Finlandia sends forth scholars

HANCOCK – Another class of associate and bachelor degree recipients took the next step in their lives Sunday during commencement exercises at Finlandia University.

Finlandia University President Dr. Philip Johnson began the ceremony by thanking the graduates for their leadership during their time at the university.

“I thank you for your selflessness,” he said.

Johnson quoted Martin Luther, who he said was an education reformer in addition to a religious figure.

“‘How dare you not know what can be known,'” he quoted Luther. “The class of 2013 pursued to exhaustion what can be known.”

Johnson said the former students have been influential not only on the campus, but in the community as well.

The alumni speaker was Erica Payne, who graduated from Finlandia in 2007 before going on to Cooley Law School in Lansing. She now works for the law firm of Kendricks, Bordeau, Adamani & Greenlee in Marquette and Houghton.

Payne said after graduating from Finlandia, she had fear, anxiety and doubt about moving on to law school.

“Was I ready to handle this challenge?” she said.

Despite those fears and doubts, Payne told the graduates to move forward with their plans.

“You know more than you think you know, so trust yourself,” she said.

Payne told the graduates they probably will fail occasionally, but they can gain wisdom from those failures, and being creative can overcome those failures.

“Never underestimate the power of your own creativity,” she said.

Payne is vice president of the Finlandia University alumni board, and she said board members will be watching the progress of the graduates.

“We cannot wait to see what your future brings,” he said.

Also speaking was Student Representative Eric Hinsch, who is a non-traditional student, who told the graduates not to give up on what they want to do because other people tell them it isn’t realistic.

Hinsch said he spent 17 years in the information technology field, he received a bachelor of fine arts degree form Finlandia, and he’s going to Oregon State University to begin a graduate degree program in wood science and engineering.

“Never let someone tell you what your dream should be,” he said.

The commencement speaker was Elsa Brule, who is special counsel to Johnson. She is also involved with building and renovating libraries in the United States and around the world, as well as promoting literacy and education, especially for girls, around the world.

Brule said she once read something, which urged the reader to find ways to serve.

“I never forgot that,” she said.

Brule said she’s involved with literacy and education because she thinks every child has a right to learn to read.

Passion will be an important component of what they do in their careers, and fears will be a barrier, Brule told the graduates.

“I learned all of us have passions that drive us forward and fears that hold us back,” she said.

Brule said she’s had experiences with mothers working through poverty to try to bring education to their daughters, and she was impressed with their efforts so did what she could to help them.

“It’s not doing the big projects that give the best results, but the small gestures of one human to another,” she said.

Brule told the graduates to remember the people who have helped them through their lives, and to do their best to find ways to serve.

“Seek and find how to serve,” she said. “I guarantee happiness will follow.”