2011 Worcester State University Undergraduate Commencement

Worcester State Celebrates First Graduating Class as a University

May 16, 2011
By: WSU News

Over 4000 family members and friends attended the 135th Worcester State University Commencement, Saturday, May 14th at the DCU Center.  The university conferred degrees to 913 undergraduates and 233 graduate students.  It was the first time graduates received diplomas under the institution’s new university status.

It was the last commencement celebrated under the leadership of President Janelle C. Ashley, who will retire at the end of June.  “The university has flourished under her leadership,” said Chair of the Board of Trustees John Brissette ’88.  “We have expanded our residence halls, renovated our historic Helen G. Shaughnessy Administration Building, renovated our library, built a parking garage, improved our labs and expanded undergraduate and graduate research.  Dr. Ashley has positioned the university for greatness and we are very thankful.”

John Connolly ’62, Ed.D., who received an honorary doctoral degree, served as commencement speaker. Connolly went from being a classroom teacher to being the nation’s foremost expert on identifying top physicians. As president and CEO of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., publisher of consumer guides to help people find the best health care, he is a frequent guest on television and radio shows including Today, Good Morning America, 20/20, and others. He is the author/editor of more than a dozen books including America’s Top Doctors and America’s Top Doctors for Cancer, and his company’s articles have been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers.

Connolly told graduates that due to increased longevity and demographic changes, a new stage in life is developing. According to Connolly, in 1930, less than 5 1/2 percent of people were older Americans. Today, one in eight Americans is older.  The fastest growing segment of American society is people over the age of 80. Connolly said a new “encore” stage of life will emerge, similar to the emergence of the new stage of life “adolescence,” did after the passage of child labor laws and rise of public education. He predicts that more and more Americans will choose to pursue a second and more meaningful career after retirement. “It presents the opportunity to do something more challenging and fulfilling,” he said.  He asked graduates, “What will your encore be?”

The University also awarded Dr. William F. O’Neil ’63 the 2011 Community Service Award. He served as an elementary school teacher, as director of the Community Education Development Center at Worcester State University and served as President of Massachusetts College of Art for nine years.  He also served as the Executive Director of the Council of Presidents of the Massachusetts State Colleges—now universities– for six years.  He serves as Chair of the Worcester Center for Crafts Board of Directors; where his leadership supports the future of arts education for both the students of Worcester State as well as the Center’s growing community of artists, crafters, and students.

Dr. Allison Dunn of Physical Earth Sciences and Dr. Caitlin M. Stover, M.S., ’07, ’08, of Nursing, both received the George I. Alden Excellence in Teaching Award.  Vice President of the Class of 2011 Elizabeth A. Bitar, received the Ella M. Whitney Award.  Ms. Krishna DasGupta, Senior Librarian was recognized with emeritus status.

Prior to commencement, WSU graduate students were recognized at the annual Hooding Ceremony Friday evening, where President Ashley was presented with a graduate medallion and certificate of recognition for her leadership during nine years as president.  The keynote address offered by Dr. Maryann H. Power featured a video-taped message offering advice to the graduates to, “be open to change, be authentic and have a sense of humor.”  She also urged them to “work hard, keep a sense of spirituality and be a lifelong learner.”

Nurses receiving degrees in 2011 celebrated at the traditional, “pinning ceremony,” Thursday evening.  The keynote speaker, Kimberly M. Harmon ’95, RN, BSN and President & CEO of Auburn Visiting Nursing Association, Inc., advised the graduating nurses to, “Be coachable, be fearless, and authentic.”

Jennie Sousa received the Academic Achievement Award; Jennifer Curtis received the Army Corps Spirit of Nursing Award; Megan Feehan received the Clinical Excellence in the Art and Science of Nursing Award; Gregory Shuler received the Lillian Goodman Award; Jessica Thomas received the Fairlawn Rehabilitation Award for Nursing Clinical Excellence; Jessica Gallagher received the Florence Nightingale Award and Kristina Beningo received the Maureen McDermott Sorge Award for Clinical Excellence in Maternity/Pediatric Care.

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