Campus Life

Penn State announces spring 2009 commencement ceremonies and speakers

Through the end of the fall 2008 semester, Penn State has conferred a total of 631,150 degrees. As of May 18 the University's total number of graduates should approach 643,000.

This spring Penn State expects to award approximately 10,875 diplomas to students University-wide who are completing 588 associate, 8,627 baccalaureate, 1,083 master's, 131 medical, 212 law and 234 doctoral degrees.

At University Park, seven students will receive associate degrees, while 6,965 will be awarded baccalaureate degrees. Approximately 709 master's degree students are expected to graduate, as are 234 doctoral degree candidates.

Following is a compilation of commencement ceremonies and speaker information for Penn State's 24 campuses. Additional information is available online at

Penn College
Community Arts Center, Williamsport
-- 3 p.m. Friday, May 15, for graduates in the Schools of Industrial and Engineering Technologies, Integrated Studies and Natural Resources Management;
-- 10 a.m. Saturday, May 16, for graduates in the Schools of Construction and Design Technologies and Health Sciences;
-- 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16, for graduates in the Schools of Business and Computer Technologies, Hospitality and Transportation Technology.
Speakers: faculty and students

Penn State Abington
10 a.m. Friday, May 15, Athletic Building
Speaker: Joan Robbins '71
Robbins is senior vice president, talent & production, for Entertainment Studios, a production company founded in 1993 by Chairman and CEO Byron Allen. Robbins oversees all of the studio's East Coast production and is involved in all phases of the studio's 15 series and various specials on both coasts. She has received a Clio Award, three Broadcasters Promotion Association BPA Awards and a nomination for a local Emmy Award in Los Angeles. Robbins majored in communications and spent her first year at Penn State Abington before transferring to the University Park campus to complete her degree. She has interviewed a variety of public officials including Secretary of State Colin Powell, Senator Ted Kennedy and back in 2004 a little-known Senator named Barack Obama, and played golf on the stage of the Mike Douglas Show with a little 4-year-old named Tiger Woods.

Penn State Altoona
Saturday, May 9, 11 a.m. at the Blair County Convention Center;
Speaker: John Romano
Romano is vice president for Commonwealth Campuses at The Pennsylvania State University, which includes academic and administrative leadership for 19 undergraduate campuses across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and chairs the Council of Campus Chancellors. He has been a leader in general education, having served as an executive council member, executive director and president of the Association for General and Liberal Studies, a national organization committed to undergraduate general education reform and innovation.

Penn State Beaver
7 p.m. Friday, May 15, Auditorium, Student Union Building
Speaker: Debra Todd
Todd, a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, was first elected to the court as a Democrat in a partisan election in 2007. Her current term expires in 2017.

Penn State Berks
10 a.m., Saturday, May 16, 10 a.m., Beaver Community Center
Speaker: Judith Schwank '72, '82g
Schwank, president and CEO of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, received bachelor's and master's degrees in agricultural education from Penn State as well as continuing education at Harvard University. Her interest in a more prosperous and sustainable Pennsylvania has taken her to leadership roles in government and the nonprofit world. She served as Berks County Commissioner from 2000 to 2007 and as the county's extension director and county agricultural agent from August 1991 to December 1999. Her focus in county government was the improvement of service to taxpayers with a focus on regional cooperation. At 10,000 Friends she has worked to expand the organization's outreach to communities throughout the Commonwealth with a focus on sustainable development that allows municipalities to better plan their growth.

Penn State Brandywine
10 a.m., Saturday, May 16, Commons Building
Speaker: Joanne Finegan '83
Finegan is CEO of ReMed Recovery Care Center, a rehabilitation and long-term care center in Paoli, Pa., for those with acquired brain injuries. She is a member of the Penn State Brandywine advisory board.

Penn State College of Medicine
1 p.m. Sunday, May 17, Founders Hall, Milton Hershey School
Speaker: Risa Lavizzo-Mourey
Lavizzo-Mourey is president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She was a leader in academic medicine, government service and her medical specialty of geriatrics before joining the Foundation in 2001 as senior vice president and director of the health care group. Previously, she was the Sylvan Eisman Professor of medicine and health care systems and director of Penn's Institute on Aging. In Washington, D.C., she was deputy administrator of what is now the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. She holds a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, and still treats patients at a community health clinic in New Brunswick, N.J.

