Celebrating Commencement Twice

December 15, 2014

By Bob Holmes

December graduation at Columbia International University is a full day of celebration. Two commencement ceremonies are conducted; one on the main campus, and the other directly across the Broad River at the Kirkland Correctional Institution where the latest cohort of student-inmates graduate from the CIU Prison Initiative.

At the morning commencement on the main campus, CIU President Dr. Bill Jones conferred degrees on 123 students recognized for earning degrees from Associate of Arts to doctorates. The commencement speaker was CIU Professor of Church Ministries Dr. Andre Rogers, who is also a CIU alumnus. Rogers challenged the graduates from Romans, chapter 12, to offer up themselves as “living sacrifices,” to God, which includes their bodies, their minds, and their wills.  He also warned them not to compromise.

“My brothers and sisters, I pray that you never compromise,” Rogers said. “I pray that you don’t compromise your faith, your family, or the foundational truths that you have in your life. I pray that you will never, ever compromise.”

Hear Rogers' message at: http://podcast.ciu.edu/.

Before the diplomas were presented to the graduates, President Jones announced that a survey of the graduating class shows that 30 percent of them plan to enter the mission field, 30 percent church ministry and 40 percent the marketplace.   

That afternoon, 15 men in the CIU Prison Initiative donned cap and gown over their brown prison garb to receive Associate of Arts degrees. They will be assigned to state prisons throughout South Carolina to minister to fellow inmates as chaplain’s assistants.

CIU Chancellor Dr. George Murray challenged the graduating inmates that no matter what happens to them as they go out, that God is in control.

“He is doing His work, including the work He is doing in you and through you, even though you may not always see it,” Murray said. “And blessed is the man who trusts Him and does not fall away just because of the way our great God chooses to go about His business.”

A graduate named Daniel (full names are withheld because of security concerns), who spoke on behalf of the student-inmates, said that through the CIU Prison Initiative God has been “training cohorts of soldiers and sending them out all across South Carolina.”

“God has called us to change the South Carolina Department of Corrections,” Daniel said, “and that’s an honor.”