Commencement celebrated the graduation of 205 traditional and 77 Adult Studies students on Saturday, May 12, 2012. The speaker for the traditional ceremony was Donnita Travis, founder and executive director of By the Hand Club for Kids; and Dr. Lori Scrementi ’00, dean for Adult Studies.
During the ceremonies, three professors were honored with emerita/emeritus status: Dr. Sharon Barnes, professor of communication arts; John Hoogewerf, assistant professor of education; and Dr. Donald Sinnema, professor of theology.
The inaugural presentation of Professor of the Year recognized Dr. Robert Rice, professor of history. The award recognizes the achievements of a distinguished professor who has shown excellence in teaching or scholarship. The faculty development committee chooses from nominations submitted by students, faculty, and staff.
Commencement guests were greeted by Beth Decker ’67, chair of the board of trustees. Alberto La Rosa, parent of Alberto A. La Rosa ’12 of Glendale Heights, Illinois, gave the invocation. The Commencement litany was delivered by Student Association President Samuel Lankah ’13 of Warrenville, Illinois.
Processing this year were students from Trinity’s Class of 1962.
All the graduates were welcomed to their new alumni status by Ken Litscher ’02, president of the alumni board. The closing prayer was offered by Laura Doyle, parent of Allison Doyle ’12 of New Lenox, Illinois.
Donnita Travis’s address was titled “The Little Things You Do Are More Important than the Big Things You Say.”
Commencement Program—Adult Studies
President Steve Timmermans, Ph.D., greeted Commencement guests. Dr. Mary Webster Moore, assistant professor of education, gave the invocation. The Commencement litany was delivered by Lorna Sobilo ’12 of Munster, Indiana.
The graduates were welcomed to their new alumni status by Travis Bandstra ’06, director of alumni relations. The closing prayer was offered by Chaplain Willis Van Groningen, Ph.D.
Dr. Scrementi’s address was titled “Decision-making: Which Raindrop Is the Heaviest?”
About Donnita Travis
Donnita Travis is the founder and executive director of By The Hand Club For Kids, an after-school program that emphasizes academic excellence while nurturing the whole child—mind, body, and soul. Located in four of Chicago’s most under-resourced neighborhoods, By The Hand Club For Kids is dedicated to helping 851 children have new and abundant life.
Travis received her MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. Awards and recognition include Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management Social Entrepreneur of the Year (2010), the Chicago Bible Society Gutenberg Award (2010), Mayor Daley’s SAGE Award (2010), and a fellowship to attend Harvard Business School (July 2012).
About Dr. Lori Scrementi ’00
Dr. Lori Scrementi ’00 has been instrumental in the building of the accelerated degree completion programs for teacher education, business, and English-as-a-Second Language at Trinity where she serves as dean for adult studies. Having done significant research in the area of adult learning with a main focus on adult learners as the new undergraduate majority, Scrementi is fully aware of curriculum as well as the needs of non-traditional students.
Embracing a mission of social justice and diversity enables her to view her work differently each day as an administrator in an institution of higher education. With a focus and exposure to cultural and ethical issues involved in our K-20 schools today, as well as the need for critical pedagogy in our classrooms, Scrementi is passionate about enhancing the learning experiences of students as they face the world while participating in the work of Christ.
Scrementi earned her B.A. from Trinity, her M.A. from Governors State University, and her Ed.D. from Lewis University.
The Little Things You Do Are More Important than the Big Things You Say
Thank you Dr. Timmermans, graduating Class of 2012, distinguished administration, and faculty, alumni, parents, family, and friends. Thank you all so much for inviting me to speak with you today.
I would like to begin by asking you to join me in congratulating our graduating class, congratulations! Just like the name commencement says, you all are commencing—you are beginning. And if you’re like me when I finished my bachelor’s degree, you are ready to go out and change the world.
In my case, it’s hard to believe, but that was 30 years ago. And a lot has happened since then. Thankfully, I’ve learned a thing or two, even about changing the world.
If you will allow me, I want to share one of my most important lessons that I actually learned, for the first time, while working in advertising with major brands such as Motorola, General Electric, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Here’s the lesson…
“It’s the little things you do, not the big things you say.”
It’s true in advertising that what companies do must match up to what they say in order to build consumer loyalty and trust. And it’s true in life!
“It’s the little things you do, not the big things you say.”
