- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2002

PURCELLVILLE, Va. Fourteen home-schooled Patrick Henry College students donned blue gowns and mortarboards yesterday in the first commencement exercises of the unaccredited 2-year-old school.
"We knew that we were taking a risk that the college we would graduate from would not be accredited because it was new," said Jennifer Marie Andrew, 21, of Telford, Pa., during a reception after the ceremony. "But that was a risk we were willing to take because we believed in the vision of this school, and that was more important than accreditation."
Miss Andrew's immediate plans are to move to the District, where she has several interviews lined up for next month. She said many prospective employers had heard of her alma mater, and the school's lack of accreditation had been no impediment to getting interview calls.
Established in 2000 with an emphasis on traditional Christian values, Patrick Henry College has completed its second academic year. Seven students are slated to graduate next year, and the spring 2004 graduating class will include the first batch of students to have attended the college for four years.
Ninety students were enrolled during the first year, and college President Michael P. Farris said as many as 250 students will be enrolled by fall.
Mr. Farris said at the reception that an appeal for the college's accreditation, which was rejected by the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE), was filed earlier this month. Two additional applications for accreditation are pending with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The accreditation application to the AALE was rejected because the school required that professors teach biology and other sciences from the view that God created the world in six days, according to the academy.
"We've encouraged you to have vision. See great things," Mr. Farris told the new graduates after they received their degrees. "Remain true; stand for what's right."
Heather Herrick, who was selected as speaker by her graduating peers, told the audience that she and her colleagues are "overwhelmed with gratefulness," referring to the opportunities and guidance they received at the school.
"All this for a group of kids you didn't even know a couple of years ago," Miss Herrick said.
Commencement keynote speaker Don Hodel who served in the Reagan administration as undersecretary of the Department of the Interior from 1981 to 1982, secretary of the Department of Energy from 1982 to 1985 and secretary of the Interior from 1985 to 1989 advised the graduates to take pride in their work.
"The best advice is simple: Do the job that you have been given to the best of your ability," said Mr. Hodel, whose wife, Barbara, is on the school's board of trustees. "Apply knowledge to the causes you choose to grace with your commitment."
Before commencement began, graduates, family members and friends gathered in the school's cafeteria, where faculty members presented the graduates with blue leather Bibles that had their names engraved. They also read passages of Scripture emphasizing truth, wisdom, courage, faith, hope and love.
Of the 150 students during the academic year, all but two were home-schooled, according to Paul Wilson, dean of student affairs.
Three graduates are on their way to law school in fall.
David McKennett, 22, of Lewistown, Mont., said he will study law at George Mason University, one of four law schools that accepted his application. No admissions officer asked about his alma mater's lack of accreditation and some were familiar with the college, he said.


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