Graduates' elation shines through December drizzle
Pennsylvania College of Technology held its final commencement ceremony of the calendar year at the Community Arts Center on Dec. 18, warmly celebrating accomplishment and effectively warding off the damp chill outside. The student speaker was Tiana M. Rawls-White, of Northumberland, who earned a bachelor’s degree in applied management and received the President's Award for leadership and service to her alma mater. Rawls-White, founder and president of the Black Student Union on campus, was among 320 students eligible to graduate at the end of the fall semester. Also speaking were Mark E. Sones, alumnus/instructor of diesel equipment technology and recipient of the 2021 Veronica M. Muzic Master Teacher Award; and Distinguished Alumni Award winner Kevin L. Imes, an alumnus in building construction technology (2003) and construction management (2007), who is construction project manager at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. President Davie Jane Gilmour was joined (via video) by state Sen. Gene Yaw, who also serves as chairman of the college’s Board of Directors, in conferring degrees and certificates upon the graduates.
– Photos by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor
The student speaker, who found satisfaction and happiness after changing course and enrolling at Penn College, urged her classmates not to underestimate the power of hope, resilience and strength. "No matter what, everyone has their own story. A story that no one can take from you. You are in control of your story, your life, your path. So, I want to remind you all that it’s OK to change your plan," Rawls-White said. "It’s OK to struggle. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to change and grow as a person."
Noting Penn College's profound impact on his life, Imes encouraged graduates to take advantage of the dozens of ways to foster their Wildcat pride: "Volunteer to come back to the classroom and share real-world experience. Host an intern or allow a student to shadow you at your workplace, even just for a few hours. When your organization is looking for new employees, consider recruiting at a Penn College career fair. If you know a high school student searching for the right fit after graduation, tell them why you loved your time here."
Veterans, among 250 currently enrolled at Penn College, stand for recognition from the appreciative crowd.
Alane D. Zellars exults in accomplishment, holding aloft proof of her bachelor's in human services and restorative justice. She completed her associate degree in the same field in 2019.
Carolyn R. Strickland, vice president for enrollment management and associate provost, smooths each graduate's triumphant rite of passage – painstakingly ensuring proper pronunciation while maintaining on-stage traffic control.
The president famously delights in every interaction, no doubt including this one with a beaming Jordyn T. Mitchell, baking and pastry arts.
Sanitizing between every encounter, the fully vaccinated Gilmour offered graduates their choice of greeting. (Applied management grad Mark J. Carter opted for a fist bump.)
Attaining a bachelor's in health science, among the newer degrees in the college's School of Nursing & Health Sciences, is Dhwani J. Patel.
One of the creatively inclined alumnae who adorned their caps, Ashley E.J. Snyder takes her turn in the spotlight as an in-demand nurse.
Exemplifying lifelong learning and a passion for critical care is Torrence W. Englert Jr., sealing his nursing degree with a presidential handshake.
Perhaps heeding one of the day's speakers' advice – "Take time to take time" – nursing grad Stephanie C. Hamme has a face-to-face moment with the president.
Nursing graduate Francis M. McMahon accepts a pair of honors – and congratulations from Michael J. Reed, vice president for academic affairs and provost. McMahon was presented with the Spirit of Nursing and the Nursing Peer Recognition awards.
Moved by the moment, David B. Fischetti embraces the president. He was among the day's graduates in architecture and sustainable design: architectural technology concentration.
Presiding over her last December commencement, Gilmour relished her interaction with students and the "buzz in the air" that accompanies the start of a new year. "It's the time when we make new resolutions, when we think about new beginnings, when we start new chapters," she said. "When you get to Jan. 1, 2022, make at least one of those goals, one of those resolutions, to go out and make some history. It might be something you do silently for someone, and get no recognition. It might be something that you end up getting a new patent, and we read about you in the newspaper. But whatever it is, make sure you leave your mark."
Emeka M. Nwokeji, who picked up an associate degree in information technology: technical support technology emphasis just six months ago, adds a bachelor's in the network support concentration.
Sones may have his Master Teacher medal, but Gilmour has her battery-operated Christmas bulb necklace! The president donned the colorful accessory to maintain the festive tradition of now-retired Chef Paul Mach (the college's 2001 Master Teacher), who annually wore a Santa hat to commencement.
The lyrics to the college alma mater, against the breathtaking backdrop of campus aerial photos, are projected for the graduates and their supporters.