Penn State Dickinson School of Law
2 p.m. Saturday, May 9, Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
Speaker: Lewis Katz DSL '66
Katz, a 1966 alumnus of the Dickinson School of Law and former member of its board of trustees, is of counsel to Katz, Ettin & Levine, the law firm he founded in Cherry Hill, N.J., and also is director of the Katz Foundation. Katz is an owner of the New Jersey Nets and a member of the board of governors of the National Basketball Association. He is a shareholder in the New York Yankees and a former owner of the New Jersey Devils hockey team. In each of those enterprises, he pledged a share of team profits to benefit inner-city youth. Katz made an unprecedented $15 million gift to the Law School, one of the single largest acts of philanthropy in Penn State's history. In recognition of his extraordinary efforts on behalf of the Law School, the University has named its new building at University Park the Lewis Katz Building and designated the new signature addition to the Law School's Carlisle facilities as Lewis Katz Hall. Katz serves on the board of trustees of the National Constitution Center; Temple University, his alma mater; and the board of governors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; and recently accepted an appointment to the board of visitors at Columbia Medical School.

Penn State DuBois
2 p.m., Saturday, May 16, Gymnasium
Speaker: Michael Singer
Singer, a former Penn State DuBois student who won the campus award in American literature in 1991, completed medical training as well as a doctoral degree in neuroscience from Yale University completed his internal medicine internship and residency in ophthalmology through Harvard Medical School. He serves a senior translational medical expert with Novartis Biomedical Institutes and an active licensed physician in Massachusetts. He has won the Harvard Biotechnology Competition in 2005 and Harvard's Grimes Prize in 2008 and was a 2005 finalist in the MIT 50K Entrepreneurship Competition. He has been invited to study or practiced medicine in Haiti, Mexico, the Navajo Nation, Pakistan and Brazil, and was a predoctoral fellow at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science and, as an undergraduate, a scientific visitor at Germany's European Molecular Biology Laboratory.

Penn State Erie, The Behrend College
2 p.m., Saturday, May 16, Louis J. Tullio Arena
Speaker: Thomas B. Hagen
Hagen is chairman of the board of the Erie Insurance Group companies and chairman/owner of Custom Group Industries in Erie. A former CEO of Erie Insurance, he spent more than 40 years with the Erie-based Fortune 500 company, starting as a part-time file clerk while he was a student at Penn State Behrend. Hagen is a 1988 Alumni Fellow and a member of and former chair of the college's Council of Fellows. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Sam and Irene Black School of Business and sits on the Penn State Behrend 60th Anniversary Committee. He and his wife, Susan Hirt Hagen, also serve on the advisory board of the college's Institute on the American Dream. He was asked to deliver the address in honor of the college's 60th anniversary year.

Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus
10 a.m. Saturday, May 16, Penn State Fayette Community Center
Speaker: Douglas J. Leech Jr.
Leech is founder, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Centra Financial Holdings Inc., and Centra Bank Inc., in Morgantown, W.V., formed in 1999 as a community-centered banking company. Centra, a billion-dollar banking company, has been identified as the fastest growing bank in West Virginia, and has achieved a national ranking of third for growth and success of all banks started in the United States since 1999. In 2007 and 2008, both Entrepreneur and Inc. magazines ranked Centra Bank as a top performer in their respective lists of the nation's fastest-growing companies. Leech is an honors graduate of Penn State and has been a member of the board of directors of the University's Schreyer Honors College since 2003. In 2008, Leech was presented the Outstanding Alumnus of Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus Award.

