Thursday, July 17, 2014

A God-Moments Graduation

Thank you to Cathy Harvey, Administrative Assistant to the College, for writing today's blog.

Intensive Preparation

When I worked in Intensive Care as a Nurse’s Aide we worked under the philosophy of “Always be prepared.”  For me, that meant the first thing required every day on my shift, which was also done at the beginning of every shift, was to inventory all the supplies - about 70 - in each cabinet next to a patient’s bed.  This included everything from Band-Aids and multiple emergency first aid items to towels, wash cloths, and bed linens.  Then, we inventoried everything in the linen closet.  If we were short by one wash cloth, it was immediate retrieval from the hall closet.  If the hall closet was short, it was immediate notice to the laundry department who delivered what we were short post haste!  Even then, in some emergencies, we ran short.  Plan B of the “always be prepared” motto was to take supplies from another ICU patient room and restock everything ASAP after the emergency was handled.  “Don’t panic; take action” was our unspoken mantra.

Sage Advice

When I began teaching, a wise and experienced teacher gave me this life-saving tip.  “At the top of your Lesson Plan, every day, write, “Something unexpected may happen today.” Then if it does, you can say you were prepared because it was at the top of your Lesson Plan.  Sage advice!  I took it to heart and it worked.  It gave me a strong mental base to be prepared and be calm, come what may.

“Back 40” Training

Fast forward about 20 years, and my role is not unlike David on the back forty tending sheep. By God’s design, I am a mere usher in in the farthest corner of a large gymnasium/auditorium for graduation of a university:  scoping out the best seats, helping parents find ideal spots to take photos, aware of what to do in case of emergency evacuation, where all the exits are, helping people up or down the bleachers, and discretely slipping off my shoes to rest my feet before the Recessional. Reliability, team work, and attention to detail ultimately led to the Head Usher roles in my sixth and seventh years.  This involved creatively securing an entire team of ushers for two ceremonies in one day, writing a training document, helping to determine a dress code, and handling come what may.

Birthing the First Baby

In 2011, when we were crafting our first ever commencement for Shepherds College, and the Dean was out for major back surgery from April on, and someone needed to pull together the details of the actual ceremony plan, I called on my friends from the university for support in commencement protocol and plowed on.  Words from the book of Esther came to mind, “…for such a time as this.” God had prepared the way for me with past experiences, and by God’s grace and strength and a massive cooperation from every department at Shepherds, we celebrated a grand inaugural graduation.  God’s hand was evident!

Best Laid Plans

This year we celebrated our 4th annual commencement.  You’d think we would be rolling along by now, but as the saying goes, even the best laid plans can sometimes go awry.  We thought you might enjoy reading about five amazing God-moments that even the best laid plans could not contain.

God-Moment #1:  Baccalaureate Bell Choir

Two or three days before our Baccalaureate service for the graduates, the bell choir director came to me to say that two of the choir members had not received permission to be off from work for one hour that morning to perform.  They had followed policy at work and turned in their request a week or two in advance, but their immediate supervisor had failed to turn it in to the appropriate personnel for approval.  Well, I thought, good thing I didn’t print the programs yet.  I assured the director that I always had a Plan B, which would have been to substitute taped music overhead in place of their 15 minutes, but we would certainly prefer to hear the bells, a rare treat for the college!

The director was waiting for a call back that very day from the members’ place of employment to see if it would work out.  She did get that call the following day and the bell choir was able to play with all its members!  There are no current trained substitutes for the choir should someone become ill or otherwise not be able to play, so we were grateful it all worked out.  I have encouraged the director to plan one or two ministry concerts a year so we can enjoy this beautiful choir more often.  We thank God they have been a part of Baccalaureate all four years so far, and especially this year, with last minute emergency prayers!

God-Moment #2:  The Speaker’s Cap and Gown

As soon as we have a confirmed speaker, I make contact to ask for bio information, and to find out if they need a cap and gown.  This year, we had a confirmed speaker early on, so we had a good start.  All the details of a graduation event take time, and an early start is always an advantage.  I take the blame for this detail because I cannot remember if I ever asked the speaker if he had a cap and gown from his alma mater and if he told me no.  At the Friday night reception before graduation day, Mr. Terrill introduced me to our speaker.  I was happy to meet him and asked if there was anything he needed at the pulpit to speak.  We talked of a few details and then I asked if he had a cap and gown.  He did not, but said he had a black suit. I simply said we would take care of that and gown him in a doctoral gown as our honored guest.

