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April 20, 2011

Honorary doctorates, speakers announced for DWU’s 2011 Commencement

MITCHELL — Dakota Wesleyan University will celebrate commencement next weekend with a baccalaureate service and graduation, with honorary degrees bestowed upon a distinguished alumnus and United Methodist pastor.

Baccalaureate will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 30, at the Sherman Center on campus, and Commencement is set for 1 p.m. at the Corn Palace with 207 graduates.

Bishara Awad
Bishara Awad
An Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters will also be awarded Saturday to Bishara Awad, class of 1964, and an Honorary Doctor of Divinity to the Rev. William Bates. Both will also serve as speakers during the ceremonies. Bates, the senior pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls, will speak at the Baccalaureate, and Awad, president of Bethlehem Bible College in Jerusalem, will speak at Commencement.

Awad was born in Jerusalem in 1939 and was just 9 years old when his father was killed by a stray bullet during the height of the Arab/Israeli conflict. With his mother and six siblings, he joined hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes and became refugees.

Following his high school education in Jerusalem, Bishara attended Dakota Wesleyan University, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics with a minor in chemistry in 1964. He then taught high school for several years, and during that time, he earned his master’s degree in education from Missouri State College. Later, he also attended Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, Calif., for a one-year program.

Bishara taught in Kansas City at Central High School in the early ’70s, and in 1972, he joined the Mennonite Central Committee as a volunteer at Hope School in Beit Jala, Palestine. He served as principal for 10 years.

In 1979, he founded Bethlehem Bible College and began this ministry during evening hours at Hope School. Today, Bethlehem Bible College is a fully accredited institution that serves approximately 170 young men and women each year and Bishara has served as its president since the beginning. He is considered a true peacemaker, leading an institution that educates Jews, Muslims and Christians who go on to serve their communities as pastors, Christian educators, counselors and youth directors.

In 1989, Bishara was named the Dakota Wesleyan University Alumnus of the Year. He has received two previous honorary doctorates, and in 1999, he was the recipient of the Bob Pierce Award for Christian Service, bestowed by World Vision International.

William Bates
William Bates

Bates has devoted much of his life to ministry through the United Methodist Church in the Dakotas. Following his education at Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., he took his first parish, Fairmount-Bethany-Rosholt, in South Dakota.

Following 10 years at Grand Forks Zion United Methodist Church, Bates was appointed Eastern District Superintendent of the North Dakota Conference. He followed his administrative work with lengthy appointments in Fargo, N.D., at First United Methodist Church, and in Minot, N.D., at Vincent United Methodist Church.

During his time in Fargo, he served on the transition team that oversaw the uniting of the North and South Dakota Conferences creating the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

In 2005, the Bishop appointed Bates to Sioux Falls First United Methodist Church where he remains today. In addition to his local church work, he has demonstrated a passion for missions.  He has led youth group mission teams and has taken part in adult missions as well. Active at the conference level, he serves on the Dakotas Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and Board of Camping and Retreat Ministries. He has represented the North Dakota Conference and the Dakotas Conference at general and jurisdictional conferences and served on several general boards.

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Last updated: 4/21/11