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Northwest University’s 76th Commencement

Northwest University’s 76th Commencement

On May 5, 2012, Northwest University celebrated its 76th Commencement at Overlake Christian Church, when a record number of 362 students received degrees. Randall Borman, Chief of the Cofán Nation of Ecuador, delivered the Commencement Address.

Known as the “Gringo Chief,” blue-eyed, gray-haired Borman, as Chief of Territories, has been helping the Cofán re-acquire their tribal lands and preserve its rainforests for over 30 years. With a wide range of skills—from monkey-hunting to political savvy—his understanding of both the Cofán and Western cultures has made him a dynamic leader in the fight for rainforest conservation.

Born to American missionaries in Ecuador, Borman grew up in the rainforest deep in the Amazon jungle. His parents came to Ecuador in the 1950s to translate the Bible into the Cofán language. At the age of 20, Borman returned to Ecuador for good with a degree in biological sciences after only two years of college in the States. To his alarm, the tribe was in danger of being pushed out of its land by deforesters and oil seekers. Seeing the growing damage, Borman was determined to help the tribe he was born and raised in, that he felt he belonged to himself. Since then, Borman has helped the Cofáns recover and protect over one million acres of their land. The tribe’s territory is now roughly the size of Delaware.

Borman has won three prestigious awards for his work in conservation biology and renewable resources: the Friends of the United Nations 50th Anniversary Award in Forestry and Renewable Resources, 1995; the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Award for Conservation Excellence, 1997; and the Field Museum of Chicago’s Parker-Gentry Award for Excellence in Conservation Biology, 1998. He also founded an ecotourism program for the Cofáns to support themselves, as well a non-profit organization called the Cofán Survival Fund ( Northwest University awarded Borman an honorary Doctor of Law degree for his work among the Cofán people as part of the Commencement celebration.

Other highlights of Commencement included honoring Dr. LeRoy Johnson with theDelta Tau Faculty Award of Honor for his 45 years of full-time teaching at Northwest University. Dr. Johnson is retiring this year from full-time teaching, but will continue teaching part-time at NU. 

Northwest also awarded its very first doctoral degree, the Doctor of Psychology to Dr. Janet O’Donnell and Brady Beard, a graduate in Biblical Literature, delivered the Student Address.

Posted on Saturday, May 5, 2012