Bagpiper Andrew Hutton '18 leads the Class of 2017.
Bagpiper Andrew Hutton '18 leads the Class of 2017.
Author: Michelle [Shelly] Hillman
Date: May 13, 2017
Date: May 13, 2017
Categories: Academics|Commencement

On Saturday, May 13, 2017, 269 Houghton College students made a final symbolic journey around the campus quad before the college’s commencement ceremonies. They passed through long lines of regalia-clad faculty members on either side, an honor bestowed by the very professors who helped them achieve this monumental goal.

Most of these students made this pilgrimage four years earlier at orientation weekend as they were welcomed into the Houghton family. They leave campus prepared to write the next chapter in the story of their lives, bolstered by the knowledge, experiences, and relationships they have found here.

John Inazu, the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion and a professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis, gave this year’s commencement address. Inazu, also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, encouraged the class to be unafraid to seek common ground and to confidently live in faith. “My charge to you is to go forward, go forward into those messy and risky spaces where you are called to be salt and light. Go forward into your workplaces and neighborhoods, go forward in interfaith partnerships and in partnerships with people of no faith. Go forward in the confidence of the Gospel for the sake of the church and for the sake of the world.”

This year’s senior class gift, a seedling from the beloved Houghton Tree of Life that fell during a June 2016 storm, was accompanied by two special gifts made from the wood of the fallen tree: a bench and coffee table created by Professor Emeritus of Psychology Daryl Stevenson and senior Landon Scheaffer, and a branch of the tree that will henceforth be passed through the hands of all graduates, symbolizing their connection to Houghton and the Tree of Life. 

Houghton College President Shirley Mullen encouraged the graduates as they entered a new phase in their lives. “You have been given the challenge to use your gifts in service to the church, to your local community, and to the world. … Tomorrow, when you first wake up to the world as a college graduate, commit yourself – in the face of any fears you might feel – to the twin calls of patience and boldness as you find the next place of challenge and grace that God has prepared for you.”

This year’s class includes the first cohort of students who completed their entire degree online through Houghton, as well as 22 members of the Houghton College Buffalo program completing their Associate of Arts degree.


Snapshot of the Class of 2017:

Co-Valedictorians: Marina Cull (Princeton Junction, NJ) and Joseph Gilligan V (Ringwood, NJ)

Salutatorian: Michael Ganger (West Seneca, NY)

Total # of Graduates: 269 (5 master’s degrees, 241 bachelor’s degrees, and 23 Associate of Arts)

Countries represented:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Barbados
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ghana
  • Korea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United States


  • Summa cum laude: 17
  • Magna cum laude: 56
  • Cum laude: 28

Sibling Graduates:

  • Joanna and Emily Friesen of Sellersville, PA
  • Jesse and Kayla Jones of Oxford Station, ON, Canada

Married Graduates:

  • Dan and Rachel Bellerose of Houghton, NY