WILKES-BARRE — Wilkes University’s undergraduate spring commencement Saturday was filled with messages of hope, love and fulfillment.
University President Patrick Leahy addressed the Class of 2018 — nearly 400 strong — by comparing the event at the McHale Athletic Center to another big occasion taking place in Britain.
“What a fantastic ceremony this is. We have men in uniform. We have beautiful music. We have an enthusiastic crowd and we’re live-streaming this all over the world. I would argue that the royal wedding has got nothing on us,” he said, drawing an abundance of laughter from the audience.
Leahy’s address centered around both parents and students alike. He explained that a parent is not only a source of support and love, but also acts as a student’s first teacher.
Making a reference to the movie “Shawshank Redemption,” Leahy told the graduating class to envision a new form of hope for themselves. Do this, he said, by working in a field that you truly love — despite what others might say. He also asked the grads to serve others and protect their relationships.
Faculty Affairs Council chairman and political science professor Andrew Miller called upon the Class of 2018 to be free thinkers.
“Now more than ever the world needs you to think for yourselves, to investigate and to question,” he said. “As you graduate and go out into the world, take what you have learned here and make the world a better place.”
Graduate and student government president Cody Morcom told his classmates to do everything they want in life so that years down the road they aren’t left wondering “what if.”
Heavily involved in extracurricular activities, Morcom was awarded with the Alumni Leadership Award. The award is bestowed upon the class member who is believed to have made the strongest contributions to student life and activities at the university.
“Take every opportunity you have to further yourself outside your career path. Ensure that when you’re 85 years old sitting on a beach in Florida reminiscing about your life, you never have to question ‘what if,’” he offered as his best advice.
Earning her alumni induction at the ceremony, 1971 Wilkes graduate and Board of Trustees member Ellen Stamer Hall spoke about her own time as a student, telling the class to take chances and find their passions in life.
Several other students were presented with awards as follows:
• Scranton resident Nancy Ramirez was presented with the Theresa Jordan and Frank Mehm Prize. Voted on by a committee, the prize is awarded to a student who proves the epitome of an undergraduate who reflects courage, faith, optimism and more.
• Kelly Kempa, James Steigerwalt, Amanda Bialek, Cassidy Clement, Joshua Evans, Daniel Frack, Sarah Hughes, Steven Lee and Cassandra Papp were all given Mable Scott Wandell and Sterling Leroy Wandell awards for achieving the highest grade-point averages in their class throughout their time as Wilkes University students.
• U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Hartman presented five graduates with pins for their work in the Air Force Armed Forces Reserve. The students: Theodore Dennis, Sawyer Guard, Alexander Harrington, Jordan Lindley and Thomas Swain.