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Commencement 2018: Bethel Seminary, College of Adult & Professional Studies, and Graduate School

Commencement 2018: Bethel Seminary, College of Adult & Professional Studies, and Graduate School

Students graduating from Bethel Seminary St. Paul on May 26. Students graduated from the College of Adult & Professional Studies and Graduate School on May 27, and from Bethel Seminary San Diego on June 2.

Melissa Zahn GS’18 was one of 17 students who received a Doctorate in Education from Bethel University’s Graduate School this spring, but Zahn was not the one who walked across the stage to accept the diploma. Instead, Zahn’s husband, Brian, and 2-year-old son, Henry, accepted it on her behalf. Two weeks after finishing her last assignment for her degree, Zahn died of cancer.

“Melissa was always a very determined, type-A person,” says her sister, Angie Norvitch. “When she had a goal in mind, she would find a way to achieve it. She always believed that there was a purpose for what she was going through, and that her story was helping someone else along the way.”

Zahn was an educator. She was a teacher at Red Oak Elementary, a principal at Sweeney Elementary, and most recently principal at Central Family Center—all in Shakopee Public Schools. She received a master’s degree from Saint Mary’s University in 2010 and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. After periods of remission, the cancer came back in spring 2014 and spread to her liver. Through it all, she continued to work on her Ed.D. in Leadership in K-12 Administration from Bethel. She died on March 7 and on May 27, her family received her degree on her behalf.

While the experience of participating in graduation without her sister was difficult for Norvitch, the ceremony also helped her realize how hard Zahn had worked for her degree. “I think her work ethic and determination are an inspiration for many,” says Norvitch. “I think a lot of people would have said, ‘Hey, the doctorate degree just isn't worth the work/stress/time right now with all these other curveballs life is throwing me,’ but instead she used it as fuel to get to where she wanted to go. The fact that she finished her last assignment two weeks before she passed away isn't a coincidence, but a testament to her drive and determination.”

A total of 327 students graduated from Bethel’s adult undergraduate and post-graduate programs this spring. Zahn was among 199 graduates from Bethel’s Graduate School and the College of Adult & Professional Studies who graduated on May 27. Bethel Seminary graduated 128 students as well, first in St. Paul on May 26 and next at Bethel Seminary San Diego on June 2.

Find out more about Bethel’s adult programs.