76th Hillcrest Academy Graduation Activities
BACCALAUREATE will be held on Saturday evening, May 27 at 6:00 PM with Elmer Miller, pastor of Upper Deer Creek Church and great-uncle of senior Grant Bender, as the speaker. Elmer (and Ileen Bender ’74) Miller have served as Senior Pastors at Upper Deer Creek Church for the past 35+ years. They are natives to the area and are parents to four children and have seven grandchildren. Elmer graduated from EMU (Harrisonburg, VA) in 1985, with degrees in Psychology and Biblical Studies. He has served in various leadership roles within Conservative Mennonite Conference and Rosedale Mennonite Missions and along with Ileen has participated in many short term ministry trips to Thailand, China, Trinidad, Hungary, Kosovo, Ukraine, and Ecuador.
COMMENCEMENT will be Sunday evening, May 28 at 6:00 PM with Commencement speaker Dr. Jeff Gingerich ’86, President of St. Bonaventure University (Olean, NY). Dr. Gingerich began this position in June 2022. St. Bonaventure is a Catholic university dedicated to educational excellence as informed by a Franciscan and liberal arts traditions. The University mission strives that there should be “no knowledge without love,” and thus St. Bonaventure seeks to transform the lives of our students, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. As an academic and spiritual community, the University endeavors to prepare students for the challenges they will face in their professional careers and personal lives.
Prior to joining St. Bonaventure, Dr. Gingerich served as Provost and Sr. Vice-President of Academic Affairs at The University of Scranton and as Provost at Cabrini University. He has served as Acting President at both Scranton and Cabrini. As Chief Academic Officer at these schools, Dr. Gingerich worked to ensure that the academic program remained challenging and vibrant. His regular activities include leading faculty in efforts to manage curriculum needs and strategize for new program growth, engaging in faculty development, managing the critical academic resources that students require, and celebrating student and faculty success.
Dr. Gingerich earned master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. He received his undergraduate degree in social work from Eastern Mennonite College and his associate’s degree from Hesston College. He is a proud 1986 graduate of Hillcrest Academy (formerly Iowa Mennonite School). He began his teaching career at Bluffton University (Ohio) from 2000 to 2005. He joined the faculty at Cabrini in 2005, received tenure, and later served as dean and provost.
Much of his life’s work prior to entering higher education was shaped by six years as a voluntary service worker in New Orleans, La., coordinating conflict resolution programming at the Twomey Center for Peace through Justice at Loyola University. These experiences inspired his research and teaching interests in race and ethnic relations, cultural analysis, prisoner reentry, and incarceration reform. While pursuing his master’s and doctoral degrees, he was a facilitator in the Restorative Justice Program at Graterford State Prison. He has also taught multiple classes in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program.
Dr. Gingerich is a native of Parnell, Iowa. He and his wife, Betsy, are the parents of five children.