Simpson University Celebrates Graduates at Spring Commencement

REDDING, Calif.—Hundreds of people filled Simpson University’s James M. Grant Student Life Center on April 27 to honor 130 graduates from all programs—a ceremony that concluded with a student-led procession to the campus cross, where President Norman Hall prayed for the graduates.

“You are being released as world-changers, as a result of Simpson University’s commitment and conviction to create in you critical thinking and warm hearts,” he said.

The commencement speaker was Dr. Kevin Mannoia, chaplain at Azusa Pacific University. He has also served as dean of APU’s School of Theology and president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He is an ordained minister and the author of several books.


Dr. Mannoia spoke from Ephesians 4:1-3 about what it means to lead a life “worthy of the calling you have received.” He encouraged students to both think rightly and live rightly, to allow the Holy Spirit to mold their hearts.

“You be the best at what you are doing,” he said, “but remember that competence is not enough. Competence is important. Godliness is of equal importance.”

The ceremony, which was livestreamed on the web, also featured hymns and special music by the Simpson Chorale, and the presentation of several awards. Dr. Patrick Blewett, interim provost, introduced the professors of the year: Dr. Michelle Stinson (traditional undergraduate studies) and Sarah Herring (adult studies). Mark Endraske, dean of students, recognized student Matt Balane with the Student Life Award for overall excellence.

President Norman Hall presented the President’s Cup to David Duxbury and Sanae Yoshihara for their all-around contribution to the life of Simpson University.

The 2019 spring graduates include students from the School of Traditional Undergraduate Studies, School of Adult and Graduate Professional Studies, Betty M. Dean School of Nursing, the School of Education, and A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary.

The Class of 2019 included Simpson University’s first political science graduates.


Simpson University’s first political science graduates pose with their professors. From left: Dr. Timothy Orr, Noah Marquez, Solomon Dutton, Kyle Carpenter, Shane Geer, Anthony Spencer, Brandon Moss, Dr. John Ayabe. Kneeling, Dr. Cherry McCabe, Chloe Lynch, and Michelle Mbok.

The week of commencement was filled with activities, including a pinning ceremony for 15 graduates from the Betty M. Dean School of Nursing, ranked as the 12th best nursing program in California; and a baccalaureate service for all graduates the evening before commencement.

Seniors Sarah Sexton, a youth ministry major, and Shane Geer, a political science major, shared brief testimonies at baccalaureate.

Sexton said Simpson University helped fuel her passion for ministry and service. “I have found my voice. I have found who I am,” she said. “I’m eternally grateful for that.”

Geer, who transferred to Simpson as a sophomore, was candid about his failures and mistakes while a student, but said that did not stop the community from embracing and supporting him and encouraging him to become leader.

“It was truly the grace extended to me at this university that allowed me to grow,” he said. “I have come out a better person.”

Geer served two years as a resident assistant and started a men’s ministry group.

“Simpson has fostered a place for me to love deeper than I ever thought possible, think more critically than I ever thought possible, and encounter a God far greater than I ever thought possible,” he said. “I am proud to say I am a Simpson alum.”

Dr. Jennifer Costillo, chair of the undergraduate Psychology Department, was chosen to address the graduates at baccalaureate. She spoke on “Communing with God, Neighbor & Self,” with Matthew 22:37-40 as a guiding text.

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

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Photos by Nathan Bruce



Simpson University, founded in 1921, moved to Redding almost 30 years ago and will celebrate its centennial in 2021. In addition to offering 25 majors in its traditional undergraduate program, the university has graduated almost 4,000 North State adults from its ASPIRE degree-completion program, and nearly 3,000 from its School of Education. It has a No. 12-ranked School of Nursing, a seminary, and master’s programs in counseling psychology and organizational leadership.

Simpson is launching new athletics programs in track and field, swimming and diving, women’s wrestling, and men’s volleyball, as well as a bass fishing team. The university is also working to better serve transfer students from community colleges through its commitment to Associate Degree for Transfer agreements, and it is offering new scholarships.

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