An East Kildonan student was one of Canadian Mennonite University’s top graduates this year.
David Thiessen, a 21-year-old who just completed an honours bachelor of arts in biblical and theological studies, was one of two President’s Medals recipients. The pair received the medals, which are awarded for scholarship, leadership, and service, at graduation exercises on April 28.
Thiessen said he had received a message from the registrar instructing him to meet with president Cheryl Pauls in the days leading up to graduation.
"I thought I had forgotten some library fees or there was a marking problem, so here I am freaking out thinking that I’m not going to graduate on time," he said. "When I finally called him back it was ‘You’ve won the President’s Award.’"
Thiessen added he felt relief and surprise at the news, but was also humbled by it.
During his time at the university, Thiessen took a variety of courses in his freshman year to try to weed out some areas of study in which he had no interest.
The plan backfired, as he found he enjoyed everything he took, but he settled on theology.
"I learned to appreciate the different perspectives my different professors have, and I learned about the value of doing historical research, thinking how other people have thought about issues," he said.
In addition to his academics, Thiessen also undertook several volunteer initiatives during his time at the university. He remained involved with the youth group at McIvor Avenue Mennonite Brethren, while also playing guitar in several worship bands and spending time helping youth at Manitoba House at 289 Manitoba Ave.
As well, he has taken part in two short-term MB Mission trips to Peru, and hopes to secure an internship with the organization this summer.
He said it was especially important to keep up with volunteering given his major.
"With theology, it’s easy to turn what is a lived-out faith into a merely academic game," he said. "That’s not to say the theory and studying actively don’t have a place — even standing alone, they’re valuable — but bringing it down to the relational level, to the one-on-one level, you absolutely need that for the academics to work."
Pauls gushed about Thiessen, and fellow winner Nicole Richard of Charleswood, in a press release.
"Students like Nicole and David don’t merely live out the CMU mission; they extend it beyond what we’ve already seen and imagined. In turn, they are the ones who inspire and equip faculty and staff," she said in the release.