Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated its spring graduation service in centennial fashion, May 9. Hundreds of guests, students and faculty members gathered on the lawn in front of the B.H. Carroll Memorial Building “as a salute to all of those who have gone before and made an immeasurable contribution” to the seminary. In honor of the seminary’s western heritage, faculty members traded in their academic caps for black, beaver felt cowboy hats.

During this spring 2008 commencement service, the seminary conferred degrees on239 students from 26 states and 12 countries, including Korea, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Germany. In a last word to these students, President Paige Patterson pointed to the heart of service displayed by the seminary’s founder, B.H. Carroll, and ultimately by Jesus Christ. He urged graduates to leave Southwestern not with the desire for a career and financial gain but with the desire to serve and proclaim the Gospel. As they go into the world to fulfill this call, they will face many trials, but Patterson reminded them of God’s faithfulness.

“Sometimes the mountains may seem insurmountable,” Patterson said. “Sometimes it will seem as though the wall cannot be breached, but remember that all things are possible with God.”

Southwestern Seminary honored two retiring faculty members by inviting them to take part in the commencement service. Siegfried Schatzmann, professor of New Testament, led in the reading of scripture, and Robert H. Welch, dean of the School of Educational Ministries, delivered the benediction.

The seminary also invited parents of graduates to participate in the ceremony. James Caldwell, senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Saint Albans, W.Va., led the invocation. He is the father of Master of Divinity graduate James W. Caldwell II. Tom Vann, associate professor of pastoral ministry, presented master’s degrees to his daughter, Audrea (Vann) Medina, his son-in-law, Jeffrey Medina, and his daughter-in-law, Heather Vann.

Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, delivered a prayer of commissioning after graduates received their diplomas. He is the father of Andrew C. Pearle, who graduated with the Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from the College at Southwestern. Additionally, David Bertch, professor of humanities in the College at Southwestern, received the honor of presenting his daughter, Daria, with her diploma for the Bachelor of Arts in Humanities.

Andrew Pearle and Daria Bertch were part of the first class from the College at Southwestern to graduate with their Bachelor of Arts in Humanities degrees. “(Coming to Southwestern) was the best decision I could have made,” Pearle said. “Now I have an education that I trust and a theology that I can build upon without wondering if it is true or biblical.” Pearle intends to remain at Southwestern to pursue a Master of Divinity. Bertch, who plans to begin work on a master’s degree in occupational therapy, will miss “the amazing people, both professors and friends,” whom she met at Southwestern.

To see video highlights of the centennial spring graduation, visit