Simpson University Celebrates Graduates at Spring Commencement

REDDING, Calif.— Simpson University honored more than 150 graduates during spring commencement on Saturday, April 28, featuring keynote speaker California State Sen. Ted Gaines.

A rainy forecast prompted the traditional outdoor ceremony to be moved indoors and divided into two events. Hundreds filled the James M. Grant Student Life Center for the 10 a.m. (traditional undergraduates) and 2 p.m. (ASPIRE, master’s programs, nursing) ceremonies.

Gaines, who was elected to his current role representing 11 Northern California counties in 2011, addressed the graduates at both services. “You are graduating from a very special place in so many ways,” he said. “When I think about Simpson, I think about spiritual enrichment.”

IMG_5831The university and its mission attract a special kind of person, he said. “If I had to choose between Harvard and Simpson, give me Simpson. It is doing more than train people for their vocations; through God’s word, it is training them in the business of the spirit,” he said.

Gaines encouraged the graduates to prioritize character virtues over worldly success. Referencing David Brooks’ book, The Road to Character, he talked about “resume virtues” and “eulogy virtues.”

“Go out and do your best,” he said. “Whatever business you choose to pursue, pour yourself into it with passion and commitment.” Money and wealth will follow, “but don’t let that material pursuit consume you.”

Live by a different ledger, he said, one where “you don’t measure by what you get but by what you give. You don’t win by conquering others but by surrendering to God.”

The ceremonies, which were livestreamed on the web, also featured hymns and special music by Simpson alumnus James Miller, and the presentation of several awards. Dr. Patrick Blewett, interim provost, introduced the professors of the year: Dr. Michael Lyons (traditional undergraduate studies) and Rebecca Luff (adult studies). Mark Endraske, dean of students, recognized students Stevielee Jansen and Andre Carrillo with the Student Life Award for overall excellence.

PresCupPresident Robin Dummer, who will retire from Simpson at the end of May, presented the President’s Cup to Rachel Crew for her all-around contribution to the life of Simpson University.

The 2018 spring graduates include students from the School of Traditional Undergraduate Studies, School of Adult and Graduate Professional Studies, Betty M. Dean School of Nursing, and the School of Education.

The week of commencement was filled with activities, including a pinning ceremony for 25 graduates from the Betty M. Dean School of Nursing; and a baccalaureate service for all graduates the evening before commencement.

Seniors Sydney Davis and Jackylene Gutierrez shared brief testimonies at baccalaureate. Gutierrez, an English major from Richmond, Calif., said she’s a first-generation American and the first in her family to graduate from a four-year institution.

“I am utterly grateful for the time I’ve spent here,” she said, offering a special thank-you to faculty, staff, her family and fellow students. “Simpson is a unique place that has helped curate the person I am now.”

Dr. Trenton Smith, associate professor of biology, was chosen to address the graduates. He spoke on Jesus’ parable in Matthew about the man who finds treasure hidden in a field, and sells all he has to buy the field. He described the treasure as peace with God, friendship with the Creator, and God’s love.

“Stay mindful of this amazing gift we’ve been given,” Dr. Smith said. “Then it’s easier to give away what we need to.”

Simpson traditionally holds graduation twice a year — in January for summer and fall grads, and in April for spring graduates.


Simpson University, established in 1921, is a Christian university offering undergraduategraduate, and teaching credential programs. The university celebrated its 25th year in Redding and the completion of a Science and Nursing Center in 2014. Academic programs include ASPIRE, a degree-completion program geared toward working adults with both on-campus and online course offerings, including degrees in psychology and organizational leadership. For information about the university, or to arrange a campus visit, call 1-888-9-SIMPSON or visit