Campus Life

Penn State announces spring 2018 commencement events and speakers

More than 13,000 students to receive Penn State degrees at ceremonies across Commonwealth

Corporate communication student Mary Harvilla stopped by the Penn State Lehigh Valley Lion Shrine for early commencement photos. Credit: Chris HefAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — This spring Penn State expects to award approximately 13,822 diplomas to students University-wide who are completing 226 associate, 11,379 baccalaureate, 1,553 master's, 266 law, 223 doctoral, 145 medical and 30 medical/graduate degrees.

All figures listed are estimates as of April 26; totals do not include Penn College.

Following is a compilation of commencement ceremonies and speaker information for Penn State’s 24 locations. Additional information about University Park commencement is available at

Penn State Abington

10 a.m. Friday, May 4, at Penn State Abington

Speaker: Farah Jiminez, president and chief executive officer, Philadelphia Education Fund

Farah Jiminez is at the forefront of the effort to ensure that every young person in Philadelphia has access to a high quality education that prepares them to succeed in college and careers. Jimenez’ nonprofit career spans nearly 20 years in executive management roles, leading agencies engaged in community revitalization, public and Indian housing, affordable housing development, and social services. Her policy work includes tenures as a gubernatorial appointee to the Pennsylvania Commission on Women and the Pennsylvania Homeless Education Task Force, as Board Member of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, and as the founder of a Visiting Scholars’ Program conducting research to inform policy impacting vulnerable families. 

Penn State Abington commencement information

Penn State Altoona

10 a.m. Saturday, May 5, Jaffa Shrine in Altoona

Speaker: Stephen G. Sheetz

Steve Sheetz is a native of Altoona, Pennsylvania, home to family-owned and -operated Sheetz, Inc. convenience stores. Sheetz began working in his brother Bob’s first Sheetz convenience store in 1960. Upon graduation from college, he worked in management of the Sheetz organization. He then served as president of Sheetz, Inc. from 1984-1995 and as chairman of the board from 1995-2013. He has been chairman of the Sheetz Family Council since 2013.

Penn State Beaver

7 p.m. Friday, May 4, at Penn State Beaver Student Union Building Auditorium

Speaker: Judge Deborah Lancos DeCostro, Beaver County Court of Common Pleas

Deborah DeCostro spent three decades as a family law attorney before being elected a Court of Common Pleas judge in 2017. She is only the second woman in the history of the county to hold that office. DeCostro has been involved with Beaver County Mock Trial, the Beaver County Bar Association, the Central Valley Education Foundation and the Neighborhood Legal Services. She also serves on the Catholic Charities, YMCA and Penn State Beaver advisory boards. She recently received Beaver's 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award.

Penn State Beaver commencement information

Penn State Berks

10 a.m. (EBC Division) and 2 p.m. (HASS and Science Division) Saturday, May 5, Perkins Plaza (Rain location: Beaver Community Center)

Speaker: Aniyia Williams, Penn State alumna

Aniyia Williams is a former student of Penn State Berks and University Park and a 2007 Penn State Schreyer Honors College graduate, and the founder of Tinsel, a tech jewelry start-up based in Silicon Valley.

Penn State Berks commencement information

Penn State Brandywine

10 a.m. Saturday, May 5, Penn State Brandywine Commons/Athletic Center

Speaker: Judge Nathaniel C. Nichols, Delaware County Court of Common Pleas

Nathaniel C. Nichols was elected to a 10-year judicial term in 2011 after practicing and teaching law for nearly 40 years. Nichols began his legal career at Delaware County Legal Assistance. He also maintained a private practice. He later became an associate professor at Widener University School of Law, where he taught creditor rights, property, and consumer bankruptcy; wrote a number of scholarly articles; and served as the associate dean of students.

Penn State Brandywine commencement information

Dickinson Law (Carlisle, Pennsylvania)

10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 12, at Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, Dickinson College

Speaker: Sharon R. López, Pennsylvania Bar Association president and Triquetra Law managing partner

Sharon López is the fourth woman president, the first Latina president and the second minority president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA). She is the first PBA president to have served as a staff attorney for a legal services office and the first attorney who is an alum of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Martin Luther King Jr. Internship Program. López has been recognized as one of the top 25 women lawyers in Pennsylvania by the Legal Intelligencer Journal; was named a “Pennsylvania Super Lawyer”; and was selected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to serve as a hearing committee member for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board.

