Arcadia Celebrates Perseverance and Dedication at 2019 Commencement Ceremonies

By Caitlin Burns | May 21, 2019

Two students in caps and gowns with the Knight in front of Grey Towers Castle

On May 16 and 17, the 892 members of the Class of 2019 crossed the stage on Haber Green and began their journeys as alumni of Arcadia University at the 163rd annual Graduate and Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies. In total, 118 doctorate, 325 master’s, and 449 bachelor’s degrees were awarded to students.

The Class of 2019 has set high standards for the University—capturing numerous Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth athletics championships, delivering Kennedy Center American College Theatre performances, presenting at national and international professional conferences, and overcoming personal challenges along the way. Swimmer Taylor Byers ’19, Actuarial Science graduate, suffered a blood clot in her brain her first semester and came back to place in the 100 yard and 200 yard breaststroke relays just six months later in spring 2016. Men’s volleyball player Edwin Waters Jr. ’19, Criminal Justice graduate, refused to accept the negative statistics as an African American male and worked relentlessly to provide for his family and earn a degree; now he will work in the Office of Black Male Development in Philadelphia and enrolling in the city’s police academy. Sociology graduate Denise Crimmins ’19, an aspiring registered nurse and mother of an 11-year-old daughter, returned to school at the age of 45, including moving into the residence halls, to complete her undergraduate degree. Crimmins balanced the roles of mother and full-time undergraduate student, earning entry into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

“If people think you’re ever unworthy, remember you’re an Arcadia Knight,” said President Ajay Nair. “The education you earned belongs to you and your community because at Arcadia we strive to be a reflection of the world we want to live in. Class of 2019 let me end with three words that sum it all up—no fancy walk-up song, no famous quotes—just three words: We love you.”

Recognized this year for their contributions to the national and international communities, Drs. Valerie Arkoosh ’19H and Michael Brown ’19H were awarded honorary degrees during the Commencement Ceremonies.

“I know that each of you will use the unique talents and skills that you possess to build successful careers, but I urge you to never lose sight of the needs of our community as a whole,” said Dr. Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and physician anesthesiologist, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws at Graduate Commencement. “Working together we can create an inclusive, respectful, and healthy community.”

Dr. Brown, regental professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and 1985 Nobel Prize laureate, received an honorary Doctor of Science at the Undergraduate Commencement. The previous day, May 16, Dr. Brown presented “How to Win a Nobel Prize” to members of the Arcadia University and Cheltenham Township communities.

“Expect change—the 1960s seem quaint now,” Dr. Brown said, referring to the college years of his wife, Alice Lapin Brown ’64, and how the University and societal expectations of women have changed. “How quaint will 2019 seem in 2079? Change is the one certainty. How do you prepare for change? You keep learning. Arcadia has given you a head start, but now you must continue learning on your own.”

Class officers Jordan Hardy ’19 and Michelle Mendia ’19 presented the University with the Class of 2019 Gift of replacing all of the country flags around campus, as well as adding ones that represent campus identities like the LGBTQ and Pan African flags.

“I hope you learned from your peers, who all have different stories that led them here,” said Mendia. “There’s something about growing up in this small community of Arcadia that offers support from various individuals outside office hours and classes. I hope we continue to inspire one another, even from afar.”

At the graduate ceremony, Physician Assistant graduate Kaitlin Sterbenz ’19M received the A. Richard Polis Graduate Scholarship Award, which is presented to a student each year whose high academic achievement and service to the University and profession have distinguished them from their peers. Additionally, Professor of Historical and Political Studies Dr. Warren Haffar was honored with the Lloyd M. Abernethy Faculty Outstanding Service Award for exceptional service to the University.

At Undergraduate Commencement, Psychology graduate Camille Menns ’19 received the Senior Golden Disc Award for leadership and dedication to the University community. The Ira R. Kraybill Awards for Full-time and Part-time Study were awarded to Chemistry graduate Gabrielle Elise DiEmma ’19 and Performance Production and Design graduate Evgeniia Elliott ’19, respectively, for achieving the highest academic achievement in their full-time or part-time studies. Additionally, Associate Professor of English Dr. Kalenda Eaton was awarded Professor of the Year in recognition for her outstanding ability, service, and achievement in affecting the lives and careers of students.