Graduation of Gilead’s 38th Class
IT WAS a long-awaited occasion for the 103 students of the thirty-eighth class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead: Graduation day had arrived. It was Monday, November 25, 1963; the time: 3 p.m. The place was the Kingdom Hall of the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters building, where a buoyant and thrilling atmosphere prevailed, as 764 persons in the hall and overflow area eagerly awaited the graduation.
Before the main graduation talk by N. H. Knorr, president of the school as well as of the Society, the school’s four instructors gave brief talks. W. R. Wilkinson commented that the students had now passed a significant milestone on the road to life and that when we can pass a milestone along this road, it is truly wonderful. Fred Rusk talked next on being complete as Jehovah is complete; he urged the students to cultivate in proper balance the four great qualities of Jehovah: justice, wisdom, power and love. U. V. Glass then encouraged the graduating students to make use of a force more powerful than any atomic fuel—God’s holy spirit. E. A. Dunlap, the school’s registrar, pointed out that the entire student body was of the “other sheep” class, and he told that many students had expressed appreciation for being at headquarters so close to so many of the anointed remnant of Kingdom heirs.
The Society’s secretary, Grant Suiter, then read messages and telegrams that poured in from all over the world, from at least forty different countries. Next the factory servant, Max Larson, remarked about the maturity of the students; not only did they average thirty-four years in age but they averaged sixteen years of life as dedicated Christians. He urged them to help others enjoy spiritual “solid food.” The Bethel home servant, George Couch, encouraged the students to help others wherever they go so that their good influence will spread out in all directions.
F. W. Franz, the Society’s vice-president, commented on the era of violence in which we live and which will culminate in the greatest violence of all—when Jehovah God strikes down his enemies, beginning with Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. He stressed that now is the time to liberate people from Great Babylon. He pointed out the fallacy of believing that after the destructive end of Great Babylon and before the beginning of Armageddon there will be an interim during which people will come over to God’s side. But not so! There will be no time of salvation open to people after Jehovah begins to strike down Great Babylon. “So don’t let the idea percolate through the organization,” Franz strongly stressed to the students, “that there is going to be an inflocking of crowds of innumerable people after Great Babylon’s end.”
The main talk of the graduation followed, with the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, speaking on the need to pay attention to the things heard by us. Basing his talk on Hebrews 1:1, 2 and Heb 2:1-4, he highlighted the fact that God is speaking to us by means of his Son. Hence “it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us.” He explained how God backed up his Son when he was on earth so that the Son could perform miracles, healings and even resurrections. Today God is speaking to us by means of his Son, to tell us what to do. Hence he counseled the graduating students not to think that at any time they do not come under the authority of the Son of God. Keep in mind, he stressed, that what Jesus did was real; it was not fables, fairy tales. So we should heed the commands he has given us on what to do and on what not to do. We must listen to the Son; otherwise, how shall we escape if we neglect a salvation spoken through God’s own Son? Since God always backed up his Son in every statement he made, we can be sure that if we are told not to do a thing and yet we do it, we are not to think we can escape punishment. But if we pay attention to the Son and do what he commands, then we will get God’s blessing.
President Knorr then gave each student his assignment. They had come from fifty-six different countries and now they received assignments, many of them as branch servants, to sixty-seven different lands. There was an intermission at 5:40 p.m., for a fine farewell dinner. The program resumed at 7:25 p.m. with a condensed study of the Watchtower lesson, forty students offering comments on the questions. Then some forty more students shared in an exhilarating program of experiences and skits, illustrating, for example, how Kingdom work is carried on in Africa and India. After a song, and a prayer by the Society’s president, the inspiring graduation program closed at 11:05 p.m.