90th Commencement Honorary Doctorates

During our 90th Anniversary Commencement ceremony on May 23, 2019, the Westminster community honored Dr. Robert Godfrey, Dr. Luder Whitlock, Dr. John Ykema, and Dr. David Powlison with honorary doctorates. Each of these four men have blessed Westminster and the global church through Christ-honoring ministries for many years.

From left to right: Board Chairman John Weiser, Honoree Luder Whitlock, Honoree Robert Godfrey, President Peter Lillback, Honoree John Ykema

Dr. William Robert Godfrey is president emeritus of Westminster Seminary California, where he also has served as professor of church history since 1981. He received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University as well as his Master of Arts and his Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Along with these other degrees, he also received a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Dr. Godfrey has dedicated much of his life to Christian education. Not only has he served as president and professor at Westminster Seminary California, but he has also taught at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Stanford University, and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Dr. Godfrey serves the greater church body around the world by speaking and teaching at conferences and other events for various organizations, such as the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology.

He currently serves as the chairman of the board of Ligonier Ministries, where he is also a teaching fellow. Alongside his work in education, Dr. Godfrey has authored many articles and books, including Saving the Reformation and Learning to Love the Psalms. In 2010, Dr. Godfrey was honored with a festschrift entitled Always Reformed. He has recorded several teaching series for Ligonier, including a 73-lecture survey of church history. Dr. Godfrey is an ordained minister in the United Reformed Churches (URC) of North America. He and his wife Mary Ellen have three grown children–one of whom serves as an ordained minister of the URC in Lancaster County–and five grandchildren.

You can watch Dr. Godfrey’s address at our 90th commencement here.


Dr. Luder G. Whitlock, Jr. is the executive director of The CNL Charitable Foundation, the Willovita Foundation, and president of Excelsis. He is also Minister at Large of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. After nearly ten years as a pastor, Dr. Whitlock joined the faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in 1975 and in 1978 was appointed president, a position he held for 23 years. Dr. Whitlock has served various organizations related to theological education, including eight years as president/chairman of the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents. He served on the executive committee of the Association of Theological Schools for ten years, including a two-year term as president. He has also been part of the governing boards of many other institutions and organizations, including Westminster Theological Seminary.

Dr. Whitlock has focused on ways to bring mutual understanding and cooperation within the worldwide evangelical community by working with many organizations, such as the National Association of Evangelicals, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Excelsis, the Langham Partnership, the Barna Institute, CareNet, Ligonier Ministries, the John Jay Institute, Schloss Mittersill (Quo Vadis Institute), the Christian Study Center at the University of Florida, and the Geneva School in Orlando. Dr. Whitlock is noted for his role as executive director of The New Geneva Study Bible and its major revision, published as The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. He is the author of The Spiritual Quest and Divided We Fall: Overcoming a History of Christian Disunity and has contributed to more than 20 other volumes and more than 20 periodicals. He also served on the advisory board for the English Standard Version.

Dr. Whitlock is a graduate of the University of Florida, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Vanderbilt University. He and his wife, Mary Lou, have 3 children and 11 grandchildren.

Dr. John I. Ykema served on the Board of Trustees of Westminster Seminary for 35 years, serving as board chairman for 17 years. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Delaware County Christian School for 20 years and was chairman of that board for several years as well. Dr. Ykema was raised in a Christian home and brought up in the Christian Reformed Church. He served as a lay elder, first in a denominational church and later in a non-denominational evangelical church, and taught youth and adult Bible classes. His life’s aim has been to declare the excellencies of his great Savior (I Peter 2:9) and throughout his service to Westminster, Mr. Ykema has continually reminded us of these two verses: Isaiah 66:1-2 and Revelation 22: 18-19.

Dr. Ykema is a registered professional engineer. He graduated from Calvin College with a B.S. in 1949; from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Engineering in 1951; and from the Illinois Institute of Technology with an M.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1955. His career began with the U.S. Navy in 1951 designing electrical systems for Navy ships. In 1955 he joined the ITE Circuit Breaker Company in Philadelphia (now a part of L3 Technologies). He continued with the same firm for the next 63 years. He retired earlier this year.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Ykema was awarded 9 patents for inventions that advanced the art of electrical circuit protection. He was married to his dear wife Marilyn for almost 54 years before she passed away in 2005. They have been blessed with four wonderful, committed Christian children and three grandchildren. A great-grandson was added to the family in 2017.

Dr. David Powlison was the Executive Director of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He was also a faculty member at CCEF and the senior editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling. Dr. Powlison received his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 and his Master of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1980. Demonstrating his commitment to bringing biblical counseling into the life of the church, Dr. Powlison counseled and taught others to counsel for more than thirty years. He wrote numerous articles on biblical counseling and on the relationship between faith and psychology. His many books include God’s Grace in Your Suffering, How Does Sanctification Work?, Good & Angry, and Seeing with New Eyes.

Alongside his work in the Philadelphia area, Dr. Powlison taught across the United States and in Canada, Korea, India, Brazil, Europe, and Sri Lanka. He and his wife, Nan, were married in 1977 and have three married children and seven grandchildren.

Dr. Powlison passed away on June 7th after being diagnosed with cancer in November, 2018. His closing remarks to the graduates were read by Mike Emlet. You  can watch those remarks here.