Nearly 450 Graduate as La Sierra Returns to Traditional Commencement

The meaning of it all was just beginning to dawn on Martin Jimenez Gonzalez as he waited in line the morning of June 19—the moment was getting real.

At 8 a.m., he and several hundred other La Sierra University graduates, robed in their billowing dark blue gowns and wearing their tasseled and sometimes elaborately decorated caps, would walk down the hill to their seating area under a white canopy on Founders’ Green. From there he would wait for his name to be called to walk on stage and receive his Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice. It would be an emotional moment. 

“I’m really grateful to be able to dedicate this achievement to my dad; he passed away, unfortunately,” said Jimenez Gonzalez said before the graduates began moving down to the commencement area. “So I'm grateful to give him that, and I'm grateful to be here with my family.”

Jimenez Gonzalez was among 449 members of La Sierra University’s Class of 2022 who graduated on a day that also celebrated Father’s Day and Juneteenth. It was a return to the university’s traditional outdoor commencement on Founders’ Green that capped two days of events. Graduations in 2020 and 2021 consisted of single drive-through celebrations in which graduates decorated their cars and drove through campus, receiving gifts and cheered on by faculty and staff. Last year’s graduation included a Conferring of Degrees ceremony.

La Sierra University President Joy Fehr, in a commencement address on June 19, urged the Class of 2022 to live for others. She recounted her experience receiving the sacrificial service of others after suffering a traumatic hiking injury. “When we realize that life is not about us, that it’s about others, when we shift from egotism to altruism, when we do that, we find lasting, life-altering…moral joy,” she said.

After the ceremony, Sephora Alvarez wiped tears of happiness from her eyes as she gathered with her family members to take photos. She celebrated receiving her master’s degree from the School of Education and looked forward to teaching first grade at Loma Linda Academy this fall.

“She finally made it,” said her father, Roberto Alvarez. “It means a lot as a family. [She’s] the first one out of six [to graduate from college]. We are so happy; she worked so hard every day, and couldn’t sleep for a few nights, but here it is.”
By Darla Martin Tucker