Alive in Christ

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Adam Waggoner pours over academic texts in the library during finals week. After graduation, he will begin work on his master’s degree in philosophy.
Adam Waggoner pours over academic texts in the library during finals week. After graduation, he will begin work on his master’s degree in philosophy.
Editor's Note: This is one in a series of stories featuring some of our unique or exemplary Class of 2017 May graduates. More stories will be posted on our Graduation Tab in the days leading up to commencement.

The concept of continually dying to sin and rising in Christ had always been a bit far-removed for Adam Waggoner.

However, after the Concordia University Wisconsin student from Green Bay, Wisconsin, nearly died – literally – earlier this year, he gained a new appreciation for God’s grace and its profound impact on his life.

In fact, since his February 2017 car accident, Waggoner has gained a new appreciation for many things: his faith, his family, his friends, his Concordia experience, to name a few.

“Any time you recognize the frailty of your life, it really changes your perspective,” said Waggoner. “In that way, I view my near-death experience as a gift as well.”

It’s with this newfound perspective that Waggoner will soon take his leave from Concordia. A triple major in philosophy, pre-seminary studies and theological languages, Waggoner will cross the commencement stage on Saturday, May 13.

After graduation, he’ll begin work on his master’s degree and plans to later pursue a PhD. Waggoner was accepted into several top philosophy graduate programs, but ultimately selected Western Michigan University, where he received an appointment to become a teaching assistant, a position that comes with full tuition remission and a stipend.

It comes as no surprise to Concordia professors that Waggoner – who pioneered the philosophy teaching assistant program, worked as a tutor, and served as president of the philosophy club during his time at CUW – would beat out the dozens of other applicants nationwide for one of the spots.

“Adam is a brilliant student, strong in faith and active in service to others,” said Professor of Philosophy Dr. Angus Menuge. “People assume that coming out of a private, smaller institution is going to make it much more difficult to compete with people coming out of larger schools, but obviously that’s not been the case for Adam.”

Concordia’s size was one of the main draws for Waggoner. The N.E.W. Lutheran High School graduate originally attended a high school with closer to 2,200 students, but opted to transfer to the 130-student parochial school in Green Bay in pursuit of a more personalized education.

From philosophical conversations over after-chapel coffee to assistance in applying for graduate schools, Waggoner says he’s been pleased to receive the same personalized approach from his professors at Concordia.

“The kind of community and relationships that exist between professors and students at Concordia is so unique,” Waggoner said. “I had professors who opened their offices to me almost every hour of the day if I needed it.”

Waggoner also praises his professors for “bringing alive” the interplay among academics, real life and faith.

“With a Christian approach to philosophy, we can both ask the best questions and focus on the best answer,” Waggoner said. “Philosophy can help us understand the universal experiences of all human beings, but a Christian philosophy can also help us understand that the answer to our struggles, angst and restlessness is in Christ.”

If I hadn’t gone to the emergency room when I did, I could have died, so having that assurance in my salvation was tremendous.

Adam Waggoner (’17)

That attention to deep, scripturally based instruction came through in a big way for Waggoner in the midst of crisis.

While driving in inclement weather earlier this year, Waggoner’s car lost traction on an icy road and was hit by two vehicles. He broke three ribs, lacerated his spleen and was rushed to the emergency room. He spent five days in the hospital before he was released, only to return two days later in a dire state. While home, his spleen unexpectedly ruptured, causing internal bleeding.

“It’s probably the most singularly painful experience I’ve had in my life,” Waggoner recalls.

In the days after the incident, many of Waggoner’s professors visited him to share godly wisdom and encouragement, extending care that surpasses human comfort.

“Certainly having that faith in Christ was an amazing comfort,” Waggoner said. “If I hadn’t gone to the emergency room when I did, I could have died, so having that assurance in my salvation was tremendous.”