Saturday morning of graduation, I checked the official guide to academic protocol, and honored guests without academic regalia are, indeed, robed in doctoral garb.  All thanks to God, we had an extra bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral gown and cap from previous graduations.  It was a seemingly seamless solution, but it was God who helped those details to be in place this year as He has helped us build our commencement event over the last three years.

God-Moment #3:  Graduation Morning Photo Shoot

This year we were so blessed to learn of and acquire an excellent photographer, Gretchen Hansen of Gigi’s Joy Photography.  She took amazing photos of our graduates in a photo shoot before commencement, then for the Friday Night Celebration Reception, and was also coming for Graduation Day.  The plan, which the Dean’s office assumed was set, was for Ms. Hansen to come for a photo session at 11:30 a.m. graduation morning to capture the students donning caps and gowns and to take group shots of them with the Deans and Director. 

Tick-tock, tick-tock... it was 11:30 and there was no photographer to be found.  The Dean is searching for her or the Director of Marketing who was our main contact person for her. 

We had numerous photo shoots this spring for magazines plus graduation, and in all the hullabaloo of planning for all of them, this particular shoot, somehow, was not put on the calendar for the photographer or our Director of Marketing.  What to do now?  Becci Terrill, our Friday Night Reception Coordinator, was searching the grounds for the photographer and saw Susan, our Director of Marketing, just arriving.  Susan was here with her camera because she did not expect the photographer here until later.  As it turned out, the photographer had a morning emergency anyway when one of her children got bitten by a dog, so she would not have been here even if it had been on her schedule.  Susan only had her camera because she was not expecting the photographer to be here, so in the end, we had a photographer and pictures as the Dean’s office had anticipated.  Thank you, God, for orchestrating Susan to be here with her camera in spite of lost dates and dog bites!

God-Moment #4:  The Flag Bearer’s Bee Sting

The opening flag processional has become a much anticipated moment of the commencement ceremony.  Our pool of flag bearers are keyed up with excitement, honored to be our color guard marching in to majestic, God-glorying drums and orchestrations.  Like uniformed soldiers, they all wear black slacks and shoes with short-sleeved white shirts and white gloves.  As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect” and practice they did, over and over, until everyone was comfortable and confident of the process and timing.  This year, one flag bearer could not make any of the practices, so he had his own session just hours before the event with the flag coordinator and all the others.  I practiced in his place all week and told our new Flag Coordinator, Michele McGarry, I could be a Plan B back-up if needed. 

Because the students don’t have a chance to see the grand flag processional on graduation day (because they are lined up in the hallway waiting for their cue to process in), we let them sit in the bleachers during flag bearer practices, so they can get a feel for how the commencement ceremony begins.  Residential Life staff are also with them as they sit through the practices.

This year, we had some technical difficulties just prior to the ceremony that kept me in the auditorium until about twelve minutes before start time.  Seeing the flag bearers in place, I scurried out of the auditorium down to the back hallway where 75 students and faculty were waiting to be led to the auditorium entrance.  Someone was just finishing up prayer as I took my place as Marshal at the head of the line.  In a few minutes, with everyone calm and in order, we walked quietly to the doors of the auditorium where the flag processional had just started.  Through the narrow glass panel of the door, I barely saw a swift motion of someone in a white jacket move past the window.  I didn’t have time to think much of it when Sheri Wright, one of the flag bearers, pushed past me to enter the doors while saying, “Who took my flag?”  “I have no idea,” I replied and wondered why and how someone would take her flag.

In the time it had taken me to walk from the auditorium to the back hallway and come back to the gym doors, Sheri had been stung by a bee just under her collar!  She is allergic to them, so she ran to nursing and then to the kitchen to make a baking soda paste to put on the sting site.  In her absence, and in a split second of need, Julie Anderson, one of the Res Life staff who was standing by all dressed up to open the gym doors for the faculty/student processional, and who sat in on all the practices while overseeing the students in the bleachers, grabbed the flag of the missing bearer and smoothly took her place in the opening.  She confidently marched her flag around the room and back to its stand and no one in the audience knew the difference.

