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WEST LIBERTY — West Liberty University graduates enjoyed a bright celebration as they gathered in-person for Commencement Ceremonies Saturday. 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 and mentioned the fact that it was the first ceremony for several years to be free of all pandemic restrictions.

Senior Katelynn Blair of Tarantum, Pa. earned the honor of student speaker based on her grade-point average. 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.

Blair thanked 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, Mike 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.”

The keynote address was given by 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?’”

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.

Those include:

— College of Education and Human Performance, Brooke Provenzano, New Cumberland and Aubree Williams, Benwood.

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