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162nd Commencement of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

10:00 a.m. |  First United Methodist Church of Evanston

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is excited to celebrate its 162nd Commencement on Friday, May 17, 2019. This year's commencement speaker will be senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Evanston, Rev. Grace Imathiu. Garrett-Evangelical will also be honoring two distinguished alums and our 2019 graduates. Graduation events begin with Senior Chapel on May 16th at 7:00 p.m. in the Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful at Garrett-Evangelical. The 162nd Commencement Service is at 10:00 a.m. at First United Methodist Church of Evanston, Illinois, with a reception to follow.

For those unable to join us in-person for Commencement, a live webcast will be available. The webcast will begin at 9:55 a.m. CDT on Friday, May 17th.

Live Webcast

Commencement Address: "Come Closer" - Rev. Grace Imathiu

(Webcast will be available at 9:55 a.m. CDT on May 17th)


Wednesday, May 15th

12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.
Graduate's Luncheon
Alice Millar Chapel, Northwestern University, 1870 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Illinois

1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.     
Commencement rehearsal and class picture
First United Methodist Church, Sanctuary
516 Church Street, Evanston, Illinois

2:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.     
Cap, gown, and hood pickup
First United Methodist Church, Dining Room
516 Church St, Evanston, Illinois

4:00 p.m.
Senior Chapel rehearsal (only participants need to come)

Thursday, May 16th

8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.     
Cap, gown, hood pick-up in the Registrar's Office

5:15 p.m.                        
Trustee and 50th and 25th Alum Reunion Dinner
Loder Hall of Garrett-Evangelical
2121 Sheridan Rd, Evanston, Illinois

7:00 p.m.
Senior Chapel for the Garrett-Evangelical community, graduates, and their families
Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful at Garrett-Evangelical
2121 Sheridan Rd, Evanston, Illinois

Friday, May 17th

8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.     
Graduates assemble for Commencement line-up with caps, gowns,
and hoods in the Dining Room of First United Methodist Church

10:00 a.m.                      
162nd Commencement
First United Methodist Church of Evanston
516 Church Street, Evanston, Illinois

Reception in the Great Hall immediately following Commencement

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.    
Return cap, gowns, and hoods to Dining Room of First United Methodist Church



For campus map and directions to Garrett-Evangelical, click here.

For directions to First United Methodist Church, click here.


Parking for Senior Chapel on Thursday, May 10, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

  • We have arranged for a moratorium on parking tickets after 4:30 p.m., which means people will be able to use the Northwestern University lot to our south free of charge.

Parking for Commencement on Friday, May 11, 10:00 a.m.

  • Across the street from First Church Evanston is the Church St. Self Park, a multi-level garage at the intersection of Church St. and Chicago Ave. Parking is free for the first hour. For a city map and pricing information for public garages, go to Lots & Garages on the City of Evanston's website.


2019 Distinguished Alum Honorees

Rev. Gene MatthewsRev. Gene Matthews

Master of Divinity, Garrett Biblical Institute, 1962

Rev. Gene Matthews served more than 35 years as a minister, missionary, and ecumenical leader in South Korea. He received his bachelor of arts in rural sociology from Iowa State University in 1956 and his master of divinity from Garrett Biblical Institute in 1962.

An active life-long United Methodist, Matthews began his career in ministry through a three-year missionary program at Union Christian Service Center in Taejon, Korea. The center provided agricultural training to young farmers, rehabilitated amputee sufferers, and ran an orphanage and rest home for tuberculosis patients, among other initiatives. During that time Matthews also spent two years teaching English to middle and high school students. During his three- year term, Matthews met his wife, Insook Moon, who served as his partner in ministry for many years.

After training at the Korean Language Institute at Yonsei University, Matthews went on to become associate general secretary of the Board of Christian Education in Seoul, Korea. With his team, he established seven youth centers, a traveling evangelistic singing group, and was frequently asked to assist other boards of the Korean Methodist Church in English correspondence and translation.

