The senior class of 2015 will participate in the annual commencement ceremony on May 10, 2015. Bob Fu, a Chinese-American, Christian pastor, will deliver the commencement address.
The search for a commencement speaker began last year and was headed by the 2013-2014 Junior Class Council. Former junior class president Emma McRoberts and vice president Chris Anderson initially met with President Philip Ryken to discuss the qualifications that needed to be met in finding a suitable commencement speaker. Following this meeting, the Junior Class Council then handed the job to student relations chair Cameron Williams, who was in charge of bringing together a list of 50 to 70 potential commencement speaker candidates.
“I did this in part by my own research and also (by) sending a class-wide email looking for suggestions that students in our grade may (have) had as far as who they might like to see as our commencement speaker,” Williams said in an email.
Williams created a list of 74 candidates before presenting it to President Ryken to look over and edit it. In addition to the president’s input, the list was discussed by the Board of Trustees as well as the Junior Class Council.
“The Junior Class Council consisted of 12 members who discussed and voted on the larger list Cameron compiled,” McRoberts said in an email. “President Ryken helped us eliminate the names that were not feasible and that is how we ended up with 12.”
Both McRoberts and Williams explained that upon receiving the final list of 12 candidates, the Junior Class Council ran a class-wide poll that allowed the class of 2015 to vote for who they would like to see as a potential commencement speaker. Upon receiving poll results, McRoberts and Anderson then presented the information to President Ryken.
Several months later, on Nov. 19, 2014, the class of 2015 received an email from the Senior Class Council announcing Bob Fu as the 2015 commencement speaker—a name that was not listed on the final 12-candidate roster.
Williams explained that while there is a possibility that the junior class’s desired commencement speaker may end up being the chosen speaker at graduation, the search process is “both challenging and thought of in a much longer time frame than two years,” with commencement address requests being made up to six years in advance.
“The polling of the junior class provides President Ryken and the Board of Trustees with a glimpse of what type of speaker the student body is interested in having,” Williams said. “Because the process of finding a speaker takes such a long time, this allows them to see if the people that they are inviting are aligned with the interests of the student body.”
Although Fu was not voted for by the class of 2015, McRoberts and Williams, now the 2014-2015 senior class’s president and vice president, are confident his address will be well-received.
“Bob Fu was not on our short list given to us by President Ryken and the Board of Trustees, but he is exceptionally qualified in the key areas of interest that resulted from our poll,” Williams said. “We are looking forward to having him in May. I am of the opinion that he is an exceptional speaker, has an unbelievable testimony and we are very fortunate that he accepted Wheaton’s invitation for speaking to the class of 2015.” McRoberts agreed with this statement, adding, “I think that Mr. Fu will offer something unique to the class of 2015 at our graduation, particularly the excitement of his courageous evangelism. I have faith that Mr. Fu’s words will be an excellent fit for our class on this momentous occasion.” President Ryken commented on the decision in an email, “Students and families will be interested in Mr. Fu’s story and will benefit from his passion and wisdom in addressing world issues today.”
Fu was born in Shandong and went on to study English literature at Liaocheng University. Converting to Christianity after an American teacher gave him a biography of a Chinese Christian convert, Fu taught English in Beijing while participating in the house church movement. He calls himself “God’s double agent” because he led an ordinary lifestyle as a teacher during the day at the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China and conducted home Bible studies at night.
Fu, along with his wife, is known for his efforts in proselytism, starting a secret bible school in Beijing and being detained for illegal evangelizing. “Bob Fu was a student leader in the Tiananmen Square uprising in China in 1989. While he remains committed to justice, his understanding of what justice truly demands deepened after he came to Christ,” President Ryken said in an email.
Eventually, Fu and his family emigrated to Hong Kong and then the United States, where he founded the China Aid Association in 2002.
Fu currently presides as the President of China Aid, which provides legal assistance and support to pastors, political dissidents and couples resisting China’s one-child policy. Fu’s personal mission is to fight against China’s one-child policy by drawing believers into the fight for the unborn and for greater religious freedom.
“I first encountered Bob Fu when he defected to the United States and began to study at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia,” Ryken wrote. “I have followed his career from a distance, watching him develop into an important figure in the worldwide fight for religious freedom. He is an engaging speaker with a global vision for the kingdom of Jesus Christ.”
When asked how he felt about speaking at the 2015 commencement ceremony, Fu wrote in a message, “It is a great honor to me to be invited to speak to the world-changing men and women at Wheaton. I am so excited to share both my stories and my encouragement to the new Wheaton graduates; to be faithful to your calling and dreaming big in advancing religious freedom and human rights for all with the transformation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Plus, Wheaton has been a main engine among the world evangelical community that produced most of the world-changers all over the globe with both the gospel and cultural mandates from the scripture.”
When asked what those present at commencement can expect during this year’s ceremony and address, McRoberts said, “The graduation ceremony itself will be a wonderful capstone to our time at Wheaton. Students should expect to hear inspirational words from Mr. Fu and President Ryken.” McRoberts continued, “Cameron and I are unaware of the actual content of (Fu’s) speech, but I believe we can expect a riveting testimony. Because of Mr. Fu’s courageous thirst for God and evangelizing, students can expect an awe-invoking testimony that will call graduates to live fearlessly in pursuit of Christ and his kingdom.”