She just “happened” to be in a solid black dress with a white jacket to blend in with the flag bearer uniform of white on top and black on the bottom.  This was even more amazing when she told me her daughter had tried to talk her into wearing a black and white print dress of hers.  Julia was not comfortable with the print or the length and instead decided to don a solid black dress that hit below her knees coupled with a short-sleeved light-weight jacket.  Not only that, but she lost track of time at home and was running late.  As soon as she stepped into the gym, she had only just set her purse down on her chair and had just stepped toward the doors by the flag bearers when the bee was noticed.  Out went the bearer and in split seconds, without time to be nervous, between her and the other door holder, they decided she was better dressed to carry the flag and off she went!

God-Moment #5:  The Videographer’s Proposal

Lights, camera, music, action!  Our big event was in process.  Introductions, prayers, and songs had been sung; it was time for our special speaker.  Every year we stress over the sound system which was designed eons ago for a gym, not for events with speakers, choirs, and microphone needs.  It is our thorn in the flesh every year.

This year we had a wireless clip-on mic for the main speaker, but shortly into his speech, we began to hear booming and loud pops intermittently.  What was that? Were people on the bleachers making that noise?  No, it didn’t seem so.  Were there kids outside bouncing basketballs into the side wall? No, I could hear it coming from the other side of the room at times.  As the speaker continued, the pops and booms were heard in various places around the room.  Our guest videographer and his two student assistants were huddled in the corner scrambling to problem solve.  The Marketing Director was on the opposite side of the gym frustrated about the booming in the bleachers.  This went on for the speaker’s entire speech.  Ugh. What happened?  After much research and discussion, it was determined that the speaker’s wireless had somehow come loose, and every time he leaned forward and hit the podium, it was shorting and making the booming or popping sounds.  The video team was beside themselves wondering what to do to produce a memorable DVD for us.  It turned out, in the end, to be an excellent learning experience for the team.  Their instructor, the head of the Visual Arts Department at the local high school, suggested that beyond splicing together a wonderful montage of this year’s ceremony, they would like to know if they could come back next year-periodically throughout the year-to capture multiple third year student footage for a more comprehensive summary of their last year leading up to graduation!  Would that be possible?!  Why, yes, yes, yes, and thank you, God!  With some grooming and practice at doing public events such as this, our Marketing Director and I saw this as a wonderful, wonderful God-driven win-win situation.  

So, it was God all along.  God in the training, God in the making, and God to the rescue.  No matter how detailed the plans, how complete the lists, how many practices we shoot for, there is always the potential for surprises and human error.  We’re not in our perfect bodies or minds yet!  All we can do is close this blog the same way we end every commencement program booklet,

To God be the glory!


Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Friday, July 4, 2014

America, I Love You

Thank you to Cathy Harvey, Administrative Assistant to Shepherds College, for writing today's blog.

My father was born during the Roaring Twenties era of our young American history.  His mother, my Nona, sailed here from northern Italy, checked in through Ellis Island, and settled in Chicago where my dad and his siblings grew up.  Somehow, they made it through the Depression.  My dad started driving when he was 12 so he could take his sister, my Aunt Gloria, to her many doctor appointments.  She had Cerebral Palsy—she was lucky, the doctor said; she had the “good type,” because the part of her brain that was affected only disengaged her legs from working properly and did not affect her mind skills. 

World War II arrived and with all the loyalty and patriotism of the time, my dad joined the Navy at 17, faithfully lying that he was 18 in order to enlist. Perhaps after Pearl Harbor was bombed the Navy was in too much of a hurry to check such details, or perhaps my immigrant grandmother had no birth papers to disprove his age.

I learned patriotism from my Dad.  He never lectured about it; he simply lived it.  He was a hard working family man with a devoted spirit of service.  He and a friend ran a car dealership together in Kenosha and then Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  His friend ran the front end sales and my dad managed the body shop.  He was not a mechanic, but a good leader and his shop was spotless.  More than once we heard customers say, “I could eat my lunch off that floor!”  It was true.  He sealed and polished the concrete floors.  He ran a clean, tight ship and no car left the body shop without a car wash and cleaning.  When one lazy, young employee complained that he could only get three cars a day washed, my dad showed him what an honest day’s work was by washing twenty cars in his suit!

