Clarks Summit University Celebrates 92nd Commencement

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Clarks Summit University celebrated graduates in their 92nd Commencement on May 11, 2024, at 10 a.m. in the Recreation Center on their Clarks Summit campus.

CSU’s graduating class earned degrees in 50 programs of study, including associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral.

92nd Graduating Class

158 graduates were celebrated. The class represented a breadth of academic achievement with 16 different degree types, from associate to doctoral. 161 degrees were conferred across 50 programs of study, including business, counseling, education, organizational leadership, biology, health sciences, ministry and theology. Members of this graduating class hail from 27 states and 10 different countries, including Ethiopia, Japan, South Africa, United Kingdom and Brazil.

First Program Graduates

Among the graduates were the first graduates of CSU’s Master of Business Administration program. CSU launched the program last fall, and it has earned the distinction of “Best One-Year MBA” by Forbes Advisor. These first graduates completed their MBA online in less than one year.

The first graduates with an undergraduate major of Intercultural Entrepreneurship were also part of this graduating class.  

The first graduates of the Master of Business Administration program are joined by faculty members.

CSU president James Lytle, D.Min., speaks at the university’s 92nd Commencement. 

Commencement Service

The invocation was given by Dena Cambra, M.Ed., vice president for Marketing and Communications. Assistant professor Brian Deschaine, M.Ed., read Colossians 1:9–14. The Concert Choir sang “Elijah Rock,” arranged by Roger Emerson, and “Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed,” by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Ed Cash, arranged by James Koerts. William Higley, Ph.D., vice president for academics, presented the candidates for graduation. CSU president James Lytle, D.Min., conferred degrees and spoke a prayer of dedication before the audience sang the university hymn, “Holding Fast the Faithful Word,” by Vera Stilwel and W.S. Miller, arranged by David Harris. Dr. Lytle also introduced the commencement speaker, Aaron Marshall, M.A. 

Commencement Speaker

Marshall is the chair of CSU’s Board of Trustees. He spoke on the Colossians passage, challenging graduates to “Live a Worthy Life.” A two-time Clarks Summit University alumnus (’96, ’19), he is also the managing partner of TEAMMarshall LLLP. Marshall has served in pastoral roles and as past president and CEO of BCS, a technology deployment company.

Aaron and his wife Jaye T. live in Arkansas and have three children. The couple started the JLE Marshall Endowment for Pediatric Oncology in 2011 to assist in bringing pediatric cancer treatment to Northwest Arkansas. Passionate about helping those experiencing homelessness, Aaron helped establish New Beginnings Village, providing a micro-shelter “bridge housing” community and access to services and programs which holistically help residents.

Aaron Marshall, M.A., gives the commencement address at Clarks Summit University’s 92nd Commencement.

In his volunteer role as community shepherd at Fellowship Bible Church of NWA, Aaron administrates small group ministry. He serves on the board of Arkansas Children’s Hospital Northwest and is president of the board of New Beginnings Northwest Arkansas.

An instructor and two graduating scholar-athletes celebrate during CSU’s 92nd Commencement.

Student Testimonies

Students from various degree levels were selected to give graduate testimonies.

Juan Izquierdo, from Kissimmee, Florida, majored in Biology and Biblical Studies. He said, “It’s been an honor to serve and represent this school academically and athletically. As I look back and reflect on my journey, I can see a man that has grown spiritually in tremendous ways.”

Emma Mitten, from Largo, Florida, graduated with Highest Honor with majors in Intercultural Entrepreneurship and Biblical Studies. “I think the biggest way in which I’ve learned from my time here is in the opportunities I have been given, and the people that God has placed in my life,” she said. “From day one, I’ve been challenged by my professors, my RD [resident director], and my friends to always obey God in the things He is calling me to do, even if I’m not too comfortable doing it.”

Luke Tice, a Pastoral Ministries and Biblical Studies double-major from Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, graduated with High Honor. He said, “Praise God for all he has done, is doing, and will continue to faithfully do in and through all of us here at CSU. I have the opportunity to take some of the best, most practical classes, meet some of the most solid, Christ-following people, and experience some of the most truthful, heartfelt ministry in my time here.”

Kristin Charles represented Master of Education graduates, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a focus in Curriculum and Instruction. She earned her undergraduate degree at Grove City College and is from Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.  “I am grateful to God for all that He has taught me along the way and for the chance to step into the classroom each day to do what I love. I now have renewed energy and the resources I have needed to teach with excellence,” she explained. She completed her degree over 21 years and admitted, “I had wondered if it was too late to finish this degree, but I was reminded that it is never too late to pursue the dreams God has put on our hearts.” 

Donna Oakes, from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, earned two degrees from CSU through the Accelerated Counseling program—her Bachelor of Science in Counseling and Master of Science in Counseling. The South African native shared how her story has changed from someone who failed in high school, had no hope for the future and had suicidal thoughts to someone who was supported by God and others to earn both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in counseling. “Who I am today is a stranger to my yesterdays. You are looking at someone who believed she was intellectually unable to complete high school, much less college. You are looking at someone who believed she had no hope for her future…and now look, here I am. Here I stand with my hands raised high to a Savior that saved my soul and rewrote the story of my life. I am surrounded by people who have been instrumental in changing the course of my life.” 

Emily McLean, hailing from Ontario, Canada, earned her Master of Divinity from CSU’s Baptist Bible Seminary. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Ministry focus. “Throughout all the challenges and blessings and chaos, the grace of God and the discipline of seminary homework deadlines kept me in the Word and brought me back to Its truth again and again and again.” She said, “At the time that I began my seminary degree, I could never have pictured myself on this day, at 31, seven years later. And yet, God knew the work that He was preparing me for even then. He used His living and active Word to equip and challenge and sanctify me, one course at a time.”

Ryan Day, a three-time CSU graduate from Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania, earned his Doctor of Ministry degree with a Pastoral Ministry focus. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a dissertation: “Training Deacons who Dare to Make a Difference.” A high-school student who attended Teen Leadership Conference and eventually earned his bachelor’s, master’s and now doctoral degrees at CSU and Baptist Bible Seminary, Day describes the university as “a special place where God can change your life.” He continued, “I want to thank the faculty here at Baptist Bible Seminary for your unwavering commitment to both truth and love—the truth of the Bible and the love of your students. I praise God today for the incredible impact that CSU and Baptist Bible Seminary have had on my life.”