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Pacific Union College, Napa Valley’s only four-year college, hosted its annual commencement exercises Friday through Sunday.

The college awarded 330 associate, bachelor, and master’s degrees to 309 graduates. The largest departmental groups were the nursing and health sciences (170 graduates from the Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs), business administration (42), communication (21) and psychology & social work (21).

In addition, four graduating students were Maxwell Scholars: Michael Caster, management for medical professionals major; Alexander Chang, chemistry (biochemistry) major; Lauren Chang, English writing major; and Laurel Kwon, English writing major. Maxwell Scholars are recognized as incoming freshmen for their outstanding academic achievement, and are awarded a renewable scholarship based on their unweighted cumulative GPA and test scores.

Seventeen students graduated summa cum laude; 18 magna cum laude; 50 cum laude; and four with honors. After California, which is home to 272 graduating seniors, Washington state and Oregon boast the highest number of graduates. International graduates hail from China, South Korea and Vietnam.

Of note, two graduates are the first to receive their particular degrees from PUC. Cory Colombini graduated with a B.S. degree in music composition, and Kenzie Hardy earned a B.S. degree in global development studies.

State Sen. Bill Dodd gave the Commencement address. Dodd is a fifth-generation Californian and a lifelong resident of Napa County. Prior to becoming a Senator, Dodd served for two years in the Assembly and was on the Napa County Board of Supervisors for 14 years.

Jefferson Richards, senior class president, also spoke for Commencement.

Michelle Rai, chair of the department of communication and world languages at PUC, spoke at Friday’s Consecration Service. Rai has served PUC with distinction for the past 11 years, and was named Educator of the Year in 2016. Previously, Rai served as director of public relations and assistant director of enrollment services for the college.

James Wibberding, associate professor of applied theology and biblical studies at PUC, spoke for Saturday’s Baccalaureate. He is an experienced pastor, having led congregations for 17 years across multiple states, served as chaplain of the Idaho Senate, and teaching as an adjunct professor for the Doctor of Ministry program at Andrews University in Michigan.

Kim Brown Sims, VP of patient care services and chief nurse executive at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, addressed students at Saturday’s Nursing Graduate Recognition Service. Sims has extensive experience in various aspects of nursing healthcare, and is certified as a neonatal intensive care specialist and nurse executive advanced.

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