Skip to main content

College Confers Degrees on Nearly 300 Graduates

Posted on Saturday, May 19, 2012

Nearly 300 students earned diplomas during the 158th annual Westminster College commencement ceremonies Saturday.

Undergraduate degrees were conferred on 282 students with an additional 12 receiving master's degrees.

The ceremony began with baccalaureate service at 10:30 a.m. in Orr Auditorium.  The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston, senior pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, shared "Ignition."  He was introduced by John Weisel, a 1979 Westminster graduate and chair of Westminster's Board of Trustees.

The service included music by Westminster organist Kathryn Davison Miller and the Rev. James Latta, bagpiper and pastor of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Ellwood City; the Senior Choir under the direction of Dr. Robin Lind, associate professor of music and director of choral activities; and junior Daniel Goffus, choir accompanist, and seniors Megan Morrow and Kalyn Stevwing, who sang "How You Live."

Guests received a welcome from Dr. Jesse Mann, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, and closing thoughts from Westminster College President Dr. Richard H. Dorman.  Prayers were offered by the Rev. James Mohr II, college chaplain, and Father Thomas Lewandowski of St. Camillus Church in New Castle.  Senior worship participants included: Ryan Brucker and Caitlyn Roberts, who read Scripture; Brian Mack, who led the call to worship; and William Armentrout, 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; Andrew Erb, a 1996 Westminster graduate, and Terry Gale on trumpet; Heather Johnson on horn; and Dr. R. Tad Greig on trombone. 

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. Gary Lilly, associate professor of sociology, was faculty marshal.  Students were led by marshals Dr. Jamie McMinn, associate professor of psychology, and Dr. Richard Sprow, professor of English.

The opening declaration was made by Weisel and the Rev. Mohr gave the invocation.  President Dorman offered greetings and led the rededication of Weisel Senior Terrace.

An honorary degree, doctor of science, honoris causa, was presented to Dr. Kim Dunbar, Davidson Professor of Science at Texas A&M University, one of America's premiere chemists and a 1980 Westminster graduate.  She was introduced by Dr. Peter Smith, associate professor of chemistry. 

Dunbar, who earned a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Purdue University, did post-doctoral research at Texas A&M, then joined the Michigan State University faculty, where she rose to the rank of University Distinguished Professor.

Since her return to Texas A&M in 1999, she has become world-renowned for her research in several areas of physical and inorganic chemistry, including breakthroughs in organic/inorganic composite materials, molecular magnetism, and metal-based chemotherapy.

She is the author of more than 300 publications that include scientific articles, conference papers, reviews, and book chapters; serves as associate editor of Inorganic Chemistry; and is past secretary and chair of the American Chemical Society's Division of Inorganic Chemistry.

Dunbar has been honored with distinguished alumna awards from Westminster College and Purdue University.  Her professional honors include an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation fellowship; a Camille and Henry Dreyfus teacher-scholar award; and fellowships in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Chemists, and the American Chemical Society.

Dunbar shared "Blue Skies: The Value of a Liberal Arts Education" with the audience. 

"I sincerely believe that my education at Westminster College provided me with the tools that I desperately needed to decide first, what I wanted to think about and second, what I wanted to do with this information…My liberal arts education facilitated a desire to experiment: to explore entirely unknown territories without fear and with the confidence that questioning my own knowledge is not only a good idea but is absolutely necessary in order to be a good scientist and mentor."

Senior class speaker Miltiadis Constantine, a public relations and political science major from Poland, Ohio, spoke on "The Armor of the Westminster Titan." 

"We all enrolled in this school in pursuit of a diploma," Constantine said.  "In the end, it is nothing more than a piece of paper.  What we have truly earned this day is so much more powerful.  We have been dressed in the armor of a Westminster Titan.  We carry the sword of challenge; we gird ourselves with the belt of compassion; we carry the shield of faith; we place upon our heads the helmet of learning; we put on our chests the breastplate of service; we ride upon the stallion of success; and we place upon our feet the sandals of tradition."

Faculty greetings were given by Sprow, who serves as chair of the faculty.

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

Distinguished Faculty Award
Dr. Sandra Webster
, professor of psychology, received the Distinguished Faculty Award.  Webster, who has been with Westminster since 1983, earned undergraduate and master's degrees and Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.  Nominations came from students, faculty, and alumni, citing Webster's enthusiasm for undergraduate research and promoting student success.  "No one works harder, nobody cares more about the craft, nobody innovates better."  One colleague shared, "She fires beautiful and functional ceramics from lumps of clay.  This is pretty much her approach to any responsibility she is given."  

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.

Kitzerow and Spinney Honored with Emerita Status
Dr. Phyllis Kitzerow
and Molly Spinney were honored with designation as professor of sociology emerita and associate professor/associate librarian emerita, respectively. 

Kitzerow, who joined the faculty in 1978 and retired in December, earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin and master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.  During her tenure at Westminster, Kitzerow founded the Diversity Symposium, created and served as coordinator for the Gender Studies interdisciplinary minor, developed the Criminal Justice program, and chaired the Department of Sociology.  She was awarded the 2011 Henderson Lectureship for her ongoing research on the career paths of women lawyers and was recognized with the 2011 Distinguished Faculty Award.

Spinney, a Westminster graduate who joined the faculty in 1975, earned a master's degree in library science from the University of Pittsburgh.  While at Westminster, Spinney served a three-year term as assistant dean, supervising the January term; selecting and booking events for the original Celebrity Series; supporting the development and teaching sections of the Freshman Seminar course; and chairing the steering committee that examined programs, salaries and benefits, and schedule.  She served as faculty adviser to the Argo yearbook and Panhellenic Council.  As library chair she led the transition from a print-based collection to the implementation of online resources and led McGill Library's four-year renovation project.  

Alicia Pabrinkis, a music education major from Pittsford, N.Y., sang the Westminster College Alma Mater to end the ceremony.

Departing guests were serenaded by Timothy Lane, a theatre and music major from Buffalo, N.Y., with selections on the Westminster carillon.

Commencement highlights are available at

The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston
Dr. Kim Dunbar