At its Commencement Ceremonies on Saturday, May 18, 2019, Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary [SVOTS] conferred degrees upon 22 graduates, including 14 Master of Divinity, three Master of Arts, and five Master of Theology students, and the Seminary also awarded two honorary doctorates.
On Saturday morning, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, presided at Divine Liturgy at Three Hierarchs Chapel. During the Divine Liturgy, he elevated Priest David Mezynski, SVOTS Director of Residential Life and Admissions, to the dignity of archpriest.
Metropolitan Tikhon officially opened the 2019 Commencement Exercises on Saturday afternoon, followed by welcoming remarks from Seminary President Archpriest Chad Hatfield. Among the many distinguished hierarchs and guests were His Holiness, Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who was one of this year’s honorary degree recipients, along with longtime Trustee Alex Machaskee. The Seminary bestowed the degree of Doctor of Divinity upon Mor Ignatius and the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters upon Mr. Machaskee.
“We have warm memories of the time His Holiness spent as an archbishop of the eastern United States, where he was known for his work with the youth and overseeing the growth and expansion of his parishes,” said Metropolitan Tikhon. “Now as the 123rd Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, he serves not only as an archpastor to his flock, but as an ardent advocate for the protection of Christians in Syria and the Middle East and throughout the world.”
“Publisher, philanthropist, patron of the arts, humanitarian—Alex Machaskee, you are an accomplished leader who has worked tirelessly and have served in numerous capacities of leadership,” said Archpriest Sergius Halvorsen, SVOTS faculty secretary, as he announced mR. Machaskee’s honorary doctorate. “You exemplify the virtues of dedication, clear vision, and sacrificial charity in the care of the neighbor.”
The Commencement Exercises continued with the Salutatory Address given by Laura Zane Wachsmuth.
The Commencement Address was delivered by Archpriest Alexander Rentel, who is transitioning from full-time Professor at the Seminary to adjunct faculty in order to fulfill his recent appointment as Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America. Father Alexander, a popular professor at Saint Vladimir’s, received a standing ovation as he approached the podium to speak.
“The knowledge that comes from theological education should not satisfy us with the satisfaction of simple vocational outcomes based on clearly stated goals or even broadly based education… but a knowledge of Him Who was not found in the tomb; a knowledge of Him Who Mary Magdalene thought to be the gardener,” said Father Alexander, who also reminisced about the events that led him to pursue studies in the Church and celebrated the discipline of theology. “I’m not asserting that you need to be an academic to be saved—God alone saves. I am, however, arguing that we all must come to a knowledge of God in order to be saved. The glory of seminary education is to fulfill the canonical mandate of teaching on one hand and acquiring knowledge on the other…so that this knowledge can be taught and acquired anew.”
Following the Commencement Address, Academic Dean Dr. Ionut Alexandru Tudorie led the conferral of degrees on the Class of 2019. Two of the 22 received their degrees in December from the Seminary but were formally honored and participated in Saturday’s ceremony.
President of the Student Council Daniel Bein then announced the winner of this year’s Saint Macrina Award for Excellence in Teaching, selected each year by student vote, to Priest Varghese M. Daniel, Assistant Professor of Malankara Studies.
Following the award, graduate Priest Herman Fields delivered a moving and heartfelt Valedictory Address.
At the conclusion of the Commencement Exercises, Metropolitan Tikhon offered closing remarks, recalling the message of Father Alexander’s commencement address: “I encourage all of you, both the graduates and those who are continuing to search for that knowledge of God, that you will remember the strength and the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life,’ and that your own relationship with Him will build that foundation of humility and love to care for your fellows… and that you will share that with all those you are in contact with throughout your life.”