In the early 1970’s, Matthews became the field representative for the General Board of Global Ministries in Korea. He fostered strong ecumenical relationships with the Korean National Council of Churches and the Korean Student Federation while overseeing all property and personnel matters for the agency. Matthews also joined Catholic and Protestant missionary colleagues in actively supported the human rights struggle and democratic revolution that swept the country. He has donated a book about these struggles to the Garrett-Evangelical Library.

After retiring, Matthews moved back to Iowa in 1997, where he is involved in St. Marks United Methodist Church in Iowa City.  

Rev. Jeffrey S. NelsonRev. Jeffrey S. Nelson

Master of Divinity, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, 2004

Rev. Jeffrey S. Nelson has made his home in Michigan as a pastor and leader in the community. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire and received his master of divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2004.

Nelson is a strong advocate for human rights and racial justice, and habitually works with his congregations to create ministries centered on these principles. Under his guidance, his churches have promoted fundraising initiatives for HIV/AIDS, started projects distributing vital necessities to underserved populations, and organized relief support for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

He managed the successful merger of two congregations while increasing church membership and encouraging community outreach. In 2014, the Detroit Conference awarded Nelson with the Harry Denman Evangelism Award in recognition of his ministry’s vitality.

After the merger, Nelson led an initiative to provide community worship services and activities to the citizens of Brightmoor, a population struggling with poverty and drug use. He facilitated the collaboration of several groups to create a nonprofit to attend to various community needs, including blight clean-up, pre-school reading programs, a book mobile, and a thriving youth program. Today, thanks to Nelson and many others, the Redford Aldersgate/Brightmoor United Methodist Church is a successful multi-site ministry in the Detroit Renaissance District.

In July 2016, Nelson was appointed senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Royal Oak, Michigan, where he rebuilt the staff team and helped the congregation rediscover its love of mission and service. Attendance has grown, particularly with young families, and the congregation is in the final stages of an incredible building renovation that will serve the church and the community for years to come.

Jeff has been married to Bridget for almost 23 years and they have two sons, Casey and Sam.

May 17, 2019

First United Methodist Church

516 Church Street
Evanston , IL 60201

Commencement Speaker

Rev. Grace Imathiu

Rev. Grace Imathiu

Imathiu was appointed to First United Methodist Church of Evanston after serving for six years as senior pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Naperville, Illinois. She had previously served eight years as lead pastor in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, and earlier as senior pastor at Green Bay United Methodist Church. Imathiu has also served churches in Kenya as a church planter; a superintendent minister overseeing 68 rural churches in the Nkubu Circuit; and an urban minister to an ecumenical congregation in Nairobi with strong outreach to the neighboring slums of Kawangware. She is intimately familiar with the Church in its many theological expressions and social locations.

Imathiu is a citizen of the world for whom “the world is her parish.” She is an African who is married to a European and raising an American son. Imathiu is fluent in three languages, was educated in Kenya, the United States, England, and Israel. She has preached in Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Togo, Liberia, Denmark, Australia, Malaysia, Brazil, and throughout the United States. In 2016, Imathiu was a speaker at the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women. She preached for the third time at the 2016 World Methodist Conference held in Houston, Texas, an event attracting over 3,000 participants from more than 80 countries.

Imathiu earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from West Virginia Wesleyan College, a master of divinity from Methodist Theological Seminary, and a master of arts from Cambridge University. She has also studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and pursued post-graduate work at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Matthew Message: Good News for the New Millennium, and a book of sermons titled, Words of Fire, Spirit of Grace. She is a founding member of the Kenya Methodist University and the African Christian Communities and Theologies.

Imathiu is married to David Hay Jones and together they are the parents of Erik Imathiu-Jones, a senior at Providence St. Mel School in Chicago who will be attending the California Institute of Technology in the Fall.