Lakeland University awarded degrees to nearly 700 students on May 12 at the institution's 156th commencement.
A total of 698 students were eligible to graduate, including 484 undergraduates and 214 graduate students. Lakeland held three ceremonies during the day in the Wehr Center on its Sheboygan County main campus.
Speakers at the three ceremonies were Laura Kohler, senior vice president-human resources, stewardship and sustainability at Kohler Co.; Kim Henning, pastor at Grace Congregational United Church of Christ in Two Rivers; and Marie Martin, director of global education and services at Fox Valley Technical College.
Martin was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Henning an honorary Doctor of Divinity and Kohler an honorary Doctor of Laws.
Graduating senior Michael Whitley, the winner of the institution's Koehler Award, addressed the graduates at the day's final ceremony.
"As we continue to move forward in our life journey post-college, we must continue to live the Lakeland way," Whitley said. "The Lakeland way is to truly love, care and serve others and ourselves. We must continue to help others – that is one of the most important things in life."
Lakeland honored retiring Professor of Writing Jeff Elzinga when President David Black announced that Elzinga had been named professor emeritus, Lakeland's highest honor.
Elzinga, a Howards Grove resident, became a member of Lakeland's faculty in 1980. Twice he served Lakeland as interim vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college. He held numerous other leadership positions, including chair of several academic divisions and departments, and Commencement Marshal, to name a few of his leadership assignments.
Elzinga took a leave from Lakeland from 1991-95 to work as a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department. He was posted in Malawi and Tunisia in Africa, and when he returned to Lakeland, he was motivated to do something about the grossly inadequate educational conditions in Malawi.
He led formation of Lakeland's innovative Malawi Teacher Education Program, which has seen dozens of students from Malawi come to Lakeland and become teachers of teachers, then return to their homeland to make a difference in that country. Elzinga's efforts have positively affected more than 300,000 Malawi students.