Mansfield University Celebrates 154th Spring Commencement

MANSFIELD, PA Two hundred sixty-four students received degrees at Mansfield University’s 154th Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 4 at a packed Decker Gymnasium.

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education Chancellor Daniel Greenstein delivered this year’s keynote address.  Greenstein took over as Chancellor of the system on September 4, 2018. The commencement ceremony marked his third visit to Mansfield since he started his tenure. “I’m inspired by the grit and determination, the tenacity, and the outstanding commitment to quality of this university community,” Greenstein said.  “It is an enduring community committed to its students, committed to the region, committed to giving back, to making the region and our Commonwealth better.”

Greenstein then recognized the paths of three members of the class of 2019.  Brittany Hall, who earned a BS in Geosciences, Kiana Acorn-Lopez, BS in Math and Computer Information Systems, and Hank Gontarz, BS in Computer Information Systems. “Brittany, Kiana, and Hank are all special people. Each overcame his or her own set of challenges. They dug in, went to work, and got the job done. They persevered. They grew as individuals. They succeeded. They are and they reflect the enduring spirit, the grit, the determination, the emphasis on quality and great outcomes that is Mansfield University,” he continued.

“Now, to the reason why we’re here on this glorious day – to recognize each and every member of the graduating class. Today is your day to celebrate. I am so proud of you. I hope you are proud of yourselves. You should be. You deserve to be. You have achieved something most people in the world have not; you’ve earned a college degree, and you’re ready to put it to work,” he continued.

Greenstein concluded, “You’re ready to go out into the world and succeed; for yourselves and for your family.  And I have every confidence you’re ready to help make the world a better place. You’ve already demonstrated that you finish what you start; that you don’t let obstacles prevent you from achieving your dreams.  You’re ready to take on the world. You are ready to begin paying it forward. You will know how. You’ll know when. How do I know that? Because that is the spirit and the gift of Mansfield gradsBut that’s for tomorrow. Right now, savor this moment. Enjoy this special time with your friends and families.”

Earlier, Dr. Gretchen Sechrist, Chair of the Psychology Department and Grand Marshall of the ceremony introduced the University’s Interim President Peter Fackler. Fackler has served as Interim President since August 2018. He will continue in the Interim role until July 1st when Dr. Charles Patterson takes the helm as the University’s 28th President.

Fackler told the graduates, “While we often think of Commencement as the end of college, the ceremony is more clearly understood as being about beginnings, the tomorrows you will live. Graduates, we wish you well in all you do. We wish for you career success, personal fulfillment, and a lifetime of services to your communities. We hope that you will remain a part of the Mansfield University family forever, wherever you may be.”  Fackler concluded, “Be true to yourself, we believe in you.  We are confident you find your way forward from this place, and we wish you the very, very best.”

Mr. Bryan Lane ’88, Vice President, Mansfield University Alumni Association Board of Directors, delivered this year’s Alumni greeting and advice for their future.  He closed with a quote from the Velveteen  Rabbit, “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Olga Bilardi of Roaring Brook Township, PA was named this year’s Outstanding Senior. She graduates with a BS in Psychology with dual concentrations in Lifespan Development and Counseling.

Olga was born in Bryansk, Russia, and was adopted by her mom and dad when she was an infant.  She has been involved in many student organizations and held officer positions with Psychology Club, Psi Chi, and  Community Service. She interned at the Wallenpaupack Area School District, under the supervision of two school psychologists and the director of special education. 

Students receiving degrees were then presented by Provost John Ulrich and Deans Joshua Battin and Kathy Wright.

The Council of Trustees were represented by COT Chairman Bobbie Kilmer, Vice Chairman Steve Crawford, Secretary Patrick Henderson who introduced Chancellor Greenstein, and members Susan Kefover, Karen Russell, Aaron Singer, and Bruce Vickery.  Vice President of Finance and Administration Kathryn Crossin and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Frank Crofchik joined them on the platform. 

The Mountaineer Brass Band conducted by Dr. Nathan Rinnert, provided musical accompaniment for the event. Rosemary Wargo was the soloist for the Star Spangled Banner.  Campus Minister Mara Wilcox delivered the invocation. Professor Scott Davis served as Herald.