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Westminster College graduates the Class of 2024, presents honorary degree

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Posted on Saturday, May 11, 2024

Westminster College awarded diplomas to 232 students during the 170th commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 11, in the Will W. Orr Auditorium on the College’s campus.

Saturday’s commencement marked the graduation of those students who arrived on campus in the fall of 2020. Often labeled the “COVID class,” the Class of 2024 began their college careers masked and socially distanced just five months after the world shut down due to the pandemic.

Members of the Class of 2024 were awarded Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. Five students earned dual Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Six students received Master of Education degrees, while eight earned Master of Business Administration degrees and one was awarded a Master of Arts degree. A posthumous Bachelor of Science degree was awarded to Gage Hendrickson, a senior biology major from Irvine, Pa., who passed away in January following a December 2023 automobile accident.

Jeffrey McCandless, chair of the Westminster Board of Trustees and a 1980 graduate, opened the ceremony followed by the invocation by College Chaplain the Rev. James Mohr II. President Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson greeted the members of the Class of 2024 and the day’s guests, while Dr. Michael Aleprete, professor of political science and chair of the faculty, provided faculty remarks.  

“Class of 2024, we know you have learned many life lessons while here at Westminster,” said Richardson. “You have gained confidence in your abilities and in your vision. You have demonstrated to us you are more resilient and stronger than you perhaps thought you could be when you first arrived on campus in those challenging days of August 2020 when we were masked, separated and concerned about the pandemic. But you have succeeded.”

During the ceremony, alumnus Paul Trokhan ’68 was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Trokhan, retired senior inventor at Procter & Gamble (P&G), is recognized as the leading mind behind the unique technology that resulted in high-quality paper products such as Bounty paper towels, Charmin toilet paper and Puffs tissues.

Trokhan, who earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Westminster and a master’s in chemical engineering from Lehigh University, developed photopolymer molding templates for use in high-speed through-air-dried (TAD) tissue-making processes which significantly changed the way tissue products are made. His photopolymer technology is utilized on virtually all of P&G’s global bath tissue and paper towel products.

Peyton Aujauy, a music education and instrumental music performance double major from Lowber, Pa., offered the senior address during commencement exercises.

“As we venture forth into the unknown, let us remember the words of Nelson Mandela, who said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Armed with our education and the lessons learned within these hallowed halls, we have the power to effect positive change, to challenge the status quo, and to leave an indelible mark on society,” he said.    

Prior to the conferring of degrees, the prestigious Distinguished Faculty Award was presented to retiring faculty member Dr. R. Tad Greig, professor of music and director of instrumental activities. Greig, who has been a member of the Westminster faculty since 1995, was nominated for the honor by current and former colleagues, alumni and students.

Greig conducts the Symphonic Band, the Wind Ensemble and the Titan Marching Band.  During his career, Greig has been a guest conductor, lecturer and guest speaker throughout the eastern United States. A freelance trombonist, he performs with the Youngstown Fine Arts Brass Quintet, the Butler County Symphony and the Greenville Symphony Orchestra. He is also the conductor and music director of the North Pittsburgh Symphonic Band. Greig has attained countless nominations and awards for his dedication to students and his personal music career.

The award is presented annually to a tenured faculty member who has 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.

Greig also participated in the commencement ceremony by performing with the Westminster College Brass Quintet, also featuring Dr. Timothy Winfield, professor of music and chair of the School of Music, on trumpet, as well as additional School of Music instructors Terry Gale on trumpet, Andrew Symington on horn and Jason Venesky on tuba.

Senior vocalists Camille Baptiste, a music education major and summa cum laude graduate from Slippery Rock, Pa., Taylar Getsy, a music education major from North Versailles, Pa., and Hunter Peterson, a music performance major from Russell, Pa., sang the Westminster College Alma Mater at the close of the commencement ceremony.

Other participants included Brian Petrus '10, associate professor of business, and Dr. Erin Wilson, associate professor of chemistry, who served as faculty marshals. Students were led by marshals Dr. Trisha Cowen, associate professor of English, and Dr. Joel Postema, associate professor of Spanish.

The day’s ceremonies began with a morning baccalaureate service, led by Mohr, which featured a special memorial tribute in remembrance of senior classmate and posthumous degree recipient Hendrickson. Noah Gray of Beaver, Pa., provided a scripture reading, Thomas Bablak from Russell, Pa., offered words of remembrance, James Sentz of Catonsville, Md., lit candles and Anthony Kamenski of Chicora, Pa., led a memorial prayer.

The Rev. Dr. Andrew Pomerville, president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, provided the message, “Continuance, Gratitude and Joy.”

The service’s prelude included music by Winfield on trumpet, and retiring organist Paula Kubic, who also provided music throughout the service.

Other musicians throughout the baccalaureate service included bagpiper Kim Meek, who also led the processional and recessional during the commencement ceremony, and senior vocalists Brianna Dunlap of Canfield, Ohio, and Alexandra Coker of Export, Pa.

Other baccalaureate student senior speakers included Theresa Schneider of Chardon, Ohio, Tomi Taiwo of Pittsburgh and Lane Voytik of Sharon, Pa.  

To view the list of graduates, click here.