Commencement 2014: Arcadia Graduates Earn Place in University’s History, Are Urged to Find Joy, Give Back

By Purnell T. Cropper | May 16, 2014

Rain did little to dampen the spirits of the 512 Arcadia University students who earned baccalaureate degrees at the undergraduate Commencement on Friday, May 16. The Kuch Center Alumni Gymnasium, which served as the site for the undergraduate ceremony, crackled with energy as graduates and their families and friends celebrated the culmination of their years as students at Arcadia.

In her address to the graduates, honorary degree recipient and author Ellen Schecter ’66 focused on a three-letter word beginning with the letter “j”– not “job,” which many graduates are undoubtedly intent on finding, but “joy.” Drawing from her memoir, Fierce Joy, which describes her journey living with an incurable, painful neurological disease, Schecter reminded graduates to focus on the joy that comes from within.

“I’m not talking about the pleasures of success of financial achievement,” said Schecter. “They’re external symbols of recognition. I’m talking about the deep joy that burbles up from an inner sense of accomplishment—from doing something you know has value.”

Schecter, a storied alumna of the University who has worked on iconic programs such as Reading Rainbow and The Magic School Bus, received an honorary Doctor of Letters during the ceremony. She closed her address by reminding graduates not to be overwhelmed with their next steps in life, but to think on a scale that is more feasible to how they can change the world.

“Don’t ask how you can save the world: Ask yourself what makes you come alive—and go do it. … Joy is available in abundance. It bubbles up all around us—but it’s likely to find us when we are doing something we love, something valuable, something uniquely our own. … Now go find what makes you feel alive—and use that to create your joy—fierce or quiet.”

President Nicolette DeVille Christensen noted the indelible marks the Class of 2014 has made on Arcadia University, and how the graduates in this class have now taken their rightful place in the annals of the 161-year-old institution.

“You leave here not only with a strong knowledge base but with the ability to adapt as fields and professions change daily around us,” President Christensen said. “For there is no one fixed way to live your life; instead, it is how you apply what you have learned here to your life. … You have opened your minds to the wonderful array of possibilities and opportunities life has to offer. You have learned to consider the perspective of others, to admire and to become curious. … You have been changed during your time at Arcadia. And in turn, you have had an impact on your university.

“Class of 2014,” she continued, “as you leave this campus, which has been your home for the past few years, I remind you that you are forever an Arcadian. And that you, as a member of the 158th graduating class, take your place in our historical community. … You will always have a place at Arcadia, whether at home or abroad. … You now belong to the history and legacy of this great institution.”

Arcadia’s close-knit community and esteemed faculty were cited repeatedly by graduates when they were asked what stood out most among their experiences as students.

“I’ve been blessed with having the most brilliant professors I could ever imagine learning from,” said Fizza Hasani, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. “I think that’s so important to get interested in your degree and to want to work hard, and they’ve really given me the tools and inspiration to get to where I wanted to be.” Hasani, who will continue at Arcadia in the fall in the University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program, looks forward to one day working with Doctors Without Borders.

The undergraduate ceremony followed Thursday’s graduate Commencement on Haber Green, which celebrated the conferring of degrees on more than 600 master’s and doctoral degree candidates. Philanthropist Geraldine “Gerri” Aaron, co-founder of the Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, received an honorary Doctor of Humanities and addressed graduates. Describing herself as “a businesswoman whose business is philanthropy,” Aaron recounted the story of how her late husband, Dan, emigrated to the United States from Germany in the 1930s to escape Nazi rule before becoming one of the founders of Comcast. In the midst of his successful career, Dan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, sparking the Aaron family’s dedication and extraordinary support for many organizations and programs that work to address the disease, including the Dan Aaron Stay Fit Clinic at Arcadia University in the Department of Physical Therapy, which assists and supports community residents with Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

Aaron, perhaps unknowingly setting a tone among the Arcadia Commencement speakers of words that begin with a particular letter, focused on four words that begin with the letter “C”—cooperation, collaboration, charity, and compassion.

“You graduates are so fortunate,” said Aaron. “You are already among the elite, having continued your education to this summit …. What I urge you to do at this new beginning is to learn to give back. Embark on humanitarian giving now. It may hurt at first, but oh, what a lovely feeling charity will become. And … always have compassion in your hearts. If you don’t, you will have the worst kind of heart trouble.”

President Emerita Bette Landman and Provost Emeritus Michael Berger also participated in the graduate Commencement, marching with University administration.

Andrew Lovley, who earned a Master of Arts in International Peace and Conflict Resolution, is looking forward to putting into action the education he received through Arcadia’s IPCR program.

“I want to figure out how people can live together and work as hard as I can to make that happen,” said Lovley, who hails from Winslow, Maine. “This program allowed me to work with some of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met; they truly want to improve the world, and it was an honor to be with them.”

The graduating classes showcased Arcadia’s leadership in study abroad, as nearly 400 students in the undergraduate ceremony—roughly three quarters of the class—had studied abroad during their time at Arcadia, while nearly 23 percent of those completing post-graduate study earned credits abroad, including all MBA candidates.

Special Award Recipients

John Arthur Doherty received the Senior Golden Disc Award, presented annually by the Arcadia University Alumni Association to a student with the highest standards of leadership in activities that enhance the quality of student life and demonstrates a lasting commitment to the welfare of the University.

Amber Weiner received the Ira R. Kraybill Award for Full-Time Study for the highest academic achievement in at least three years of full-time study at Arcadia, while Thomas Adamski received the Ira R. Kraybill Award for Part-Time Study.

Rose Coyne, president of the Class of 2014, presented the Class Gift of a scholarship for a member of the Class of 2018.

Dr. Angela Gillem, professor of psychology, earned the Professor of the Year Award, presented in conjunction with the national Professors of the Year Program jointly sponsored by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
A new award also was presented: The Michael L. Berger Faculty Scholars and Artists Prize went to Dr. Philip McClure, professor of physical therapy and director of post-professional programs.