Dickinson Law commencement information

Penn State DuBois

7 p.m., Friday, May 4, Campus Gymnasium

Speaker: Christine Beretsel, 1986 Penn State DuBois alumna and successful business leader; adjunct professor in finance at DeSales University

Penn State DuBois commencement information

Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

6:30 p.m., Friday, May 4, Erie Insurance Arena

Speakers: Alicyn Rhoades, class of 2001, assistant professor of engineering, Penn State Behrend School of Engineering, and Vincent J. Intrieri, class of 1984, founder and CEO of VDA Capital Management LLC and retired senior managing director of Icahn Capital LP

Alicyn Rhoades recently was honored by the National Science Foundation with a CAREER Award, the organization’s most prestigious recognition of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as role models in research and education.

In 2012, Vincent Intrieri and his wife, Joanne, gifted the initial $100,000 to create the Intrieri Family Student Managed Fund, a real-world portfolio overseen by Black School of Business students.

Penn State Behrend commencement information

Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus

10 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus

Speaker: Mark Kempic, chief transformation officer for NiSource

Mark Kempic has over 35 years of experience in the energy industry. He currently serves as chief transformation officer for NiSource, a leading natural gas and electric utility company, where he integrates processes and technology across the company’s seven-state footprint. He previously served as president of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania and Columbia Gas of Maryland. He holds an associate's degree in solar heating and cooling engineering from Penn State, a bachelor's degree in computer and information science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a law degree from Capital University School of Law.

Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus commencement information

Penn State Great Valley

7 p.m. Friday, May 4, Penn State Great Valley campus

Speaker: Patricia Woody Reeves, a thought leader, innovator, and community advocate, was the first woman to serve as the Machinery Research and Engineering Distinguished Senior Scientific Technical Manager at the NAVSEA Warfare Center. She also established key partnerships at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia, including efforts with Keystone Innovation Zone for electric power and energy technology initiatives with Penn State.

Penn State Great Valley commencement information

Penn State Greater Allegheny

11 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at Penn State Greater Allegheny’s Wunderley Gym

Speaker: Saleem Ghubril, executive director for The Pittsburgh Promise

Saleem Ghubril is a passionate advocate for children and the City of Pittsburgh. In 1985, he founded The Pittsburgh Project, a community development organization that provides renovations to hundreds of seniors each year. The Project also offers opportunities for mentorship and education to thousands of youth volunteers through meaningful community service. In 2008, he joined The Pittsburgh Promise, an organization that helps urban youth reach post-secondary success. Under Ghubril’s leadership, The Pittsburgh Promise has sent more than 8,000 urban youth to college and provided them with over $110 million in scholarships. Ghubril serves on the boards of The Buhl Foundation, Vibrant Pittsburgh, and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh while volunteering as a pastor for the Mosaic Community Church.

Penn State Greater Allegheny commencement information

Penn State Harrisburg

9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at The Giant Center, Hershey

Speaker: Madlyn L. Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor at Penn State

Madlyn L. Hanes has executive oversight for 20 campuses of Penn State. She joined the University in 1988 as the chief academic officer of Penn State Delaware County (now Penn State Brandywine). She has also served as chief executive officer of Penn State Great Valley and chancellor of Penn State Harrisburg. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English, master’s in speech-language pathology, and doctorate in curriculum and instruction, with a specialization in language and literacy development, from the University of Florida. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her community and organizational leadership, including Penn State’s Administrative Excellence Award, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Florida, and the Donna Shavlik Award for Advancing Women in Higher Education, presented by the American Council on Education.

Penn State Harrisburg commencement information

Penn State Hazleton

7 p.m. Friday, May 4, in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium of the Physical Education Building

Speaker: Carl Frankel, assistant professor of biology

Carl Frankel is retiring at the end of the academic year after a 44-year career at Penn State Hazleton, during which he taught courses in biology, human genetics, biochemistry, physiology and more. He instituted many new laboratory studies as part of science courses at Penn State Hazleton and has worked with several student groups as an adviser. Frankel is passionate about the outdoors, sustainability, outdoor recreation and art and is active in the Greater Hazleton community as a member of six local organizations, most notably as co-president of the Hazleton Art League.

Penn State Hazleton commencement information

Penn State Law (University Park)

10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 12, Eisenhower Auditorium

Speaker: The Honorable Wilma A. Lewis, Chief Judge, District Court of the Virgin Islands

Nominated for the court by former U.S. President Barack Obama, Lewis was confirmed by the Senate in June 2011 and became the first woman to serve as a federal district court judge in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She became chief judge in August 2013. Over her 37-year career, Lewis has served as inspector general of the Interior Department — the first African American to hold that position — and U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia — the first woman to hold that position. She has also worked in private practice for Steptoe & Johnson and Crowell & Moring. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College and a juris doctor from Harvard Law School.

