122nd Commencement

Two male graduates clothed in their regalia surrounded by balloons and leis

Commencement celebrations highlight Graceland’s amazing students, recognizing them and others for exceptional contributions to our community.

Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, Graceland’s fall commencement ceremony was held at the Community of Christ Auditorium in Independence, Missouri. Former Dean of the School of Nursing and Professor Emeritus Claudia Horton addressed the graduates on the importance of understanding their purpose in life.

Commencement weekend on the Lamoni campus unofficially kicked off Saturday, April 27, at the groundbreaking for Newcom Student Union. That evening, students gathered for the baccalaureate service, where director of the Community of Christ Seminary, Zac Harmon-McLaughlin ’08, challenged students, “Don’t just go and shine your light — set the world on fire.”

When the baccalaureate service concluded, students exited to the Shaw lobby where President Patricia H. Draves and Dr. Jeff Draves hosted a reception in honor of the graduating seniors. Later, Alumni Board President Michele Black and Alumni Programs Director Rick Isham welcomed students into the alumni ranks during the annual candlelighting ceremony.

The weather in Iowa is always unpredictable, and commencement Sunday was no different. President Draves welcomed graduates and their families and then was joined by several students who welcomed those present in their native languages. Awards of excellence were presented (more about the recipients in the below), and the graduating seniors listened as Aleksandar Memca ’00 gave the commencement address.

“Always remember Graceland’s values and where you come from,” Memca said, sharing stories of his time at Graceland and his work in the technology industry with companies like AT&T, Enron, Cricket Wireless and Apple. He talked about the importance of being challenged by leaders and mentors, like the professors he worked with at Graceland, and encouraged students, “Never stop growing, and be passionate.”


Ginger Vaughn-PullinGinger Vaughn-Pullin, DNP, NE, FNP-BC, assistant professor of Nursing, provides a learning environment for her students that fosters a good relationship. She has been a part of the nursing faculty since 2014 and graduated from Graceland in the same ceremony with her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Her students appreciate many things about her teaching style. One said, “She always finds a way to motivate me and keep me engaged.” Another offered, “I appreciate her optimism and positive approach to teaching those in the health care field.”

Tim RobbinsTim Robbins, PhD, assistant professor of English, joined the Graceland faculty in 2015 and immediately became a valuable member of the community. His students respect him and describe him as “a mentor who has proven time and time again to be an understanding, reliable and compassionate human being.” He is engaged in the Graceland community on multiple fronts, especially as an advocate and ally for equality and opportunity. Perhaps most importantly, one of his students declared that Robbins “encouraged and fostered a classroom where students felt safe — safe to feel, safe to speak and safe to be.”


Julia Franklin-JonesJulia Franklin-Jones, MFA, professor of art, had an extremely busy year (read more about Julia in Art as a Lifeline in this issue). In September 2018, Julia received the Iowa Arts Fellowship, a grant that has allowed her to expand, exhibit and express her artwork in new and interesting ways. Earlier this year, her installation in The Helene Center for the Visual Arts, “Picking Up the Pieces,” addressed mental health and identity in a personal and powerful way. Her achievements this past year in artistic expression set her apart for this award.



Jonathan MontalvoJonathan Montalvo, PhD, assistant professor of Spanish, has quickly made a significant and lasting impact to the Graceland community. Just this year, he crafted the curriculum for and will launch a Hispanic studies program, an interdisciplinary major that incorporates a Spanish language program with history, political science, communications, philosophy, literature and other courses to develop well-rounded bilingual students who can make substantial contributions to bettering our community and our world. In the summer of 2018, he also initiated Graceland’s first experiential learning opportunity in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Graceland is fortunate to have Montalvo as a part of the faculty.


The total number of degrees awarded for the 2018-19 academic year.


U.S. States


Two past Graceland presidents, David Clinefelter and John Sellars pose with current president, Pat Draves.


During spring commencement festivities in Lamoni, President Draves gathered with two former University presidents just prior to the ceremony. David Clinefelter (left) and John Sellars (right) made significant contributions to the Graceland community during their time on “the Hill.”

Visit the photo galleries of both campus commencement ceremonies:

Independence Commencement Photo Gallery

Lamoni Commencement Photo Gallery