Penn State announces spring 2017 commencement events and speakers

Penn State Commencement, Agricultural Sciences, Dec. 2016

Graduates in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences waved to family and friends after receiving their diplomas at commencement ceremonies held at the Bryce Jordan Center on the morning of Dec. 17, 2016.

Credit: Patrick Mansell

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — This spring Penn State expects to award 13,894 diplomas to students University-wide who are completing 226 associate, 11,435 baccalaureate, 1,590 master’s, 262 law, 244 doctoral and 137 medical degrees, bringing the University’s number of graduates to an estimated total of more than 802,436.

At University Park, 8,500 students will be awarded baccalaureate degrees. Approximately 1,037 master’s degree students are expected to graduate, as are 227 doctoral degree candidates.

All figures listed are estimates as of April 18; 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 5, at Penn State Abington

Speaker: Lawrence Otis Graham, attorney and New York Times best-selling author

Graham is an attorney in New York and a New York Times best-selling author of 14 books on race, class, education and diversity in America. His book “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class” is in its 30th printing, and Netflix is developing the book into a series. He is a frequent commentator on race and class in America on programs such as "Charlie Rose," "Good Morning America," "Hardball with Chris Matthews," and "The Today Show."

Penn State Abington commencement information

Penn State Altoona

10 a.m. Saturday, May 6, Jaffa Shrine, Altoona

Speaker: Tom Baker, founder and chief program officer of Get Involved! Inc.

Baker is the president of Baker Leadership and author of three books. Get Involved! is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers young leaders through the annual Pittsburgh Service Summit, Fast Track Community Leadership program, Power Hour series, and Student Empowership Conference. Baker also hosts two television programs on Pittsburgh Community Television and Moon Community Access Television.

Penn State Altoona commencement information

Penn State Beaver

7 p.m. Friday, May 5, Student Union Building Auditorium

Speaker: Mia Aquino, social and digital media strategist

Aquino, who attended the Beaver campus, has worked with leading entertainment, media and news brands — including VH1, CNN and the Huffington Post — crafting social media strategy, building community engagement, growing audiences and spearheading partnerships.

Penn State Beaver commencement information

Penn State Berks

10 a.m. (EBC Division) and 2 p.m. (HASS and Science Division) Saturday, May 6, Perkins Plaza (Rain location: Beaver Community Center)

Speaker: Pedro A. Rivera, Pennsylvania secretary of education

Rivera was appointed to serve as the Pennsylvania secretary of education by Gov. Tom Wolf and confirmed unanimously by the state Senate in 2015. A lifelong educator, Rivera most recently served as superintendent of the School District of Lancaster, a position he held from 2008 to 2015. Prior to serving as superintendent of the School District of Lancaster, he was a classroom teacher; staff member with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; and assistant principal, principal and executive director for the School District of Philadelphia. 

Penn State Berks commencement information

Penn State Brandywine

10 a.m. Saturday, May 6, Commons/Athletic Center

Speaker: Matt Cabrey, executive director, Select Greater Philadelphia

A journalism graduate from Penn State, Cabrey leads the team effort to market the 11-county region of northern Delaware, southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania to a national and international audience as a top-tier place to establish and grow a business. As part of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, Select Greater Philadelphia collaborates with business and civic leaders, state and county economic development teams, and other partners to attract new businesses that create new jobs.

Penn State Brandywine commencement information

The Dickinson School of Law, Dickinson Law (Carlisle)

10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 13, Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, Carlisle

Speaker: Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania attorney general

Shapiro was sworn in as Pennsylvania attorney general on Jan. 17 as the Commonwealth’s top lawyer and chief law enforcement officer with a mandate to ensure integrity and be the people’s attorney general. His work has earned him a national reputation as a rising progressive leader and bipartisan consensus builder.

The Dickinson School of Law, Dickinson Law (Carlisle) commencement information

The Dickinson School of Law, Penn State Law (University Park)

10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 13, Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park

Speaker: U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

Casey is Pennsylvania’s senior senator, having been elected to the Senate in 2006. Elected to his second term in 2012, Casey works on behalf of Pennsylvanians on issues including jobs, the education and well-being of children, and national security strategy. Prior to being elected to the Senate, Casey served for eight years as the auditor general of Pennsylvania and for two years as the state’s treasurer, focusing on making government more accountable and responsive to the needs of Pennsylvanians.

