HANCOCK — In his graduation speech as president of Finlandia University, Philip Johnson thanked the class of about 90 students for their excellence.
“For some of you, that meant five semesters of study during a global pandemic, and I pause to give special thanks to our nursing students and nursing graduates who have helped us be a healthier campus. and a healthier community through it all. Thank you for encouraging each other along the way. Finlandia is just better because of you, so thank you.
The student representative was Artsiom “Arty” Puntus, a major nurse from Minsk, Belarus, who graduated summa cum laude. President of the student senate since 2020, Puntus has also served as an orientation leader, student ambassador with Finlandia Admissions, a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD) honor society, and vice president of the Nursing Student Association.
Puntus spoke about the importance of facing adversity, telling the story of two stones who were close friends: one that stayed on the beach and grew old and cracked, and another that was taken out to sea and carved into a beautiful piece of flint. .
“When we face obstacles and adversity, it pushes us out of our comfort zone,” he said. “And that’s when we also develop our coping and problem-solving skills.”
Puntus is part of the Elective Education Program, which helps international students seeking to pursue meaningful careers and lives in the United States. Her first job after graduation will be on the medical surgery floor of a Level I trauma hospital in South Carolina.
The first speaker was Vince Blackfox, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who is director of Native Ministries and Tribal Relations for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Among his other endeavors, he founded and directed Other+Wise, a multi-site cultural education and cultural immersion program for youth and student groups across the country.
He spoke to graduates about the importance of their story – not just about themselves, but where they came from. He also asked them to think about the stories that others would tell about them.
“I am so excited to one day hear the story you will tell and the story that will be told about you,” he said. “I hope that in everything you do, and in all the stories I hear about you, you will be kind – kind to Mother Earth, kind to your loved ones, kind to your neighbors, and kind to yourself- same.”
Sunday’s ceremony was held at Hirvonen Hall, named after the late Councilor Emeritus Ray Hirvonen, who died in December at age 93. Johnson thanked Hirvonen, his wife Peggy and his family for their support at the university.
The university also presented Richard Gee, assistant professor of criminal justice, with this year’s Distinguished Faculty Award.