Arcadia Celebrates 30 Years of PT Program at Commencement

By Purnell T. Cropper | January 20, 2014

While January may serve as the beginning of an academic semester for many students, Jan. 18 marked Commencement for 114 students in Arcadia’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. More than 80 students were on hand to receive their doctoral degrees during a program that included inspiring remarks from Commencement speaker Dr. Carolee Winstein and student speaker Eric Walter ’14DPT, who provided a humorous and reflective address to his fellow graduates.

Dr. Nicolette DeVille Christensen, presiding over her first Arcadia Commencement as president, welcomed the graduates into the ranks of Arcadia alumni and reminded them that Arcadia’s renowned physical therapy program—ranked 14th in the nation among accredited graduate PT programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report—had equipped them with the knowledge and resources needed to excel in their chosen profession.

“Today we graduate what we know to be the brightest and most well-prepared doctors of physical therapy,” said President Christensen. “You will become leaders in your profession because of the evidence-based practices taught by Dr. Craik and our esteemed faculty, who are helping to define and attain a global standard within your profession—the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) 2020. We look forward to hearing of your accomplishments with pride and ask that you stay in touch with us. We welcome you as alumni of Arcadia University.”

In her Commencement address, Winstein, professor of biokinesiology and physical therapy at the University of Southern California, urged graduates to reflect upon their educational experiences at Arcadia and especially on the patients whose lives they have touched. In addition, Winstein, who also directs the Motor Behavior and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory at USC, stressed to the graduates the importance of adapting to and embracing changes in health care and technology throughout their careers.

“Every single one of you is bound for greatness in your lives and in your careers,” said Winstein. “Why am I so confident you are destined for greatness? Because all of the ingredients of greatness, the science and humaneness of physical therapy, were integral parts of … your education at Arcadia University. You have an extremely strong foundation upon which to commence your professional career or advance your career.”

The event unfolded with Dr. Philip McClure, professor of physical therapy at Arcadia, providing an invocation and DPT graduate Jennifer Arnold ’11 performing an evocative rendition of the national anthem, accompanied by her father, Jeffrey, on acoustic guitar. And during the Student Speaker Address, Walter showed just why he was selected by an overwhelming margin of votes from classmates to address his fellow graduates, generating laughs by noting how the names of some PT tests compare with the names of dinosaurs or how, contrary to what some patients may believe, PT does not stand for “physical torture.”

Walter also reflected on his experience at Arcadia, acknowledging how it helped him develop professional tenets by which to live, such as “don’t be satisfied with just getting to the weekend,” “our duty is to help the profession grow,” and “strive to succeed daily.”

In her closing address, Dr. Rebecca Craik, professor and chair of the physical therapy department, talked about the uniqueness of the class: entry level students broke two records in the program’s 30-year history, with 44 participating in an international experience and 33 participating in a research experience, while the 55 physical therapists who returned to upgrade a degree ranged from 27 to 60 years and enrolled in the program from 20 different states. Craik also spoke about how physical therapists are vital for the health of the nation, noting that more than 54 million people in U.S. today have chronic health problems limiting  their activities and that 70 million Americans—one in every five people—will be over the age of 65 by 2030.

In concluding, Craik reminded graduates that a pioneering spirit will propel them onward in their professions, similar to how those who have gone before them needed such a spirit in order to make this day possible.

“George Logue, the founding chair of the PT program at Beaver College, was a pioneer when he brought the first full-time graduate program to this campus,” said Craik. “The PT faculty members were pioneers in establishing the first DPT program in the greater Philadelphia area and the third DPT program in the country. We also were pioneers in developing an online program for physical therapists to upgrade their degree to a DPT. All of us are going to be pioneers in the new health care environment created through the Affordable Care Act. Our invitation in this new frontier depends on your advocacy and your competence. You will have to practice with integrity or we, as a profession, are dead.”

Awards Presented during Commencement

  • E. Jane Carlin Award, in recognition of academic excellence and outstanding clinical promise: Kathryn Diane Mahaffie
  • Eugene Michels Award, in recognition of outstanding critical reasoning processes used throughout the physical therapy curriculum: Emily Lauren Eaves
  • Jill Sisenwine Berger Award, in recognition of excellence, integrity, compassion, altruism, professionalism, and social responsibility: Sarah Elizabeth Ernesto
  • Eric Scott McKee Student Travel Award, in recognition of a future scholar who is presenting research at a national meeting: Kathleen Claire Madara
  • Hines Wright Humanitarian Award, in recognition of gaining an expanded view of clinical practice and a global citizen: Laurence John Devinney
  • Marty Palme Award, in recognition of extraordinary efforts on behalf of classmates and the PT program: Laurence John Devinney
  • John Robinson Award, in recognition of outstanding contribution to maintaining the general morale of the students: Kathryn Diane Mahaffie
  • Research Investigation Award, in recognition of excellence in research design, execution, and presentation: Evelyn Ann Brown, Brooke Greer, Kathleen Claire Madara, and Ashley Erin O’Brien