Penn State Great Valley
7 p.m. Friday, May 15, on the grounds of the Penn State Great Valley campus
Speaker: Dennis LeStrange
LeStrange is president and CEO of Neopost Neopost North America and chief operating officer of Neopost S.A. for North America. Neopost is the European leader and No. 2 worldwide supplier of mailing solutions, providing technologically advanced solutions for franking, folding/inserting and addressing as well as logistics management and traceability. Prior to his appointment at Neopost in June 2008, LeStrange was a principal at Strategy Development, a consulting firm specializing in the document imaging industry. In addition, he and his wife, Lisa, founded Lucky Duck Toys, a specialty toy business with two locations in the Greater Philadelphia area, in 2004. LeStrange has a bachelor of science degree in accounting and business administration from Empire State College/SUNY Binghamton. He serves as chair of the Penn State Great Valley advisory board.

Penn State Greater Allegheny
11 a.m. Saturday, May 16, Wunderley Gymnasium
Speaker: James B. Stewart
Stewart is a professor of labor studies and employment relations, African and African American studies, and management and organization at Penn State. He previously served as the University's vice provost for educational equity. He joined the Penn State faculty in 1980 as an assistant professor of economics and director of the black studies program. He has an undergraduate degree in mathematics, a master's degree in economics from Cleveland State University and a doctorate in economics from the University of Notre Dame. Stewart joined the Penn State Greater Allegheny faculty in 2001 after 22 years at University Park. He is also the chairman of the board of Blueroof Technologies, a not-for-profit organization that has initiated a major redevelopment effort in a McKeesport neighborhood focusing on the provision of smart housing for the elderly and disabled.

Penn State Harrisburg
9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 16, Giant Center, 950 W. Hersheypark Drive, Hershey.
Speaker: David C. Han '88, 05g
Han, president of the Penn State Alumni Association through June 30, 2009, is a vascular surgeon at the Hershey Medical Center, associate professor of surgery and radiology and program director of the Vascular Surgery Fellowship at the Penn State College of Medicine and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Han earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Penn State in 1988, and his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1992. He completed his training in vascular surgery at the Mayo Clinic in 1999 before joining the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Han went on complete a master's degree in health evaluation sciences from the Penn State College of Medicine in 2005.

Penn State Hazleton
7 p.m. Friday, May 15, Physical Education Building
Speaker: Jennifer Hopkins '84
Hopkins, a certified public accountant, is president of the Sustainable Energy Fund, located in Allentown. She is a new member of the Hazleton Educational Council and the campus advisory board, and was a founding member of the Penn State Hazleton Alumni Society. She attended Penn State Hazleton before earning her baccalaureate degree in accounting from Penn State at the University Park campus.

Penn State Lehigh Valley
11 a.m. Saturday, May 16, (rain or shine), West Garden, Fogelsville campus
Speaker: Helen Thomas
Thomas, an American news service reporter, Hearst newspaper columnist and member of the White House Press Corps, has covered every president since John F. Kennedy and was the first female officer of the National Press Club.

Penn State Mont Alto
10 a.m. Saturday, May 16, gymnasium, Multipurpose Activities Center
Speaker: Greg Hoover
Hoover is superintendent of Greencastle-Antrim School District in Greencastle, Pa., and a former student at Penn State Mont Alto.

Penn State New Kensington
10 a.m. Saturday, May 16, in the Athletic Center
Speaker: Jimmy Williams
Williams, director of product strategy and applications, Military and Defense Sector, at Alcoa technical Center, joined Alcoa in 2002 as director of development for the world's largest light-metals research facility. Two years later he was appointed to his present position and initiated and developed Alcoa's first integrated defense market strategy and growth initiatives. He manages the resources and collaborative processes that focus on creating innovative solutions and products that can be rapidly developed and deployed for military air, land and sea segments. Williams holds a doctorate of science degree in engineering and policy from Washington University, a master's of business administration in marketing and management from Lindenwood College and a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University.

Penn State Schuylkill
10 a.m. Saturday, May 16, Campus Green
Speaker: James T. Gallagher '73
Gallagher, superintendent of the Pottsville Area School District, is a former Penn State Schuylkill student who graduated from Penn State with an undergraduate degree in education. His career in education spans 36 years in the Pottsville Area School District, first as a teacher of accounting and mathematics at Pottsville Area High School. In 1981 he became vice principal of the D.H.H. Lengel Middle School. In 1987 he was named principal of Pottsville Area High School, and in 1993 became superintendent of schools.