I have a memory of my dad’s personal Saturday morning routine.  Every summer weekend, without fail, unless it was raining, he would hoist an American flag at the front of our property.  After setting it in place, he would pause and stand for a moment of silence.  If we were to visit his business partner’s home for a cookout, they would perform the same silent ceremony together at the start of their visit.  They never invited anyone to join them, I never saw them speak about it, they just did it—out of love for America and in joint camaraderie having served in the same war together.  I watched from a distance and learned respect for our flag and our country by his unassuming practice.

In 1977, after the 60’s decade of hippie rebellion, my father felt compelled to pen his feelings for our country which was being bombarded with criticism.  This is how a local Wisconsin magazine, “Exclusively Yours” prefaced his personal essay, with the article following.

A middle-aged American,
of sound mind—
A local businessman. . .
A family man not a professional commentator,
liberator or agitator—
states some observations and personal
feeling you might care to share.

by Emo Desideri

            How long has it been since you heard someone make that remark?  As it happens, I’ve heard quite a few people say it.  But then, they were people who had just returned from overseas.  After having been out of the country for a while, and seeing the rest of the world, they’re unanimous in stating “America looks pretty good to me.  We may have troubles, but we have fewer problems than any other country I’ve seen.  I’m really happy to be back in the good old United Sates.”

            Perhaps we should stop being so super-critical of everything American, and start looking at the positive side of this wonderful country of ours.  We’ve some serious problems, but then no country is perfect, and in America the common man has risen farther and faster than in any other civilization the world has ever known.

            Just for starters, let’s give a hand to some of the fine, dedicated politicians and government workers (including the police) who make our country, our state, and our cities run.  Let’s also acknowledge that there are many ordinary citizens in business and industry doing their jobs in a quiet, dignified, upstanding manner, and they, too, make America run.  These people, all of them, are the backbone of our country.  They’re our unsung heroes.

            In reality we’re one big family.  From time to time most families have differences of opinion, but they’re usually ironed out, and then they learn to live together.  That’s what we’re learning now.

            This country has a fantastic future.  So let’s learn to be a bit more objective about our demands on ourselves.  Let’s make our voices a bit less strident.  Self-improvement is always to be sought, but let’s not expect perfection among men or nations.  I am very tired of our apparent national inferiority complex . . . constantly nourished by an often negative press.

            I remember being in a foreign country during World War II, and watching our flag being raised over a new base.  There wasn’t a dry eye among the Americans present.  America could stand a little of that patriotic feeling right now.

            We could also stand some happy songs like George M. Cohan’s “Grand Old Flag.”  I’ve heard enough wailing and crying songs.  I’d like to hear some happy songs about the good things in our national life—and there are quite a few good things.  I’m convinced that the large percentage of American people is smarter and more perceptive than given credit for.  Americans may temporarily be led down the wrong road, but eventually they return to the right one.

            This is the greatest country in the world, and will be greater.  So let’s stop demanding instant perfection.  Let’s all work harder at our jobs and try a little harder to get along with each other.  Then we can all realize and share in the full potential of America’s great future.  AMERICA, I LOVE YOU!

(Vol. 30, Issue 5, March 12, 1977, pp. 23, 35, published by the Pattern Company, Inc. 161 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203.)  This article was also repeated in the local Lake Geneva paper, date unknown.

            And with that, I’m off to the fantastic Union Grove 4th of July day parade, with a street-side breakfast being hosted by our own Shepherds LPN, Melba Wright!  Happy 4th of July and have a great family summer of fun and relaxation!


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Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Shepherds College is a very different place in the summer months. The hallways are dark, the classrooms are silent, and the heady aromas of warm, yeasty breads, melting chocolate, and braising meats from the Culinary Arts Kitchen have disappeared from the air.  The dorm walls are stripped of posters, the instructors leave on well-deserved vacations, and the Horticulture classroom looks strangely colorless without all the fresh blooms the students arrange into centerpieces.

Within the tangible emptiness, something living lingers – drifting, hovering, and teasing from every classroom and hallway - the memories of the students who have made their way into the lives and hearts of the faculty and staff of Shepherds College.

Last week, we said goodbye to the Class of 2014. We said goodbye to Miranda’s power-packed greetings, Daniela’s hugs, and Dallas’s unexpected sense of humor. We will miss Joe’s intensity and Bethany’s earnest desire to serve others. The graduates have left behind the ghosts of their unique personalities to remind us that every life impacts another. Shepherds College may have made a mark on their lives, but each of the graduates made an impression on our lives as well. 