This reminds me of the story of Edward Kimball, a man many of you have probably never heard of. He was a Sunday school teacher, and one Sunday, a new young man showed up in his class. Mr. Kimball handed him a closed Bible and told him the lesson was in John. The boy took the book and began running his fingers through the first few pages looking for John. It was obvious to the other boys in the class that he didn’t know what he was doing, and they started grinning at each other. Mr. Kimball gave the boys a stern look and quietly handed the young man his own book, opened to the right place, saving the boy any further embarrassment. This boy was D.L. Moody who grew up to be one of the world’s most famous evangelists and the founder of The Moody Church, my church. Here’s is the remarkable thing, D. L. Moody later in life commented that this little thing that Edward Kimble did had a profound effect on his life, and I believe even how he came to faith; it was Edward Kimball who later shared the gospel message with D.L. Moody and prayed with D.L. Moody to receive Christ into his life.
I tell that story because it is such a great example of how the little things we do are more important than the big things we say AND how we never know the impact that little thing might end up having on the world.
I also tell that story because By The Hand Club is part D. L. Moody’s and Edward Kimball’s legacy. By The Hand Club started on March 20, 2001, with just 16 kids from Cabrini-Green, in a small room of The Moody Church.
I’ll tell you more about that in a minute, but first I want to share that before starting By The Hand Club, I had worked in advertising for 18 years. In the late 1990’s, in my quiet time, God used a verse from the book of John, John 10:10, to call me from a job in advertising onto a mission of helping kids experience the promise of that verse, abundant and eternal life.
I share this because I am often asked if I miss the corporate world. I think what they are really asking me is do I miss the money, the prestige, and the excitement. Without hesitating, I can say, “no.” I am more fulfilled today than I ever was in advertising, and in God’s economy, am using ALL of my experience, skills, and gifts more fully today than I ever did then, and I have the added benefit of knowing that I am living a life of purpose and making a difference in world. So, graduates, if God ever calls you into fulltime ministry, just know, if it is anything like it has been for me, you won’t be sacrificing anything. You will be blessed. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”
So, we started in spring of 2001 at The Moody Church, but by fall of that year we were growing quickly and wanted to be closer to our children and families, so we moved to a building in Cabrini-Green. We had just a handful of paid staff and volunteers and already 42 kids, and I remember feeling overwhelmed and REALLY scared because I didn’t know if this crazy idea would work.
The idea was to go to the poorest neighborhoods and ask Chicago Public School principals for their kids not meeting their reading standards, in other words the kids most likely to drop out of school and to take them by the hand and walk with them during the most dangerous time of day, the after-school hours, when more crimes are committed by and against youth than any other time and to show them the love of Christ by helping them do better in school, graduate from high school, and go on to college.
Well, its 11 years later, I can honestly say, thanks to God, it’s working.
Today, we are serving 851 kids in four of Chicago’s most under-resourced neighborhoods and:
To help put this in perspective, Chicago has a history of high dropout rates, with around half of students failing to graduate high school for the past 30 years and only about half of CPS high school graduates going on to college.
I know that is a lot of numbers, but the important thing to remember is that behind each one of these numbers is a child. I wish I could share all of their stories with you today, but I only have time for one.
I’ll tell you about Keewuan. He was recommended to us in the 3rd grade because he didn’t know his ABCs.
…When he thinks back about his first day at the Club, he says, “I stepped into a different world. But this world seemed real. In the first five minutes of being in this world, I got the biggest and longest hug I had ever had, I felt like I was important.”
Keewaun needed eye glasses and he says, “It was hard for me to learn anything. I didn’t know what the letter A really looked like. It was difficult to pay attention, since school work looked fuzzy all the time.”
Because By The Hand Club does home visits every month, we knew Keewaun’s grandmother was too sick to take him for eyeglasses. So, we took him ourselves, and within weeks Keewaun knew his ABC’s and within months how to read.
Today, thanks to a series of little things we have done, Keewaun is in the 10th grade and is on his way to graduating from high school and going on to college.
There are many, many stories of kids who have experienced the peace and hope that come from knowing the love of Christ and his plan for them to have an abundant and everlasting life.
So I hope you get the sense that By The Hand Club is much more than a homework club or just a place for fun and games or hanging out. It’s a loving and caring place where we address our children’s most pressing needs, often little things, whether it is help with their homework, reading instruction, eye or dental care, a warm meal before they go home at night, or maybe just a smile or a hug. As a result, we are making a difference in the lives of children, one child, one little thing at a time.
