Talbot grad to replace Kay Warren as commencement speaker

Larry Acosta, a Biola and Talbot graduate, will replace Kay Warren as the commencement speaker this year.


Larry Acosta, president of Urban Youth Workers Institute, speaks in chapel about city evangelism on Oct. 22, 2012. The search committee for a last-minute replacement speaker selected Acosta to address graduates at this year’s spring commencement. | Courtesy of Biola University YouTube

Anne Marie Larson, Writer

On April 24, Kay Warren cancelled her engagement as commencement speaker for this year’s undergraduate graduation ceremony on May 24. The cancellation was due to the recent death of her son, Matthew, said Brian Shook, the administrative director for the office of the president.


“Kay gave it careful thought and prayer. I think it’s just too soon after the family tragedy. She expressed to us that she didn’t want the focus to be on her family tragedy and distract from what should be a joyous celebration of students graduating,” Shook said.

The commencement would have been one of Warren’s first public engagements after the tragedy. Shook said he understands how it would be difficult to fulfill that obligation while deeply grieving.

Since hearing about Matthew Warren’s death, president Barry Corey was prepared for a possible cancellation. He expressed to the Warrens that he would certainly understand and be supportive of whatever decision they needed to make, Shook said.


The office of the president invited Larry Acosta, a Biola and Talbot graduate, to replace Warren. Acosta is the founder and president of the Urban Youth Workers Institute. He also founded the Hispanic Ministry Center and co-founded KidWorks. Acosta confirmed the engagement on May 4.



Some students are understanding about the cancellation. Senior vocal performance major Katelyn MacIntyre is praying for the Warren family as they are experiencing such a difficult time.

“Of course I understand if Kay Warren feels like she’s not able to speak right now. That’s a really hard thing she’s going through. It’s a little disappointing, but … I think it’ll be great no matter who speaks,” MacIntyre said.

Acosta may not be as famous as Warren, but senior business major Joe De Leon appreciates that Acosta is a Biola graduate.

“Not just an inspirational speaker, but someone who really knows Biola would be cool,” De Leon said.

Other students believe the content of the speeches is more important than the speaker.

“The speaker doesn’t really affect you in a way that sends you off, but provides closure for graduating. It’s nice to have a speech that brings closure to our time as students and then carries on to whatever we’re doing,” said Zachary Cobb, a senior biblical studies major.

Acosta will speak on the theme “From this place: Proclaiming good news in a changing world.”

“[Acosta], as a young leader in the Los Angeles and Orange County area, can give perspective on leadership he provides in proclaiming the gospel in an urban setting,” Shook said. President Corey felt Acosta could aptly speak to the theme as students are graduating and going from this place into the world, Shook said.

Shook said they might invite the Warrens back to a commencement in the future. Biola plans to award Rick and Kay Warren honorary doctorates at a later date.

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