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Westminster College Confers Degrees on More than 330 Graduates

Posted on Saturday, May 17, 2014

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - More than 330 students earned diplomas during the 160th annual Westminster College commencement ceremonies Saturday. An additional five received master's degrees.

The ceremony began with a baccalaureate service at 10:30 a.m. in Orr Auditorium.  The Rev. Scott W. Hoffman `02, pastor and head of staff at Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church in Columbia, Md., shared "Name Calling."  He was introduced by the Rev. James R. Mohr II, College chaplain.

The service included music by Westminster organist Kathryn Miller and the Rev. James Latta, bagpiper and interim pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Hermitage; and the Senior Choir under the direction of Dr. Robin Lind, associate professor of music and director of choral activities, who is retiring and received professor emerita status during the commencement ceremony.

Guests heard closing thoughts from Westminster College President Dr. Richard H. Dorman.  Prayers were offered by the Rev. Mohr and Father Thomas Lewandowski, of St. Camillus Church in New Castle. Senior worship participants included: Jaimie Flaherty, who read the Prayer of Invocation; Kory Gribbin, who did a Gospel Reading; Kendall Hunter, who led the Call to Worship; Gregory McClelland, who sang "I Can Only Imagine;" August Santillo, who read from the book of Psalm; Alexandra Taylor, who read from the Old Testament; and Emily Wiest, who led the Litany of Faith.

While waiting for the graduates to appear for the 2:30 p.m. Commencement ceremony, parents and friends were treated to music by Dr. Nancy Zipay DeSalvo, associate professor of music, at the organ, and the Westminster College Faculty Brass Quintet: Robert Antonucci on tuba; Terry Gale on trumpet; Dr. R. Tad Greig on trombone; Cody Ortz `15 on trumpet; and Heather Johnson on horn.

Bagpiper Latta led the grand march and Zipay DeSalvo played "Pomp and Circumstance" as the graduates, faculty, trustees, and platform party entered.  Dr. A. Dwight Castro, professor of classics, was the mace bearer and Dr. Pamela Richardson, associate professor of mathematics, was faculty marshal.  Students were led by marshals Erin Smith, associate professor and director of library services, and Dr. Richard Sprow, professor of English.

The opening declaration was made by Thomas A. Tupitza `79, chair of the Board of Trustees, and the Rev. Mohr gave the invocation.  President Dorman offered greetings.

An honorary degree, doctor of public service, honoris causa, was presented to Dr. Thomas R. Kepple `70, president emeritus of Juniata College.

Kepple earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Westminster, and a master's in business administration and doctorate in education from Syracuse University. He then served as vice president for business and community relations at Sewanee: University of the South and as provost and dean of academic services at Rhodes College, both in Tennessee. He was named president of Juniata in 1998.

Additional accomplishments include: Founding chair of the national Tuition Plan Consortium, vice chair of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's Higher Education Transition Team, and a variety of leadership positions in the Association for Independent Colleges of Pennsylvania and in the national Council for Independent Colleges. In 2013 he was named president of the American Academic Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. Westminster honored his professional accomplishments with an Outstanding Alumni Citation in 2001.

Kepple shared his thoughts on "Leadership 101" with the graduates, starting with a story about his first day at Westminster when he accidently elbowed a faculty member during a students-against-faculty volleyball game, giving him a bloody nose.

"So how does this story translate into learning about leadership," Kepple asked. "First, there was no compelling reason for Dr. Christy to stay to play the game - he certainly could have called it a night and went home to nurse a bleeding nose. But Dr. Christy was a leader - he stayed in the game. I have - and you will - get bloodied in the future at times when you least expect it - but to have a fulfilling life you must get back in the game - even in an embarrassingly bloody T-shirt."

Kepple continued, "That day I learned in a very unconventional way that I wanted to be a Dr. Christy kind of leader. You too have learned many things at Westminster, both in and outside the classroom that will help you thrive in a world of uncertainty. Go out and do well, I'm confident you will."

Joseph Ligo, a broadcast communications major from Mercer, was the senior class speaker.

"At Westminster, a professor will call you on a Saturday morning in July to ask how your summer internship is going," Ligo said.  "At Westminster, your capstone adviser doesn't roll her eyes when you ask for another letter of recommendation.  You can spend two hours in somebody's office talking about options for grad school.  The registrar knows you by name, and the department chair will even give you a pound of home-grown bacon as a housewarming gift for your first apartment."

Ligo continued, "People at Westminster care.  What sets us apart is that we put those feelings into action.  When we see the faculty and staff go the extra mile for us, we are prompted to do the same for others.  And we do, with philanthropy events and service projects, volunteering through our honor societies, religious groups, athletic teams,  fraternities and sororities, and so much more.  Even in our classes, we are taught to use what we learn to improves the lives of those around us."

"The Class of 2014 isn't going to change the world during our first week out of school, and that's OK.  Deep down inside of us, we know what it takes to make a difference.  We've learned what really matters, because we experienced it first hand, right here at Westminster.  Don't get so caught up in the daily grind that you forget the big picture.  We must work for the future.  We must use what we know to positively impact the lives of others in the next year, the next decade, even the next century."
Faculty greetings were given by Dr. Terri Lenox, professor of computer science and chair of the faculty.

Westminster's commencement would not be complete without recognizing its faculty:

Distinguished Faculty Award

Dr. Daniel Fischmar, professor of economics and business, received the Distinguished Faculty Award.  Fischmar, who joined the faculty in 1975, earned undergraduate and master's degrees from Roosevelt University and a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. 

The Distinguished Faculty Award is given to the faculty member who has, over a sustained period of time, demonstrated characteristics of the most outstanding faculty - intellectual vitality, effective communication skills, the ability to motivate or inspire compassion and concern for student success, collegiality, and leadership. Nominations come from students, faculty, and alumni.

Dr. Camila Bari de López, Dr. Robin Lind, and D. Scott Renninger Honored with Emeriti Status

Bari de López was honored with designation as professor of Spanish emerita. Bari de López, who joined the Westminster faculty in 1997, earned an undergraduate degree from Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Argentina, and Ph.D. from the University at Albany, SUNY. She earned a Fulbright Visiting Scholar grant for the 2013-2014 academic year. 

Lind was honored with designation as associate professor of music emerita. Lind, who joined the Westminster faculty in 2000, earned an undergraduate degree from the College of Idaho, a master's degree from the University of Oregon, and Ph.D. from the University of Utah.

Renninger was honored with designation as professor of physical education emeritus.  Renninger, who joined the Westminster faculty in 1978, earned an undergraduate degree from Heidelberg College.

Kathleen Bachtel, a music performance major from Massillon, Ohio, sang the Westminster College Alma Mater to end the ceremony.

Commencement highlights are available at  

Click below for hometown information.
The Rev. Scott W. Hoffman
Dr. Thomas R. Kepple
Joseph Ligo