The Dickinson School of Law, Penn State Law (University Park) commencement information

Penn State DuBois

7 p.m. Friday, May 5, Campus Gymnasium

Speaker: State Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Dubois

This is Gabler’s fifth term in office, having first been elected in 2008 to serve the 75th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. For the 2017-18 session, he is a member of four committees: Environmental Resources and Energy, Finance, Rules and State Government. He also has been appointed to serve as deputy chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. Gabler was born and raised in DuBois and is a lifelong resident of Pennsylvania.

Penn State DuBois commencement information

Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

6:30 p.m. Friday, May 5, Erie Insurance Arena

Speakers: Dr. Priscilla H. Hamilton, colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.); and Melanie Hetzel-Riggin, associate professor of psychology

Hamilton is a 1978 Penn State alumna and the retired commander of DENCOM, the U.S. Army’s dental-care system, where she led more than 5,000 dentists, hygienists and dental assistants. DENCOM personnel serve at 147 Army dental clinics around the world, including in combat theaters.

Hetzel-Riggin is chair of the psychology program at Penn State Behrend. She also coordinates the campus' master of arts in applied clinical psychology. She has taught and conducted research at Western Illinois University, Northern Illinois University and the University of the Cumberlands.

Penn State Erie, The Behrend College commencement information

Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus

10 a.m. Saturday, May 6, Main Arena, Community Center, Lemont Furnace

Speaker: Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president

Trumka is president of the 12.5 million-member American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). A native of Nemacolin, Trumka followed his father and grandfather into the coal mines and worked his way through college, earning a bachelor’s degree from the Smeal College of Business and a juris doctor from Villanova University. In 1982, at age 33, he was elected as the youngest president of the United Mine Workers of America. He became president of AFL-CIO in 2009.

Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus commencement information

Penn State Great Valley

7 p.m. Friday, May 5, outdoors on the Penn State Great Valley campus

Speaker: Inder Singh, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Unisys Corporation

Singh is responsible for all financial functions at Unisys, including controllership, treasury, taxes, internal audits, systems, investor relations, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate strategy. Throughout his career, he has held financial leadership roles at top Fortune 50 companies, including Cisco, Comcast, AT&T and American Express.

Penn State Great Valley commencement information

Penn State Greater Allegheny

11 a.m. Saturday, May 6, Wunderley Gymnasium

Speaker: James Lawrence, reporter/journalist for American Metal Market

A veteran of the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Lawrence completed a degree from Penn State’s World Campus, and is a councilman in Franklin Park Borough and an advisory board member at Penn State Greater Allegheny. He is vice president of Penn State’s World Campus Alumni Association.

Penn State Greater Allegheny commencement information

Penn State Harrisburg

9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 6; Giant Center, Hershey

Speaker: James Franklin, Penn State head football coach

Franklin is head football coach for the Nittany Lion program. He has 22 years of coaching experience at the collegiate and NFL levels, owning a 49-30 career record, with five consecutive winning seasons. In 2016, Franklin led the Nittany Lions to nine consecutive games en route to the Big Ten Championship, a Rose Bowl berth and an 11-3 overall record. He was honored as the Sporting News National Coach of the Year and the Woody Hayes National Coach of the Year, as well as the Dave McLain Big Ten Coach of the Year and Associated Press Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Penn State Harrisburg commencement information

Penn State Hazleton

7 p.m. Friday, May 5, Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium

Speaker: Mary Veronica Sweeney, founder and director of Power City Arts

Sweeney is the founder and director of Power City Arts, a social enterprise designed to empower young creative entrepreneurs at the intersection of traditional arts and new digital media. This summer, Sweeney will guide a class of Luzerne County Community College students to design a large mural dedicated to the idea of “The Hazleton Way,” a celebration of neighborliness as described by Chicago Cubs manager and Hazleton native Joe Maddon.

Penn State Hazleton commencement information

Penn State College of Medicine

1 p.m. Sunday, May 21, Founders Hall, Hershey

Speaker: Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

Kirch assumed the position of AAMC president in July 2006 following six years as senior vice president for health affairs, dean of the College of Medicine and CEO of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. As a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, he conducted research on the biological basis of and clinical treatments for severe neuropsychiatric disorders. He has had an active career as a clinician and researcher and has held medical faculty positions at Penn State, the Medical College of Georgia and George Washington University.

