Mount Angel Seminary

Celebrates Its 120th Commencement

By Kathryn J. Akiyama-Kim,

Associate Professor and Director of the English Communications Program


May 2008

During the 120th commencement celebration at Mount Angel Seminary, Mr. Lawrence Epping received the seminary’s first Doctor of Human Letters degree, honoris causa.

A graduate from the Mount Angel Abbey Prep School in 1947, Dr. Epping consistently and generously supports the work of Mount Abbey and Seminary, most recently as a major benefactor for the Aquinas Hall Project and the Annunciation theological center through the Larry and Jeanette Epping Family Foundation. Dr. Epping was honored for his many philanthropic works, especially those that have benefited the work of the Catholic Church in Western Oregon.

At age 86, Dr. Epping goes to his office daily where he is President of Larry Epping Companies, a Salem building and land development business. “There are always new projects to work on,” he says. Besides his family members, Dr. Epping credits the instructors at Mount Angel with forming his values and approach to life. “The Benedictines gave me something special in my education experience for which I will always be grateful.” Mount Angel Seminary extends to Dr. Lawrence Epping its gratitude and finds in him a model of the authentic Catholic layman.

Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss from the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska, delivered the commencement address, unfolding the theme Spes Messis in Semine: “The hope of the harvest is in the seed.” Archbishop Curtiss was the second President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary, serving from January 1972 until March 1976.

Describing the seminary as the “seedbed” and the seminarians as the “seeds,” Archbishop Curtiss told the graduates “you have nothing to fear in the future” if “you have internalized the values that Jesus and his Church have set before you.” He noted the importance of learning that “your mind is not the sole arbiter of truth” and “your will does not always lead you to fulfillment and happiness.” He underscored the importance of integrity, humility, and “a hunger for knowledge and holiness” to “know the power of His love” and the strength and courage received from the Holy Spirit. Archbishop Curtiss reminded graduates of the privilege they have had to study, pray, and recreate together given their diverse cultural backgrounds within the framework of the monastic setting. Archbishop Curtiss also offered his appreciation to all who have made “Mount Angel Seminary a fruitful seedbed for nurturing vocations to ordained priesthood and consecrated life.”