larsen receives a high five from Maddy Moffat after receiving his diploma at Whitworth's graduation on May 19, 2019 at the Spokane Arena. Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Just before hundreds of new Whitworth University graduates took the stage to receive their diplomas, they were reminded by speaker after speaker that attending Whitworth is about far more than getting a degree.

Dr. Michael Sardinia, a Whitworth alum, veterinarian and professor of biology at Whitworth, told the crowd of students and family that he was reminded what it means to be connected to to the school after he nearly died of a brain aneurysm last fall.

While he was on the operating table, he knew students were praying for him, and after he was out of the hospital, they helped him organize his tests. After surgery, both current and past students gave him rides to school so he could continue teaching.

Even his former theater mentor, from when he was a student at Whitworth 30 years ago, visited him while he was in rehab.

“We had to make room for my wheelchair and her walker so that we could talk,” he said. “The bonds here are strong, don’t ever forget that.”

Sardinia urged the crowd to love others, no matter their background or who they voted for. He said his recent brush with death made him realize that he, and his students, only have so many chances to share their love with others.

“Show and tell the people you love that you do,” he said. “You don’t know if tomorrow you will be able to. Do it now, don’t wait.”

Graduation speakers spoke in front of a backdrop of 25 flags from various countries.

Student speaker Misikir Wondaferahu Adnew, who moved to Spokane from her home country of Ethiopia to attend Whitworth, said the university taught her a new meaning for the word “family.”

“I’m grateful for the friends that have turned into family,” she said. “I found my people here.”

Adnew said her start at Whitworth was tough, but eventually once she learned to let people in, her fears turned to hopes, and she now will miss the community that has grown around her.

When Whitworth students entered their graduation ceremony, they were greeted by a standing audience, which loudly cheered them on through most of the ceremony. Whitworth awarded 628 diplomas Sunday, and gave an honorary doctorate to Timothy Herron, CEO of Degrees of Change, a foundation that gives low-income students an opportunity to attend college.

Whitworth also recognized six students who won the President’s Cup award for maintaining a 4.0 their entire college career.

One student who was awarded the President’s Cup, Dorothy Wang, is also a Fulbright Scholar who will soon move to Taiwan to be a teaching assistant; she eventually intends to apply to medical school.

Her recent work includes being an emergency medical technician, a member of the Whitworth Symphony Orchestra and teaching English to refugees in Spokane.

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