Penn State Lehigh Valley

10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem

Speaker: Kassie Hilgert, CEO and president of ArtsQuest

Kassie Hilgert graduated from Salisbury High School before graduating from Penn State in 1997 where she majored in communications. Hilgert has been with ArtsQuest since 2008. In July 2014, following a national search, Hilgert was unanimously selected by the Board of Trustees to be the organization's second president and CEO. She has extensive experience in marketing, development, corporate communications and community relations. Prior to her arrival at ArtsQuest, she served as manager of community relations and philanthropy at Air Products and Chemicals. She has also worked at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, where she was the nonprofit's marketing manager, and began her career at Medstar Television.

Penn State Lehigh Valley commencement information

Penn State College of Medicine

1 p.m. Sunday, May 20, Hershey Lodge, Hershey, Pennsylvania

Speaker: Dr. Valerie Stone, chair of the Department of Medicine at Mount Auburn Hospital, and the Charles S. Davidson Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School

A primary care and infectious disease physician/educator and a nationally recognized expert in HIV/AIDS care, Stone oversees the Department of Medicine’s clinical activities and provides leadership to its educational endeavors. She has authored numerous scientific abstracts and publications on HIV/AIDS care and policy, is the first author of the 2009 book "HIV/AIDS in U.S. Communities of Color,” and has written extensively about innovations and challenges in residency education. Previously, Stone held positions as director of the Primary Care Residency Program and associate chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). She has served in national leadership positions in the American College of Physicians, the HIV Medicine Association and the Society of General Internal Medicine.

Penn State College of Medicine commencement information

Penn State Mont Alto

10 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at Penn State Mont Alto, Multipurpose Activities Center (MAC)

Speaker: Pedro A. Rivera, Pennsylvania secretary of education

Pedro A. Rivera was nominated to serve as the secretary of education by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe in 2015 and brings extensive experience in education to his role. He is a former superintendent of the School District of Lancaster, served as executive director for the School District of Philadelphia, and was also a classroom teacher and staff member for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. In 2014, the White House named Rivera a Champion of Change for his efforts to transform urban education. He is a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor of science from Penn State and master of education from Cheyney University. He earned his Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility from Arcadia University.

Penn State Mont Alto commencement information

Penn State New Kensington

10 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at Penn State New Kensington Athletic Center

Speaker: Michelle Wright, Emmy award-winning news anchor and reporter for WTAE-TV

Michelle Wright has been honored with three Regional Emmy Awards, a National Headliners Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award and honored by the Associated Press and the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasting. She has interviewed Oprah Winfrey, Sidney Crosby, Peter Jennings, Barbara Bush, President Jimmy Carter, and Mikhail Gorbachev, among others. She serves as the spokesperson, board member or emcee for Race for the Cure, Project Bundle Up, The Emmaus Community, National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI), the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Achieva. In addition to her work at WTAE-TV, Wright is an adjunct university professor, a contributing reporter for WQED, and a professional beekeeper. She is a 1987 graduate of Liberty University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in political science.

Penn State New Kensington commencement information

Penn State Schuylkill

10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at Penn State Schuylkill

Speaker:  John W. Hart, retired executive at Lehigh Valley Health Network

Distinguished business leader John W. Hart retired this year after an illustrious three-decade career with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). Most recently, he served as LVHN’s senior vice president of medical operations where he oversaw the departments of Physician and Executive Recruiting, Health Information Management, the Network Office of Research and Innovation and the Department of Education in addition to Medical Staff Services.

Penn State Schuylkill commencement information

Penn State Shenango

11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at Penn State Shenango

Speaker:  William E. Casey, Owner of Warren Glass & Paint

William Casey graduated from Penn State with a bachelor of arts degree in social welfare. He attended the Shenango campus his first two years and, following graduation from the University Park campus, returned to Shenango where he completed post-graduate undergraduate courses in accounting. From 1974 to 1983, Casey was a minority owner of J & R Paint and Glass Company in Warren, Ohio. In 1983, he purchased Warren Glass & Paint, which has grown from 5 employees and approximately $300 thousand in sales annually, to 38 employees and over $8.1 million in sales in 2017.

Penn State Shenango commencement information

Penn State Wilkes-Barre

10 a.m. Saturday, May 5th, at Penn State Wilkes-Barre

Speaker: Lance Bush, president and CEO of Challenger Center

Lance Bush has led the growth and expansion of Challenger Center’s education programs, specifically the development of a simulation-based program that can be delivered in the classroom. Under Bush’s leadership, Challenger Center was recognized with the National Science Board’s Public Service Award for its work to promote a public understanding of science and engineering. He began his career at NASA as one of the chief engineers designing the next generation of space transportation. Bush managed the International Space Station Commercial Development program and co-founded and served as the chairman of the International Space Station Multilateral Commercialization Group.

