WEST LIBERTY, (W.Va.) — Despite the clouds, West Liberty University graduates enjoyed a bright celebration as they gathered in-person for Commencement Ceremonies held at 11 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 11. Three-hundred and ninety-three students are included in the Class of 2022.
President W. Franklin Evans presided over the ceremony held in the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex (ASRC) and mentioned the fact that it was the first ceremony for several years to be free of all pandemic restrictions.
Evans welcomed all graduates, honored guests, families and friends to the ceremonies. He congratulated all family members and friends who helped the graduates reach this point.
Interim Provost Dr. Cathy Monteroso then presented the special guests, as the ceremonies began.
Chairman of the Board of Governors Rich Lucas offered personal greetings from the governing board. Lucas is an alumnus and also has a son, Brice Lucas, graduating with an MBA.
Senior Katelynn Blair of Tarantum, Pa. earned the honor of student speaker based on her GPA. Blair is an Elbin Scholar and a summa cum laude graduate of the Gary E. West College of Business. A double major in accounting and finance, Blair will attend law school next fall at the University of Akron.
She was a member of the Hilltopper Softball Team and is the daughter of Thomas and Donna Blair, also of Tarantum, Pa. Katelynn has a sister, Makayla Blair, who is a sophomore at WLU and also a member of the softball team.
Blair began by thanking parents, professors, classmates and all other faculty and staff that helped and pushed her over the past four years.
“There is one professor though that has really impacted my life during my time here, Dr. Turrentine. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me,” she said, adding that “you are the reason I am where I am now and am able to follow my dreams of going to law school.”
She also drew attention to the quality of WLU’s education stating: “I didn’t know what college I wanted to go to, so I took a gamble with West Liberty. I can confidently say that that was the best gamble I’ve ever taken. When you come to West Liberty, not only do you receive a high-quality education, but you also gain another family.”
Blair concluded by encouraging her fellow graduates to “remember that nobody can take away what you’ve already accomplished and nobody can stop you from accomplishing anything you want.”
The keynote address was given by Dr. Jim Denova, former vice-president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation of Pittsburgh.
He began by sharing a personal connection that he had with West Liberty in 1976, when he got married in the WLU Interfaith Chapel.
“I get a little sentimental remembering that time. It was the year of the Bicentennial, there was upheaval around the world and political turbulence. My wife (Becky) ran the foreign student office here at West Liberty.”
He explained that his wife was involved in getting students from many international countries going through upheavals, like Iran, Nigeria and Saigon.
Denova then explained his further connection to WLU during his years at the Benedum Foundation. He went on to complement WLU on resisting the creation of silos of specific learning, referring to it as a fragmentation of education. He embraced learning that blends the various disciplines of the liberal arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Denova illustrated this point by referring to the Italian Renaissance man, Leonardo Da Vinci.
“Da Vinci is an icon to me because he incorporated writing, painting, inventing things, making things. He saw no distinction between designing and making a thing and being a philosopher and being a painter,” Denova said.
He reminded graduates that the jobs and careers of the future may not be defined by your chosen field, stating that innovation is necessary.
He mentioned WLU’s Center for Arts and Education and its Director Lou Karas, referring to it as a unique center and focal point for STEM and liberal arts and a place for training teachers to share learning across state lines and disciplines.
In closing, he said that “from my wedding to my retirement, West Liberty has provided me with good memories and professional achievements.”
He left the graduates with a suggestion.
“You’re moving out into your future. It will be a winding road of experiences and settings. When you come to the forks in the road, ask yourself, ‘What would Da Vinci do?’”
The ceremony then turned to the Announcement of Honors from each of the various colleges of the university including: the Honors College, the College of Sciences, the Gary E. West College of Business, The College of Education and Human Performances and the College of Liberal and Creative Arts.
President Evans next conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Dr. Jim Denova.
Following this, all graduates received their degrees.
Also honored at the ceremony were graduating students with the highest GPA in each respective college who receive the honor of carrying the college banner. These include:
· College of Sciences, Callie White, Buckhannon, W.Va. and Abigail Wollschlager, Fredericksburg, Va.
· West College of Business, Katherine Loader, Cambridge, Ohio, Baylee Snyder, Belmont, Ohio and Jared Ullom, Wheeling.
· College of Education and Human Performance, Brooke Provenzano, New Cumberland, W.Va. and Aubree Williams, Benwood, W.Va.
· College of Liberal Art and Creative Arts, Paul Denard, Wheeling, W.Va. and Raeann Keefe, Hedgesville, W.Va.
· Graduate Studies, McCall Brummage, Fairview, W.Va.
President Evans concluded the ceremonies with brief remarks.
“Be proud of your education and your Alma Mater,” he began. “It is our desire to always be better, to be stronger, and to be recognized for the excellence that is found here.
“Spring Class of 2022 you have an awesome responsibility. As president of this amazing institution, I ask you for your continued support and advocacy for West Liberty University. Speak positively of your alma mater. Stay in touch with the Office of Alumni Affairs. Anytime you feel the desire to come home, please come home. There is no place like home.”
The Commencement ceremonies can be viewed on Topper Station for those unable to attend.
The University Wind Symphony, University band, Choral Scholars and the West Liberty University Singers took part in the ceremony.
A reception for graduates, guests and families was held in the College Union immediately following the ceremony.