Penn College holds first of 3 graduations

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Hannah G. Maize presents three things students should be thankful for during the Student Address of the Pennsylvania College of Technology's Spring Commencement Friday.

The first of three spring commencement ceremonies for the over 900 students receiving diplomas from the Pennsylvania College of Technology kicked off yesterday afternoon at the Community Arts Center with Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, college president, calling the students “our future tomorrow makers in the workforce and in society.”

“College commencement is a significant rite of passage and these students have distinguished themselves and they participate today with pride of their accomplishments,” she noted after explaining what each of the stoles and tassels meant.

The audience of friends and families who filled the CAC to witness this milestone in their students’ lives were encouraged by Gilmour to keep their cell phones ready to take photos freely during the ceremony.

“This is the Pennsylvania College of Technology and we’re not like any other place. This is when normally people would say put away your phones, put them on silent, let’s create the dignity. This is Penn College,” she said.

Although she did ask that people silence their phones, she also encouraged them to “take them out and record today’s activities, and I’m going to take the first one,” she added. She then took a photo of the cheering graduates.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Waleed Saad Alamri of Saudi Arabia is hugged by family and friends following Pennsylvania College of Technology's Spring Commencement Friday.

Hannah G. Maize, a plastics and polymer engineering major and the student speaker for the event, spoke of the gratitude that the students should feel for the college, the professors and the important people in their lives.

She urged them to reflect and think about being grateful.

“By attending Penn College you made an investment in yourself, a really big investment. With that Penn College degree that you’re going to walk away with today…with that school name carried with you, you’ve opened up so many possibilities for yourself. So many of you here today probably have jobs already because employers love Penn College,” she said. “These employers know that with the education you’ve had here, that you’ll be prepared and ready to work for them.”

She said that professors deserved gratitude for impacting the lives of their students.

“They could have deepened your passion for your major, opened your eyes to something new, maybe some new aspect of your industry, or had been the reason that you decided to follow a different path. It will be completely different for all of you. But, someone definitely played a big part and you stayed here to complete the degree,” Maize said.

Again the cell phones were brought out as Maize told the graduates to text their thanks to the important people in their lives.

Before the students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, Gilmour shared a remembrance of a student, Charlotte “Charley” Catherine Roxberry, who had been pursuing a bachelor’s degree in plastics and polymer technology when she passed away in 2015. She noted that Roxberry had actually completed two years of the program prior to her death, so the college awarded her an associate of applied science in plastics and polymer engineering technology degree posthumously.

Also honored at the commencement were: John M Estep, Distinguished Alumni Award; David Richards, Excellence in Teaching Award and Ryan Good, Master Teacher Award.

Speaking at the end of the ceremony, Gilmour said that she gets to be the last person to speak to the new graduates before they go out into the world.

“When you’re walking across the stage, I don’t think about any of you. I think about the fact that each of you has brought to this institution a unique set of life stories and life experiences that have brought you to this day,” she said.

She shared the stories of three students who were graduating during the two days of commencement ceremonies.

“I don’t know their names, I don’t need to know their names, but you need to know about them and they represent all of you,” she said.

“One is a woman who has worked full-time for 20 years and will earn her bachelor’s degree tomorrow afternoon after going part-time for 20 years,” Gilmour said.

She told them how another graduate had come into the Marty Military, Veteran and Science Center on campus thinking it was the Vet Center.

“He was homeless, unemployed and thought he could go there to get some help,” she added. “Here’s the thing about Penn College–he got help.”

She noted that he now has an apartment and a car and is looking forward to a career.

The last student she highlighted has attended Penn College while taking care of three siblings.

“So, when I tell you that Penn College transforms lives, it’s not a slogan…it’s real. We’ve touched your lives, we’ve transformed lives,” she said.