Penn State College of Medicine commencement information

Penn State Lehigh Valley

10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 6, ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, Bethlehem

Speaker: Adam Yenser, comedian and Emmy-award winning writer for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"

Yenser attended Penn State Lehigh Valley in 2001 and graduated from University Park in 2005 with degrees in film and video production and philosophy. While a student, he interned for "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." He has written for the Oscars and has been a freelance contributor to "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live. He was named Best New Political Comedian of 2015 at Politicon in Los Angeles.

Penn State Lehigh Valley commencement information

Penn State Mont Alto

10 a.m. Saturday, May 6, Multipurpose Activities Center (MAC), 1 Campus Drive

Speaker: Tim Henry, president and CEO of Franklin Financial Services Corporation and F&M Trust

A Penn State dairy science alumnus, Henry has had a career of more than 35 years in the banking industry in central Pennsylvania and Maryland. His background includes extensive experience and leadership in commercial and agricultural lending, retail banking and private banking. Henry came to F&M to serve as president and became chief executive officer/president in February 2016.

Penn State Mont Alto commencement information

Penn State New Kensington

10 a.m. Saturday, May 6, Athletics Center, Upper Burrell

Speaker: Kevin Bode, financial adviser and founder of Knead Community Café

A successful financial manager, in February 2017 Bode and his wife, Mary, opened the innovative Knead Café, the first “pay-what-you-can” restaurant in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Based on a model created by OWEE (One World Everybody Eats), the concept allows patrons of the café to pay what they can afford for a meal or volunteer in the café. An advocate for his community, Bode served on the board of directors for Family Resources of Western Pennsylvania and the Valley Points Family YMCA.

Penn State New Kensington commencement information

Penn State Schuylkill

10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 6, Campus Green, Schuylkill Haven

Speaker: Blannie E. Bowen, Penn State vice provost for academic affairs

Bowen was named vice provost for academic affairs in July 2004. Before becoming vice provost, Bowen held several leadership positions at the University, including with the College of Agricultural Sciences. He joined Penn State as the C. Lee Rumberger and Family Chair of Agriculture in 1988. After two years in that position, he was appointed interim head of the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education. He served as undergraduate programs coordinator in the department from 1992 to 1996. In 1996, Bowen became associate dean for graduate programs and senior faculty mentor in Penn State’s Graduate School. In 1998, he was named head of the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education.

Penn State Schuylkill commencement information

Penn State Shenango

11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 6, Auditorium, Sharon

Speaker: Kathleen Mastrian, Penn State Shenango associate professor and program coordinator, nursing

Mastrian has been involved in the education of nontraditional students for more than 37 years in the RN to BSN nursing program. She pioneered the use of credit by portfolio assessment to award advanced standing nursing credit for registered nurses and has been active in the development of technology enhanced courses for registered nurses facilitating asynchronous participation and active and collaborative learning. She is one of the founding proposers to place the RN to BS program online for the Penn State’s World Campus, has developed six of the courses for that curriculum, and teaches at least one section per semester. She has published several notable books, including “Informatics for Health Professionals” in March 2016. 

Penn State Shenango commencement information

Penn State Wilkes-Barre

10 a.m. Saturday, May 6, Athletics and Recreation Building, Lehman

Speaker: Wico van Genderen, president and CEO, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry

Genderen was named president and CEO of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry in June 2014. With more than 30 years of global leadership experience, his corporate international management positions include leading global marketing, world-wide product management, North American operations, and COO/managing director for Asia Pacific for Diebold. He is a member of the board of directors for a number of organizations, including Leadership Wilkes-Barre and the Luzerne County Community College Foundation.

Penn State Wilkes-Barre commencement information

Penn State Worthington Scranton

2 p.m. Saturday, May 13, Scranton Cultural Center

Speaker:  Vincent Sorgi, PPL Corporation, senior vice president and chief financial officer

Vincent Sorgi serves as PPL Corporation’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, overseeing PPL’s investor relations, treasury, financial planning and analysis, tax, risk management, controllership and strategic development functions. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Penn State and his MBA from Villanova University. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and is chairman of the board of the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown. Sorgi is also on the board of The PPL Foundation, which contributes millions each year to improve the lives of people in the communities PPL serves.