Before school ended, I asked the first and second year students to tell me about their favorite memories involving the graduating Class of 2014, the memories that will still be hanging on long after the graduates have found apartments, meaningful jobs and have settled into their independent lives. This is what they shared:


“I would have Christi over for lunch or dinner, play Bowling with her on Wii, and make her laugh. I loved hearing her boisterous laugh.” ~ Sarah

“One of my favorite memories with Christi is having pizza in her apartment and watching Mrs. Doubtfire.” ~ Suzanne

“My favorite memories are when we went with them on the Amazing Race Retreat and field trips.” ~ Ellie

“We laughed, had fun and we had good times playing Halo 2 on the PS2.” ~ Ryan

 “My favorite memory of the third-year students is going to the park with them and playing football and water tubing.” ~ Anthony

“My favorite memory is of all the activities we had the opportunity to do with the upper classmen such as going to exciting events with them. Also having ROTC with them in the gym.” ~ Wade



“When Miranda and I got to watch a movie, she picked out ‘Are We There Yet?’ Miranda and I were laughing while watching the movie together.” ~ Crystal

“I had fun bowling with them.” ~ Andrew

“Being in Mr. Gaschke’s class with them.” ~ Nick


“When Brian came down every Wednesday to help us make breakfast in the Commons. Halo tournaments on Wednesdays when other people went to SNAP Fitness. When Dallas spun the giant wheel at Action Territory and won 1,000 tickets.” ~ Jonathan

“When they would all come to the café.” ~ Matt

“My favorite memory of this graduating class is Brian because I love him when he does his funny talk and makes me laugh all the time that I know of in my life. Every time I meet Brian, he makes me laugh all the time.” ~ David


“Flying on the same plane as Daniela.” ~ Joey

“I went to Daniela’s apartment and had dinner together. It was fun. We watched TV after dinner, and we had a blast. We also chased a bug around the apartment. I thought it was funny.” ~ Cherokee

“Just getting to know them all and being able to sing with them.” ~ Ashley

“My favorite memory was when Katy made me laugh so hard, I almost died! HAHA!!” ~ Willetta

“My favorite memory is making Katy laugh by telling her jokes.” ~ Kirsten

“I will miss singing musicals with Katy.” ~ Krista


“My favorite memory of a third-year of 2014 is getting to know Sean and getting to know what each year at Shepherds College holds.” ~ Olya

 "They were all fun to hang out with.” ~ Geovanni

“I liked having Sean, Christian, Daniela and Katy in the Academic Advisor meetings with Mrs. Miles.” ~ Joshua


 “We had fun times hanging out together. It was nice getting to know them a little more.” ~ Julian

“The third-year students worked very hard, and they were fun to have in class.” ~ Grant

 “Some of my favorite memories of this year’s graduates are of the times we all got together to have a girls’ fun movie or board game night. Every one of them was fun to hang out with. Their personalities were positive as well as funny at times, and other times they were sad and serious.” ~ Kathryn

“My favorite memory of the students in the 2014 graduating class is being able to get to know them. Being able to do things with them like grocery shopping and just having fun together.” ~ Nikki



“Seeing Joe and talking to him and all the graduating students in AiA Café.” ~ Nathan

“When all the guys sung around the campfire knowing that we would probably never be like that with the third-year students ever again.” ~ Tommy

“Seeing the Casting Crowns concert with some of the students and getting three souvenirs.” ~ Philip

“My favorite memory of the graduating class is them helping us learn about the majors that we are in.” ~ Torrey

“My favorite memories are of going to paintball and basketball, plus going to the beach at Michigan. Going to Chick-fil-A and hockey games with them are all of my other favorite times as well as the movies.” ~ Micah


“As a first-year student at Shepherds College, I’ve gotten to know most of the third-year students. Some of us got to know one another, and we hung out during school activities. Some of us didn’t get along at first, and at times we didn’t see eye to eye. At the end of the school year, I can see how my friendships with the third-year students have grown. I will remember who I have met and how we are all the same. We each have a disability, but it’s different. We all have different ways of learning. I know that God will find each one their purpose. They will grow through the years to come.” ~ Isaac

Class of 2014,
You will always be remembered.

Your friends at Shepherds College


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