NBA legend Paul Westphal captivated a capacity crowd of about 1,300 with stories from the NBA and from his season as the school’s basketball coach during Commencement ceremonies for the 90 graduates of the Arizona Christian University Class of 2013 at Palmcroft Baptist Church May 25, 2013.

Westphal told of the unique circumstances that led him from an NBA All-star playing career with the Phoenix Suns to becoming a volunteer coach for then-Southwestern College.

“I was told the team practiced outdoors a couple of days per week, and practice could not conflict with the school’s singing group, because music came first,” Westphal said to an appreciative and amused audience of graduates and their family, friends and supporters. “I ended up doing a TV ad for a local health club that had a nice gym in exchange for indoor practice time.”

Westphal told the story of Tim Fultz, a student who was asked to join the basketball team only because he had a car and was needed to drive the players from the college to the practice site several miles away. Fultz, who had not played high school basketball and usually played only in games that were blowouts, was forced into action late in a huge rivalry game. He was fouled repeatedly, and after missing 6 straight free throws he made two free throws to clinch the game and was carried off the court by jubilant teammates.

Fultz became a missionary in Africa, and tragically lost his life in an accident there. His organs, including his heart, were transplanted and used in Africa to save lives. His tragic death led to a fundraising effort for the college to build ACU’s current gymnasium, which is named “Fultz Memorial Gymnasium.”
“The headline in a local newspaper said ‘Missionary leaves his heart in Africa,’” said Westphal, reminding graduates of ACU’s purpose and legacy of preparing graduates to go into the world and serve the Lord.

President Len Munsil delivered a charge to the graduates, reminding them: “…. you are eternally significant. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are unique. You are distinct. Almighty God knows the number of hairs on your head and the number of days of your life. You are so important that God sent his Son into the world to live, to love and to die so that you might live forever.”

Munsil concluded, “We at Arizona Christian University believe in you. You have shown yourself in our classrooms and our chapels and our athletic fields and our missions trips and in our residence halls to be courageous, to be resilient, to be passionate, to be willing to learn and to grow into imitators of Christ.  You will be influencers, not just in your generation, but with our generation and with every generation.”

At a reception Friday evening on the campus of ACU, graduating seniors were honored with a variety of awards representing excellence in academics, athletics, music and leadership. The following students were recognized:

• Outstanding Student in Biology: Jacob Storrer
• Outstanding Student in Behavioral Studies: Bradley Andrews
• Outstanding Student in Biblical Studies: Philip Arensen
• Outstanding Student in Business Administration: Steffani Liscum
• Outstanding Student in Business Administration (DCP): Steven Miel
• Outstanding Student in Christian Ministries: Joseph Phipps
• Outstanding Student in Christian Service: Troy Banks
• Outstanding Student in Education: Brett Mallette
• Outstanding Student in Music: Melody Hastings
• Servant Leader awards: Philip Arensen, Chesney Carter, Shanae Eddy, Wendy Odom, Joshua Swartz
• Students Nominated to ACU Honor Society: Bradley Andrews, Jordan Augustine, and Chesney Carter
• Outstanding Musician: Howard Kyambadde
• Outstanding Dramatic Performance: Howard Kyambadde
• Outstanding Instrumentalist: Benjamin Jimenez
• Outstanding Vocalist: Jessica  Wells
• Scholar Musician: Cindy Meyer
• Outstanding Female Athlete: Bethany Beckman
• Outstanding Male Athlete: Andrew Koch
• Scholar Athlete: Timothy Vidaurreta

Photos of the event are available for purchase at www.tchphoto.photoreflect.com