The Rev. James Tinnemeyer, the former Waynesburg University dean of students and chaplain, returned to the Greene County campus Sunday morning to address the graduating class of 2021.

“Standing here before you this morning feels like coming home for me,” he said. “I felt it the moment I came over the ridge and saw Waynesburg spread out in front of me, because this is a place that I love, with people that I really, really love.”

Tinnemeyer, who had also served as vice president for student services and associate professor of Biblical and ministry studies and university chaplain, was a part of the three in-person undergraduate commencement ceremonies on the lawn of Miller Hall Sunday.

Now a pastor at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Tinnemeyer gave a keynote speech during the Christian university’s 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. commencement ceremonies that suggested to students that success “in the real world” can be found by loving other people.

He said Biblical teachings for what life is all about “are so radically different from what the world offers.”

Exactly 30 years ago, Tinnemeyer said, he was sitting where those graduates sat, ready to move the tassel on his hat to the other side. He said he was the recipients of comments like, “Are you ready for the real world.” He challenged students to think about what their “real world” is and what it means to be successful in it.

“We live in a time when we’re encouraged to grab all we can and to look out for No. 1 and to put ourselves first,” Tinnemeyer said. “But you and I are not defined by that. We are defined ultimately by how well we love others.”

More than 400 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students from the Waynesburg campus and its Southpointe site were honored at the commencement ceremonies, which were spaced out over the weekend. Graduates, faculty and guests wore masks and took part in socially distanced ceremonies.

The services were also livestreamed on the university’s website, and students unable to attend in person were recognized virtually on a large screen displayed on the lawn.

One of the valedictorians, Joshua Miller, spoke to some of the challenges this year.

“It is easy to feel overwhelmed with new and unfamiliar situations, and many of us have felt weary by this pandemic – emotionally, socially and academically – but we have remained steadfast in our journey to succeed,” he said. “The future is brighter because Waynesburg University’s Class of 2021 can forever share with future generations its experience, wisdom and spirit of perseverance.”

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