I think this excerpt from the book, Kisses from Katie, by Katie Beth Clark, sums up what I’m saying really well:
“People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.”
This is how Jesus lived his life every day while he was on this earth. Even though he saved mankind and had his eyes fixed on his Father’s will, he never overlooked the daily needs of others. He stopped along the way to heal the leper, make the lame man walk, help the blind man see, and even reached out to the deceitful, tax collector and change his life forever. We know from scripture that these were divine appointments and that is exactly how Jesus viewed them.
I like what it says in the book of Matthew about little things:
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” Matthew 25:23
So, graduates, again, congratulations! Let me encourage you to be strong and courageous, you’ve been prepared for fours years now by a really top notch educational institution to go out and change the world, one smile, one mind, one life at a time…knowing that over time, the small things you do, not the big things you say, add up. And might even, like we saw with Edward Kimball, change a life that changes a city and a nation, and yes, even the world.
So, as my mom says to me every morning, “Go get ‘em!” Thank you.
Decision-making: Which rain drop is the heaviest?
Thank you President Timmermans, Provost Rudenga, faculty and staff, and most importantly to you graduates as you are surrounded today by your friends and family. I am honored to be celebrating this special day with you.
“People know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what, what they do does.” That is a quote from French philosopher, Michel Foucault (as cited via personal communication in Dreyfus and Rabinow, 1983, p. 187). Listen to that one more time. “People know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what, what they do does.”
So what does this mean especially in regard to decision-making? You all are not new to decision-making, right? You have already made many decisions throughout your lives.
So let’s break down Foucault’s statement in regard to decision-making.
The first part states, “People know what they do; [and] they frequently know why they do what they do. . .”
That makes sense, right? We do know why we make most of our decisions, so I am not going to dwell on that part this afternoon. The part that intrigues me, and I hope intrigues you too, is the second half of Foucault’s statement, where he says “ . . . but what they don’t know is what, what they do does.” And it’s that what, that we need to think about.
The majority of us believe there are “right” and “wrong” decisions. “We feel much happier and more secure when we think we know precisely what to do” (Clifford, 1877, p.5). But even though you think you may know the answer, and believe you have made the right decision, you truly do not know if you indeed have made the right decision, as none of us can know how any decision infiltrates the being of each person that it touches. That’s the “what” Foucault is talking about.
One factor that we must be alerted to is the critical role of power in our lives in order to contend with other influences within one’s decision-making and open up power relations to restructure the field such that something else is possible.
Power infiltrates all of us no matter what level of position or status one holds as each person is jockeying to establish his or her own position of dominance. Power consumes us in ways that are unknown to most of us. Foucault (1977) says, “Power reaches into the very grain of [us], touches [our] souls, induces pleasure and inserts itself into [our] actions and attitudes, [our] discourses, [our] learning and [our] everyday lives” (p. 39). Using power does so much more than just saying “yes” or “no” to people. Therefore, each person must learn to recognize the influence power has on his or her actions “to know what, what they do does.”
As you embark on a new career in teaching or in business, I am sure you all have hopes of changing the status quo whether in our schools or in the corporate world. In order to make a difference, though, we must begin to recognize the hold that power has over us, especially in our decision-making. And we can begin to understand that power by knowing who we are.
Trying to discover the secrets of who we are can be an invasive and anguishing journey. When it comes to decision-making, we tend to protect ourselves from crises and challenges, which is in part what is holding us back from achieving any possibility of the impossible. We end up “becoming the accomplices of the processes . . .” (Bourdieu, 1990, p. 65).
Many people like to rely on rules as they believe rules make decision-making simple, but decision-making should not be simple. Learning to wrestle with the complications of what may have been uncomplicated in the past is imperative in decision-making.
There is a poem from Anaïs Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
We have to break away from what we know and begin to blossom, only then can we begin to unwrap “the secret and private chambers” of ourselves only known to our God as St. Augustine confessed many years ago (Caputo, 2006, p. 73). We can then learn what shapes and molds us – what we believe, in order to make sense of all our actions (Smith, 2009).
Once we better understand who we are within our own lives, we can then begin understanding who we are within our world. That is the passion of our lives.
So who are all of you sitting in front of us today? Well, since you have all been at Trinity for at least two years, we believe we have some idea of who you already are. Could I have those graduates from Cohorts 57 and 58 stand?
