Olivet University Honors 2024 Graduating Class as University Marks 20th Year Serving Students and Community

June 24, 2024

At Commencement Ceremony, Graduating Student Speakers Share Memories of Scholarship, Faith & Service

Local Leaders, School Officials, and Former Graduates Congratulate the 2024 OU Class at the Convocation

ANZA, CA—On Friday, Olivet University celebrated its graduating class of 2024 during a commencement ceremony in Riverside County. Graduating undergraduate and graduate students gathered with their friends, family, faculty members, and community members to celebrate this significant milestone. The occasion was made even more memorable as it marked the 20th anniversary of Olivet University opening its doors.

“I speak on behalf of Olivet faculty and staff when I say we are immensely proud of the Class of 2024,” said outgoing President Matthias Gebhardt. “These students are exemplars of faith, education, and service, and we are all so excited to see how they make a positive impact in the world. The hard work and dedication they showed here at the university will serve them well as they venture beyond our campus to missions and ministry.”

During the ceremony, this year's selected student speaker Neil Pengfei Li received enthusiastic applause as he shared how the Olivet University community rallied to his side as he battled and overcame stage 4 cancer during his studies. He credited his faith in God and the support from the university and broader community in helping him beat the disease.

"I remember shortly after I was discharged from the hospital for my first surgery, during a healing prayer, my pastor shared that in this process, you will receive much love, and you should try to accept it without feeling embarrassed,” Li said. “This way, when you recover, you can give more love to others. At that time, I didn't fully understand why the pastor said that. Now, I realize I truly received so much care and love from our members, I deeply feel that I owe a debt of love.”

Several student leaders and recent graduates also spoke about how they grew in their faith and commitment to giving back during their time at Olivet University.

“I was admitted back in 2017, and it took me seven years to graduate, which is by the grace of God. There was a time when I paused for a couple of years due to a change in my personal circumstances, but I was encouraged by one of the OU staff to resume and complete my studies. Without her encouragement, it would have taken a lot more time to pick up my studies again. OU is a great place to implement what’s learned into real-life ministries, so what we learn does make a difference in this world,” said Eliana Kim, a graduating student who received her Master of Divinity.

Recent graduates from the university came back to support the graduates, impart wisdom, and talk about how they use the skills they learned at OU in their everyday life.

“I am deeply grateful to have taken my Doctor of Ministry journey at OU,” said Ruth Zhou, a recent graduate who spoke at the ceremony and is now a chaplain at a private Christian college in Missouri. “Above anything else, what OU gave me was an attitude of humility, always hungry to learn and grow. And I know that this will always be my home base, where we, students, alumni, and faculty can connect and learn from each other.”

Local Anza residents and community leaders also joined in congratulating students for their hard work and achievements.

"I would like to encourage those who have achieved this honor and the new president in his calling. May the Lord go before you all and prepare the way for even greater accomplishments. May His grace and love be evident and His power be displayed over your future,” said Pastor Kevin R. Watson of nearby Anza Living Hope Church in a written statement that was shared with students.

As a concluding segment in the program, it was announced via a special video presentation that the graduating class of 2024 would begin a new tradition by planting a class tree, leaving their mark at the main campus, and giving back to their alma mater at the same time. Through each donation, seniors participating in the Plant Your Class Tree Campaign help fund scholarships for future OU students. This tradition will not only further beautify the campus grounds but also play an important role in students’ development by instilling the value of giving back.

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