Penn State Shenango
Time: 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 15, Penn State Shenango Auditorium
Speaker: Thomas R. Tulip
Tulip is executive director of the Mercer County Regional Council of Governments.

Penn State University Park:

College of Agricultural Sciences
9 a.m., Saturday, May 16, Eisenhower Auditorium
Speaker: Robert Steele
Steele is dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. He is stepping down after 12 years to return full-time to the college's faculty as a professor in the Department of Food Science.

College of Arts and Architecture
noon, Saturday, May 16, Eisenhower Auditorium
Speaker: Jessica Weiner '95,
Weiner is an author, self-esteem expert and chief creative officer of Talk to Jess LLC.

Smeal College of Business
1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 17, Bryce Jordan Center
Speaker: Shelly Lazarus
Lazurus, chairwoman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, began her career with Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide as an account executive. She progressed through numerous promotions to become president of the company's advertising headquarters in New York in 1991; president of Ogilvy North America in 1994, chief executive officer (CEO) of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide in 1996 and finally CEO and chairwoman, a title she has held since 1997. In January 2009 she stepped down as CEO of the company. As chairwoman and CEO, Lazurus expanded the company's practice of brand building by encouraging a cross-disciplinary approach to public communications. She has been named Advertising Woman of the Year, received a Distinguished Leadership Award from Columbia Business School and has been listed in Fortune magazine's annual rankings of the 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business since its inception in 1998. Lazarus will receive an honorary degree during the afternoon's commencement ceremony.

College of Communications
noon, Saturday, May 16, Bryce Jordan Center
Speaker: Eric W. Rabe
Rabe is senior vice president of media relations for Verizon.

College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
8 p.m., Friday, May 15, Eisenhower Auditorium
Speaker: Timothy Killeen
Killeen is assistant director for the geosciences, National Science Foundation, where he oversees the Geosciences directorate, which supports research in the atmospheric, earth and ocean sciences, including climate processes and changes, the water cycle and natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and severe storms. Prior to that he served as director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and as professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences, associate vice president for research, and director of the Space Physics Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan. Killeen also serves as president of the American Geophysical Union since 2006 and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

College of Education
6 p.m., Saturday, May 16, Eisenhower Auditorium
Speaker: Sharon P. Robinson
Robinson is president and CEO for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). Previously, she was president of the Educational Testing Service's Educational Policy Leadership Institute (ETS), where she also served as senior vice president and chief operating officer, as well as vice president for teaching and learning and for state and federal relations. Before joining ETS, Robinson was assistant secretary of education with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement. She also held a variety of leadership positions at the National Education Association (NEA). Robinson received her doctorate in educational administration and supervision from the University of Kentucky, where she also earned her bachelor's and master's degrees. A lifelong civil rights activist, Robinson has waged a personal crusade to realize the nation's moral and professional responsibility to educate and maximize the potential of minority and disabled students.

College of Engineering
8 p.m., Friday, May 15, Bryce Jordan Center
Speaker: Gregory T. Lucier
Lucier serves as chief executive officer of Life Technologies and chairman of the company's board of directors. Previously he served as chairman and chief executive officer of Invitrogen Corporation, which merged with Applied Biosystems in November 2008 to form Life Technologies. The company is one of the largest providers of systems, biological reagents, and services supplying scientists around the world in every way that life science technologies are applied. Life Technologies aims to improve the human condition by fostering basic research, accelerating drug discovery and development, and advancing scientific exploration in areas such as regenerative science, molecular diagnostics, agricultural and environmental research, and 21st-century forensics.

College of Health and Human Development and School of Nursing
3 p.m., Saturday, May 16, Bryce Jordan Center
Speaker: George Koob '69
Koob, professor at The Scripps Research Institute, is one of the world's foremost authorities on the neurobiology of drug addiction and stress. As a devoted researcher and educator, he has discovered and disseminated a wealth of information that has revolutionized our understanding of complex ideas such as what makes people vulnerable to drug addiction and how drug addiction alters the brain. After receiving his bachelor degree in zoology from Penn State in 1969 and his doctoral degree in behavioral physiology from Johns Hopkins in 1972, Koob set to work researching full-time -- first in the Department of Neurophysiology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; later with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies; and from that point, his research has continued in professorial roles. Koob will receive an honorary degree during the afternoon's commencement ceremony.