Honoring her tradition of "statement necklaces," Gilmour alights from the stage and lights up the room – to the amusement of Loni N. Kline (left), vice president for college relations/chief philanthropy officer, and Rhonda S. Walker, alumni relations specialist.
Like others, nursing grad Caleigh M. Guenot and fiancé find shelter under the marquee. Guenot received the Linda F. Clark BS RN, Memorial Nursing Commencement Award.
Nicole Ramos, a brand-new human services and restorative justice alumna ...
... gives a shoutout to her Dominican heritage and her ongoing success story.
... in the proud company of her sister and mother, who are also nurses, and her father, a Marine veteran.
Izabel P. Ramer, who graduated in the two-year business management major, gets a little lift from Dad.
Among the rare few who braved the chilly, rainy weather for postceremony photos on campus is the family of automotive technology management grad Andrew P. Luzeckyj Jr., returning to a building that played a significant role in his Penn College days.
Making a memory with his girlfriend is Byron S. Matthews, business administration: marketing concentration.
Automotive technology graduate Michael R. Brown and family celebrate their special day at the main campus entrance.
Huddled for warmth is the family of Axel D. Cluck, who graduated in landscape/horticulture technology: landscape emphasis and was a co-recipient of the Horticulture Faculty Award.
Of course a "green" grad would seek out this spot for a keepsake! With dual degrees in her major's landscape and plant production emphases, Abby J. Ritchey strikes a pose along Hagan Way.
The stage is set. Let the merriment begin!
The outer lobby of the Community Arts Center welcomes guests with festive décor.
Sweet details under the tree in the inner lobby.
Greenery and glitter
The mortarboard of Bailee C. Nauyalis, who graduated in collision repair technology, carries a self-motivating message.
Leading the lineup are these five soon-to-be-graduates in human services and restorative justice, waiting out the rainy weather in the decked-out Genetti Hotel lobby.
Stylin' in the rain is nursing's Caroline M. Engel, sporting a sparkly gold mask under a colorful umbrella. Engel received the Shirley Novosel Memorial Award, along with her bachelor's degree, during Saturday's commencement.
Nursing students catch cover in an alcove along the processional route.
Shannon R. Shelly, who earned a bachelor's in nursing, embraces the day's fresh start ...
The cap of nursing graduate Tunesha A. Smith honors her late father, Gregory A., who earned a Penn College nursing degree 10 years ago.
Taking one more look back as they move ahead, students turn to acknowledge the congratulatory honks from cars traveling on West Fourth Street.
We see those smiles (even under the masks)!
Student-athlete Emalie M. Marnati, a Wildcat volleyball player, can't conceal her excitement en route to a bachelor’s in residential construction technology and management: building construction technology concentration. Marnati already holds an associate degree (2020) in building construction technology. To her left, and graduating in the same four-year major, is Nicholas W. McFarland.
In spite of falling rain, spirits (and thumbs) were up!
Students' white stoles signify their membership in the Alpha Chi baccalaureate honor society.
College relations assistants and twins Malcolm K. (left) and Miles K. Lampkin, doubled up on degrees in software development and information management.
Don J. Luke, the college's director of facilities operations, sings the national anthem a cappella.
After a lukewarm response to her initial "Good morning," the president approves of the more enthusiastic do-over.
Contentedly declaring, "We are a college of technology," Gilmour takes the event's first cellphone photo from the stage.
In remarks that seamlessly interwove The Traveling Wilburys, the wisdom of faculty colleagues, Churchillian insight and an overriding spousal admonition to "make three points and gracefully bow off the stage," Sones spoke of mentorship, perseverence and trust in a new generation. "One thing that stands out to me about this class is that you've inspired me often; impressed me over and over again with your knowledge, your passion and your maturity; and given me many of those sit-back-and go-'Wow'-moments. It makes my job so worthwhile, and I respect and appreciate that."
Elliott Strickland Jr., vice president for student affairs, introduces Rawls-White by invoking one of her goals as a student leader: "To improve the communication between cultures, help the community, and inspire new and inclusive ideas."
Finley M. Wright, landscape/horticulture technology: plant production emphasis, stands in front of the 20-foot CAC tree, grown on the farm of one of his instructors – Justin Shelinski.
(Photo by Megan L. Ripka, assistant director of marketing for academic programs and special projects)
Decorations add a tasteful touch to an already-classy occasion.