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U.S. Secretary of Labor Salutes the Nyack College/ATS Class of 2008

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“I am living proof that the promise of America is as real today as it was 40 years ago, when my family and I first caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and embarked on the great adventure that brought us here today.

“I remember how difficult those early years were, as we transitioned to a new culture, a new language and a new country. My father worked three jobs, and my mother scrimped and saved to make a warm, secure and comfortable home for us while managing to save $50 every month—no easy feat! Looking back, I don’t know how she managed. Yet, she did so without complaint.”

Sec. of LaborThese words were not spoken by a student from one of the 64 countries that are represented by degree-seekers in the population of 3,250 men and women studying at Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary (ATS). But they could have been. They echo the sentiments of hundreds of traditional and nontraditional students—some of whom will become the first generation of college graduates in their families. Nyack College and ATS is the home of men and women who demonstrate a tireless work ethic and who are passionate about serving in the Body of Christ and around the globe in ministerial, educational, healing and community-building professions.

The preceding quotes—a testament to the fulfillment of the American dream realized by so many through their choice for Christian higher education at Nyack College—were spoken by Nyack’s 2008 commencement speaker—the twenty-fourth U.S. secretary of labor, Elaine L. Chao.

Monday, May 19, was a historic day for the educational institution birthed by Dr. A. B. Simpson. It was Nyack’s 125th anniversary year commencement. Nearly five years ago, it became clear that Moseley Field on the Rockland County campus could no longer accommodate the crowd of graduates celebrating with family and friends. Since then, the 4,400 seat-auditorium of Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York, has been the site of the event.

The first Asian-American in U.S. history to serve in a president’s cabinet, Secretary Chao not only applauded the academic achievement of the 594 college and seminary graduates, but also she saluted Nyack’s vow to diversity—boldly evident in the sea of caps and gowns. In our nation, she said, “diversity is a tremendous competitive advantage in today’s increasingly worldwide economy.”

The day also marked a milestone for distinguished guests sharing the platform with administrators, trustees and faculty. The secretary of labor was one of three philanthropic proponents of higher education who received honorary doctorates. Secretary Chao was awarded the Doctor of Letters, as was her father, Dr. James S. C. Chao, chairman of the Foremost Group, a shipping and finance enterprise. Dr. Chao is a long-time member of Ridgeway Alliance Church in Westchester County.

Nyack’s executive cabinet and trustees conspired with colleagues and family secret-keepers to award the third honorary degree, the Doctor of Divinity, to Dr. Ronald E. Eastman, chairman of the Nyack/ATS Board of Trustees. Dr. Eastman has served as a board member since 1985 and as chairman of the board since 1995.

A nod to Nyack’s core value of global engagement also found its way into the commencement speech: “Many Nyack students have traveled to Swaziland to work with HIV/AIDS victims and to West Africa to address the grave issue of human trafficking. I visited West Africa in 2003 to launch several projects to combat these afflictions. So I know how important your work is. These young people—and others who have traveled to places like the Philippines and New Delhi—are putting their beliefs and core values into practice. You are living your faith. And, by your actions you are setting a wonderful example for others to follow.”

Read the Honorable Secretary Elaine Chao’s commencement speech in its entirety at http://www.dol.gov/_sec/media/speeches/20080519_Nyack.htm.

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