By JESSE DAVIS
Warm weather and sunshine, along with a little wind, met attendees of Goshen College’s 111th commencement ceremony Sunday afternoon.
For most, it was an event of great personal significance. For one, it was a triumph gained following a lifetime of challenges and toil.
Ramadhan Onyango Audy was born in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was raised by his aunt and uncle because his parents died in a car accident when he was very young. He was unable to attend school because he had no money for school fees and no proper uniform, so he was kept at home, where he was made to do chores and was beaten daily.
At 12, he ran away from home and began living on the street, eventually ending up in a children’s home thanks to the help of a lady Audy asked for a french fry. Through the home he was able to take some schooling before things began to fall through there. One of his teachers then helped him move again, this time to an orphanage run by Fauzia Muthoni Hassan, whom Audy calls “Mama Fauzia.”
By the time Audy reached his junior year of high school, a pediatrician from Michigan contacted the orphanage looking for two children to sponsor. He and a girl he knew there were chosen by the woman, Dr. Jean Turkish.
“I just kind of got motivated, and eventually God blessed me and I got my passport and I got my visa and I was ready to come here,” Audy said.
Turkish co-signed for loans for him until his senior year at Goshen College. Around that time, she suffered a stroke, and mounting medical bills caused her to file bankruptcy for her business. In order to come up with the money he needed to fund the rest of his schooling, he began working at the university’s physical plant, sometimes sleeping as little as three or four hours each night. Still, limited to 20 hours a week he could work, he needed more help.
That help showed itself in the form of former GC president Vic Stoltzfus, whom Audy said has helped many, many people at the school with a multitude of problems. With his funding secured, he was able to complete his classes and graduate.
Audy said he has enjoyed his time in Goshen.
“Goshen is unique because it presents the whole globe in terms of the countries who are represented at Goshen College,” Audy said. “So, you find that you are not just alone, you know, you find that if you are from Africa, you find other students from Africa. It’s a mix.”
He graduated with a double major in molecular biology and biochemistry with a minor in theater. His plans now are to attend Eastern Michigan University to earn his master’s degree in nursing. That is as close to his original plan of going to medical school as he could get. He is looking forward to a life of service.
“I would love to help people,” Audy said, “simply because my life was a supported life.”
Goshen native, GC alumni and now president of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., Stephen Ainlay delivered the commencement address, where he noted the affect his time at the school had on him.
“It did not lead to incremental change, it led to transformative change,” Ainlay said. “My time here still influences the decisions and choices I make every day.”
During his remarks, Ainlay used the story of the pilgrims as told by author Nathaniel Philbrick in his book “Mayflower” to discuss the important lessons of courage, perseverance and discernment.