Penn State Wilkes-Barre commencement information

Penn State Worthington Scranton

2 p.m. Saturday, May 5, Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple

Speaker:  William W. Scranton III

Penn State Worthington Scranton commencement information

Penn State York

6 p.m., Friday, May 4, at Penn State York, Pullo Family Performing Arts Center (The Pullo Center)

Speaker:  David W. Chown, chancellor of Penn State York

David W. Chown has served the campus and the University since February 2013 , and will be retiring as chancellor effective Aug. 1. Prior to coming to Penn State, he held the position of chief academic officer and senior vice president for the residential university of Upper Iowa University. Under Chown’s leadership at York, the campus added new four-year majors, signed an articulation agreement with Harrisburg Area Community College, and expanded The Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies. The Graham Center expansion, expected to be completed in 2019, includes a new home for the center, and a variety of new opportunities for students interested in gaining knowledge concerning entrepreneurial leadership and economic development.

Penn State York commencement information

Pennsylvania College of Technology

May 11-13, Community Arts Center, Williamsport

3 p.m. Friday, May 11 — School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies and School of Sciences, Humanities & Visual Communications

Speaker: Hanna Jo Williams, of Marion, New York, who will be awarded a bachelor’s degree in industrial and human factors design and an associate degree in studio arts.

10 a.m. Saturday, May 12 — School of Construction & Design Technologies and School of Health Sciences

Speaker: Glendalis Guadarrama, of Avondale, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 12 —School of Business & Hospitality and School of Transportation & Natural Resources Technologies

Speaker: Alexandra M. Lehman, of Williamsport, will receive a bachelor’s degree in business administration: sport and event management.

Penn College commencement information

Penn State University Park

College of Agricultural Sciences

3:30 p.m., Sunday, May 6, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: David L. Denlinger, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Ohio State University

After growing up on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Denlinger received a bachelor's degree in entomology and zoology from Penn State and a doctorate in entomology from the University of Illinois. He joined the Ohio State faculty in 1976 and served as chair of the Department of Entomology from 1994 to 2005. Denlinger has studied insect survival in harsh environments and has been a leading researcher on insect diapause — a physiological state similar to hibernation. Although now retired, he maintains an active laboratory studying insect overwintering, cold hardiness and reproductive physiology. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Denlinger was named a Penn State Alumni Fellow in 2006 and a College of Agricultural Sciences Outstanding Alumnus in 2005.

College of Arts and Architecture

Noon, Saturday, May 5, Eisenhower Auditorium

Speaker: Andrew Ahr, graduating College of Arts and Architecture student

Andrew J. Ahr will graduate from Penn State this May with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Throughout his collegiate career, Ahr has served in many academic affair organizations, including the University Park Undergraduate Association, University Faculty Senate, and Administrative Council on Undergraduate Education. In 2016, he was named to the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, where he has overseen policies, principles, and programs in higher education. His research interests are in Antarctic and Arctic architecture, embassy design, and territory border conditions. After graduation, Ahr will join IKM Incorporated, a cross-disciplinary planning and design firm in Pittsburgh.

Smeal College of Business

9 a.m. Sunday, May 6, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: Scott Tarriff, president and CEO of Eagle Pharmaceuticals

A 1981 Smeal College of Business graduate in marketing, Scott Tarriff has been a leader in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 25 years. Tarriff founded Eagle Pharmaceuticals, which discovers and develops new formulations to make medicines more convenient and faster to use, in 2007. Prior to founding Eagle, Tarriff held several key executive-level positions at publicly traded companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Par Pharmaceutical. He quickly ascended through the ranks at Bristol-Myers Squibb prior to joining Par. He currently sits on the board of directors of Synthetic Biologics, Inc., Ziopharm Oncology, Inc., Hackensack Meridian Health, and Hackensack University Medical Center. In 2016, he received the prestigious Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in the Specialty Pharmaceutical category, New Jersey. The award recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in areas such as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Noon Saturday, May 5, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: Mike Marcus, head of management, Echo Lake Entertainment

Mike Marcus, a 1967 Penn State alumnus, has built a career that spans more than 50 years in the entertainment industry in a variety of roles, including agent, consultant, producer, talent manager and president/CEO. He started his career in the mailroom of a Hollywood talent agency in 1968 and was promoted to agent by the end of that year. Through the years, at a variety of agencies, including the legendary firm CAA and another in which he was a partner, his clients have included Mel Brooks, Tom Cruise, John Landis, Carl Reiner and Robin Williams, among others. 

College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

8 p.m. Friday, May 4, Pegula Ice Arena

Speaker: The Honorable Kathleen A. "Katie" McGinty

McGinty has had an i