College of Information Sciences and Technology
3 p.m., Saturday, May 16, Eisenhower Auditorium
Speaker: Mike Laphen '72
As president and chief executive officer of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), Laphen is responsible for the effective execution of CSC's business plan and for ensuring operational excellence in the delivery of services to clients around the globe. All CSC industry, geographic, and line-of-service organizations report to him. Laphen assumed the CEO duties on May 21, 2007. Laphen joined CSC in 1977 and has held numerous senior positions that have provided him a comprehensive mix of technical, financial and general management experiences in diverse commercial, public sector and international markets. Before being named president and chief operating officer in April 2003, he served as the chief executive of CSC's European Group. Laphen earned his bachelor of science degree in business from Penn State and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He served in the U.S. Air Force and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

College of the Liberal Arts
6 p.m., Saturday, May 16, Bryce Jordan Center; May 16
Speaker: Nina Jablonski
Jablonski, professor and head of Penn State's Department of Anthropology, conducts research on diverse studies on primate and human evolution, especially on adaptations to changing environments through time. Her research involves paleontological fieldwork in sites in Asia and Africa and analysis of fossil remains, as well as theoretical studies exploring the hidden aspects of human evolution not preserved in the fossil record. Her most recent book is an edited volume with paleontologist Meave Leakey on the fossil monkeys of the famous Koobi Fora fossil site in Kenya. Another book, "Skin: A Natural History," has been featured in National Geographic, Scientific American and other popular media including The Colbert Report show. It also was recognized with the W.W. Howells Award of the American Anthropological Association for best book in biological anthropology for 2007. Jablonski is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Eberly College of Science
9 a.m., Saturday, May 16, Bryce Jordan Center
Speakers: Vance and Vincent Moss '94
Twin brothers Vance and Vincent Moss received bachelor's degrees in science from Penn State in 1994. They furthered their education at Temple Medical School where they developed a science mentorship program for underprivileged children. While in medical residency, the brothers volunteered for the Army Reserve Medical Corps and were permitted to defer service until their residencies were completed. They served in Operation Enduring Freedom, providing medical care to villagers outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, and earned the name "Dogonogay" (same face healers) from locals. Working under flashlights and around sniper fire, the doctors performed surgical procedures on hundreds of locals throughout the Afghan countryside. For these acts they earned many medals of achievement, including the Global War on Terror Achievement Medal. The brothers completed a tour of service in Iraq in May 2008, where their medical treatment focused on soldiers and marines, and were awarded the Army Commendation Medal upon their return. Vance Moss is a renal transplant surgeon and Vincent Moss is a cardiothoracic surgeon in private practice in New Jersey, and both are attending doctors at Crozer Chester Medical Center.

The Graduate School
5 p.m., Sunday, May 17, Bryce Jordan Center;
Speaker: Bruce McPheron
McPheron is associate dean for research and graduate education, director of the Pennsylvania Experiment Station and incoming dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

ROTC Commissioning
3 p.m. Friday, May 15, Schwab Auditorium
Speaker: Rear Admiral John Terence Blake, United States Navy
Blake is deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget and director of Fiscal Division N82.

Schreyer Honors College Medals Ceremony
5 p.m. Friday, May 15, Eisenhower Auditorium

Penn State Wilkes-Barre
10 a.m. Saturday, May 16, Athletics and Recreation Building
Speaker: Lori Nocito '86
In addition to being the executive director of Leadership Wilkes-Barre, Nocito is the chairperson of the Pittston Tomato Festival, the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce Women's Network, co-chairperson of Coats/Shoes for Kids, member of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, member of the Luzerne County Head Start Board of Directors, member of the Luzerne County Law and Library Association Lay Advisory Board, member of the Luzerne County Cultural Council, Circle 200 and the International Leadership Association. She is a 2003 graduate of Leadership Wilkes-Barre, past member of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce, YMCA and Salvation Army Board of Directors. She was recently named one of the "Top 25 Women in Business" by the Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal. She earned a bachelor of science degree in marketing from