19 May 2012 • Campus Event • Deborah (Malacky) Belonick
Twenty-two graduates from St. Vladimir’s Seminary have “gone forth” (Matt 28:19) to serve the Church as priests, deacons, and lay ministers—including choral conductors, scholars, and hospital chaplains. At Commencement Exercises held on Saturday, May 19, 2012, the seminary awarded diplomas in three programs: 2 Masters of Theology, 16 Masters of Divinity, and 4 Masters of Arts degrees were conferred. Graduates represented a broad range of ecclesial jurisdictions and included both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians; twelve of the 22 graduates already had been ordained to Holy Orders.
Commencement crowned the week's celebrations, which also included a community cookout, a formal dinner with the Board of Trustees, and a Divine Liturgy and Moleiben. At the Divine Liturgy, one graduating senior, Dn. Timothy Yates, was ordained to the Holy Priesthood (see that story, here ). His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah , primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), presided over the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and ordained Fr. Timothy.
His Beatitude was joined in celebrating the Divine Liturgy by The Rt. Rev. Dr. Alexander [Golitzin], newly ordained Bishop of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese (OCA), and a seminary alumnus and former adjunct faculty member at St. Vladimir’s. Bishop Alexander delivered the Commencement Address to the Class of 2012, speaking on the theme of priesthood and distinguishing between the sacramental and royal priesthoods. Bishop Alexander noted that an ordained clergyman has the "peculiar" role to "occupy the place of the High Priest [Jesus Christ]...and to offer himself up and give himself back to his people, his flock, as food and drink." Similarly, he said, lay scholars of theology have the duty to present Christ to the broader world, but by becoming " 'iconographers for the intellect'...constructing images of Christ that will reveal and make Him present to others."
Metropolitan Jonah, who is President of the Seminary and Chair of the Board of Trustees, opened the Commencement Exercises and conferred degrees upon the graduates. In his closing remarks, he encouraged the senior class to "bear the Good News with joy," to "practice asceticism with a smile," and to "remember always that you bear the responsibility for building up the Church and the seminary."
Class Valedictorian this year was The Rev. Gerasim [Eliel], who earned triple honors during his tenure as a seminarian: magna cum laude academic standing; commendation for contribution to community life; and commendation for his Master’s thesis, titled, “Russian Icons in a Native Church: Conflict in Culture in Western Alaska.” Second-year seminarian Harrison Basil Russin was Salutatorian. The Valedictorian and Salutatorian are selected by the faculty on the basis of their excellent performance in all aspects of seminary life, including academic work, participation in chapel services, and completion of community service assignments. The “Saint Basil Award for Academic Achievement” was presented to The Rev. Dn. Jason Ketz, who also graduated magna cum laude.
The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr, dean, and The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, chancellor and CEO of St. Vladimir’s, congratulated and encouraged the graduates as well. Father John reminded seniors that they not only had "worked hard" during their tenure at St. Vladimir's, but also had been "worked over" by the curriculum and long hours in chapel and field assignments, and that by those means, they had been made into "fertile soil" for the gospel message to grow. Father Chad reminded the students of the generations of alumni that had preceded them. The Chair of the Alumni Board, Gregory Abdalah, presented each graduate with a beautiful solid cherry wood frame to display their diplomas, and welcomed them to the St. Vladimir's Alumni Association.
Also present at the Commencement Exercises were visiting hierarchs The Most Rev. Tikhon , archbishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania; The Rt. Rev. Michael,  bishop of New York and New York and New Jersey; and His Eminence Mor Titus Yeldho , archbishop and patriarchal vicar of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church in North America. The hierarchs were present to honor graduates and seminarians from their respective dioceses.
[Photos in this article are by Leanne Parrott]
The entire campus community wishes the Class of 2012 many years!
View the Commencement Program, here. 
View a photo gallery of Commencement Week, here. 
Listen to Trustee Brian Gerich explain how St. Vladimir's graduates have touched his life, here. 
View a photo gallery of Commencement Exercises by Leanne Parrott, here. 
Listen to all of the Commencement speakers, here: 
- Welcome by Dean Archpriest John Behr, with a recap of the academic year
- His Grace The Rt. Rev. Alexander, bishop of Toledo and Bulgarian Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America, 2012 Commencement Address
- Introductions by Chancellor and CEO Archpriest Chad Hatfield
- Valedictorian graduating senior Igumen Father Gerasim [Eliel]
- Salutatorian 2nd-year M.Div. student Harrison Basil Russin
- Metropolitan Jonah's closing remarks about joyful Christian witness