Thank you for letting us get to know who you are.
Thank you for letting us get to know who you are.
Thank you for letting us get to know who you are.
Thank you for letting us get to know who you are.
Thank you for allowing us to get to know who you are.
These are only a few of the things we know about you. As you continue to reflect on who you are, you then need to understand how each one of you fits in with what is demanded of any decision.
First, Derrida tells us that a decision “commands an action and an answer to the question, what should I do?” (Derrida, 2002, p. 296). Second, to make a decision also requires that we need to be as thoughtful and as responsible as possible in arriving at an answer, and that means questioning every step of the way – “ a questioning without limit” (p. 296) just like our dual certification cohort who continually strive to dig deeper.
Also, and most important, those that we question should be open to continue to answer the questions directed to them as we are only attempting to be as responsible as we can before a decision can ever be reached. Third, and lastly, Derrida (2002) insists that a responsible decision must “be made with the utmost urgency [emphasis original]” (p. 296). Thus, for Derrida (2002), urgency means “the necessity of not waiting, or rather, the impossibility of waiting [emphasis original] for the end of the reflection, [or] the inquiry,” (p. 296) and this is because there will never be a final word. How could there be finality as life and our interpretations of life keep changing and evolving?
This impossibility of waiting relates to the open-ended and porous nature of inquiry, and that means we must have the continual energy to ask questions, to be wary of dogmatism and to scrutinize each presupposition we encounter in our daily experiences (Caputo, 1997).
In a lecture given by Peter McLaren at Lewis University a couple of years ago, he stated that you do not become critically conscious and then struggle. It is not prior to – not a priori. It is in the act of struggle that we become critically conscious where we can reach the possibility of the impossible. Ultimately, in all important transactions of life, we have to be willing to take a leap of faith in our decision-making and that means a willingness to submit your intentions to God.
How do we do that? As many of you already know, we have to begin with prayer as God has only our best interest in mind.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV). A verse that reminds me of our education cohorts who believe God has called them to be teachers.
Decision-making takes time. We have to trust in our faith and submit our will to God
over and over, asking ourselves if the outcome of our decision will draw us closer to God? Will it glorify him in our life? And certainly, how will it impact those God has placed around us? Even after much prayer and counsel, we still may not know the final decision we should make. And God does not always answer or give direction when we need it. He works his own plans in his own way. Trust that he has done this enough to know exactly what you need and when you need it. Eventually he will reveal his will for us when it is time.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (NIV).
So as you now search for your future path, trust in the Lord. And remember, prayer is never the end – only the continual exploration in finding our way because prayers are “a kind of conclusion without conclusion” (Caputo, 2006B, p.284) as prayers never conclude.
One decision that all of you had in common was the decision to attend Trinity Christian College. I do hope you will all look back on that decision as a “right” decision.
“People know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what, what they do does.”
I want you to know that the “what” you have done for all of us at Trinity is to have challenged us as professors and enabled us to become better persons to have worked with you and learned with you along this educational journey.
It is my hope and prayer that you will take that risk to blossom, and I urge you to find the necessary time for reflection; to strive to see all that our decisions entail. To better know what, what you do does to those around you.
“With God, everything is possible, even the impossible” (Caputo, 2006A, p. 182).
Peace and blessings to all of you. Thank you and thank you to Cara and Casey for choreographing and “dancing” my commencement address. Graduates, today is your day to celebrate. Thanks be to God!
Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice. (R. Nice, Trans.). California: Stanford University Press.
(Original work published 1980).
Caputo, J. D. (1997). The prayers and tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without religions. Bloomington
& Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Caputo, J. D. (2006A). On religion. New York: Routledge.
Caputo, J. D. (2006B). The weakness of God: A theology of the event. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Clifford, W. K. (1999). The ethics of belief (1877). In The Ethics of Belief and Other Essays. Prometheus Books.
(Original work published in Contemporary Review, 1877).
Derrida, J. (2002). Negotiations: Interventions and interviews, 1971-2001. (E. Rottenberg, Trans.).
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Dreyfus, H. L. & Rabinow, P. (1983). Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics.
Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Foucault, M. (1977). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings 1972-1977.
(C. Gordon, L. Marshall, J. Mepham, K. Soper, Trans.). New York: Pantheon Books.
New International Version Bible. (NIV).
Smith, J. K. A. (2009). Desiring the kingdom: Worship, worldview, and cultural formation.
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.