Nebraska Wesleyan University will confer degrees to over 500 students during its 130thcommencement on Saturday, May 11.
Commencement begins at 1 p.m. on Taylor Commons, located on the NWU campus.
Brian Maas, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, Nebraska Synod, will deliver this year’s address. Raised in Pierce, Neb., Maas attended Nebraska Wesleyan University on a National Merit Scholarship, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college. Following his graduation from NWU, Maas earned a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School and completed a Certificate of Studies from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.
Ordained as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1992, he served three congregations during his pastoral career: Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Tekamah, Neb.; Immanuel Lutheran Church in Kansas City, Mo.; and First Lutheran Church in Lincoln. He was elected bishop of the ELCA Nebraska Synod in 2012. He was elected to a second six-year term as bishop in 2018. As bishop, he stewards 239 congregations and 110,000 congregants.
Maas will be honored at commencement with an Honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology degree.
An Honorary Doctor of Laws degree will be bestowed on Frank LaMere. A member of the Winnebago Tribe, LaMere has long been recognized for his advocacy and work in the field of human and civil rights.
LaMere was one of the chief architects of the effort to stop the illegal flow of alcohol from Whiteclay, Neb., onto the dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. This 20-year effort resulted in a historic and landmark 2017 Nebraska Supreme Court decision that closed Whiteclay’s four liquor stores. Two documentaries, The Battle for Whiteclayand Sober Indian Dangerous Indian, chronicle much of his work. Both documentaries were screened at Nebraska Wesleyan. LaMere lives in South Sioux City. He does contract work for the Siouxland Human Investment Partnership and Ho-Chunk Inc. He lectures extensively about working for change and empowering oneself through participation and engagement.
Sheryl Snyder will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. With her husband, Larry Snyder, innovator and entrepreneur, Sheryl was a founder of Snyder Industries, Inc. It began as a small fiber glass shop in northeast Lincoln while Larry was in college at NWU. After Larry took a year of graduate courses in business at Arizona State University and Sheryl taught at Tempe Union High School, they returned to Nebraska to begin full-time business. Sheryl was the firm’s corporate secretary/treasurer with administrative responsibilities. Snyder Industries has remained in Lincoln. Now part of the conglomerate Tank Holding Corp., it has grown with acquisitions to become the nation’s largest rotational molder with multiple facilities and hundreds of employees.
She has served three consecutive terms on the Nebraska Wesleyan Board of Governors. In the 1990s a leadership gift for the Weary Center resulted in Snyder Arena. Sponsorship of the annual Snyder Classic men’s basketball tournament began in the 1980s. The Snyders have contributed to other campus endeavors including Acklie Hall of Science, facility improvements for Old Main and Lucas Hall and the Woody Greeno Track renovation. Most recently, the Snyder Innovation Grant assists NWU students with membership at Nebraska Innovation Studio on UNL’s Innovation Campus.
The university will also honor two retirees. Berniece Jones, senior professor of health and human performance, is retiring after 22 years of service to NWU. Jones served as chair of the Health and Human Performance Department from 2003-2017. She taught courses on health and physical education for both elementary and secondary grades, supervised student teachers and served as academic advisor to hundreds of students. She has served on multiple faculty committees, and served as treasurer for Phi Kappa Phi, faculty advisor for Omega Chi Rho Sorority and coordinator for Jump Rope for Heart events. She received the Holder Award in 2010 and the American Heart Association Heart Hero Award in 2011.
William Wyman, professor of music, is retiring after 44 years of service. Wyman has served as the director of University Choir since he started at NWU. He has taught over 1,000 students and has taken the choir on tours across the country each winter and has led 10 international tours. The University Choir was the first American choir to participate in the St. Petersburg, Russia, International Choral Festival. It has appeared at universities and conservatories in Romania, performed at Carnegie Hall, and was the first collegiate choir from Nebraska to perform at the American Choral Directors Association National Convention. He has received many awards and honors including Choral Director of the Year from Nebraska Choral Directors Association in 2002. He was inducted into the Nebraska Music Educators Hall of Fame in 2005, and received the Cornell Runestad Award from the Nebraska Choral Directors Association in 2012. In 2014, he received the Roy G. Story Award, which honors a person or group that has significantly enhanced the national stature and reputation of Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Commencement Day begins with the traditional Final Walk through campus and the arch at 9:40 a.m. followed by a baccalaureate service at 10 a.m. at First United Methodist Church.
See a complete Commencement Day schedule of events.