Penn State Worthington Scranton commencement information

Penn State York

6 p.m. Friday, May 5, Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, York

Speaker: Shannon McCully, manager, industrial engineering, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

In her position at Disney, McCully supports global marketing and sales at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Orlando, Florida. A 1996 graduate of Penn State with a bachelor of science in industrial engineering, McCully began her career with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in June 1996, just a month after graduation. She has been a speaker at Penn State York, sharing her insights with students seeking employment at Disney.

Penn State York commencement information

Pennsylvania College of Technology

Community Arts Center, Williamsport

3 p.m. Friday, May 12: School of Industrial, Computing and Engineering Technologies and School of Sciences, Humanities and Visual Communications. Speaker: Lauren J. Crouse, Turbotville, who will receive a bachelor of science in applied human services.

10 a.m. Saturday, May 13: School of Construction and Design Technologies and School of Health Sciences. Speaker: Madison L. Carts, State College, who will receive an associate of applied science in surveying technology.

1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13: School of Business and Hospitality and School of Transportation and Natural Resources Technologies. Speaker: Robert E. Wood, Williamsport, who will receive a bachelor of science in culinary arts and systems.

Penn College commencement information

Penn State University Park

College of Agricultural Sciences

3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: Chris R. Hoffman, vice president, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau

Hoffman is owner-operator of Lazy Hog Farms and Lazy Chick Farms in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. He became the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s vice president in 2014, and serves on the board of directors for the Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation. Since 2015, he has been a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees, elected by the state's agricultural societies. He has a long history of leadership at the county level, including serving as vice president and president of the Juniata County Farm Bureau; he also chairs the state’s Nutrient Management Advisory Board and is a member of the Pennsylvania Pork Producers Council, PennAg Industries Association and Fayette Township Fire Co.

College of Arts and Architecture

Noon Saturday, May 6, Eisenhower Auditorium

Speaker: Helen Maser, graduating College of Arts and Architecture student

Maser graduates from Penn State this May with bachelor of fine arts degrees in drawing and painting and sculpture and a minor in art history. She recently had a solo exhibit, “He Called Me Sexy Baby But My Name is Helen,” at the HUB-Robeson Galleries. She currently serves as exhibition coordinator for the School of Visual Arts and as a curatorial intern for the Woskob Family Gallery, where her responsibilities include facilitating a collaborative environment between students and the gallery; and she is president of the School of Visual Arts Student Council. After graduation, Helen will intern at the Takt Artist Residency in Berlin, Germany.

Smeal College of Business

9 a.m. Sunday, May 7, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: Farnoosh Torabi, financial expert, best-selling author, speaker and host

Torabi is a 2002 Smeal College of Business graduate in finance and international business and a Schreyer Scholar. She has distinguished herself as an award-winning personal finance expert, best-selling author and multimedia personality. She has authored several self-help financial books; written financial advice columns and stories for leading newspapers, as well as financial and general interest magazines; made guest appearances on major news and talk shows; produced an award-winning financial podcast; and hosted a primetime series on CNBC.

Bellisario College of Communications

Noon Saturday, May 6, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: Lisa Salters, reporter, ESPN

Salters is an award-winning reporter for ESPN, handling high-profile assignments, including reporting for “Monday Night Football” and for NBA games on ABC and ESPN. She also contributes to a variety of ESPN studio shows and serves as a featured correspondent on the network’s award-winning news magazine, “E:60.” Salters graduated from Penn State in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and played guard for the women’s basketball team from 1986 to 1987. She has served as a mentor for College of Communications students and provided scholarship support. 

College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

8 p.m. Friday, May 5, Pegula Ice Arena

Speaker: Alton D. Romig Jr., executive officer of the National Academy of Engineering

Romig, a pioneer in materials science engineering, is the executive officer of the National Academy of Engineering. As executive officer, Romig is the chief operating officer responsible for the program, financial and membership operations of the academy, reporting to the president. Previously he was vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company’s Advanced Development Programs, better known as the Skunk Works, where he led research and advanced development activities and set the strategic direction for current and future programs for the company’s aeronautics business area.

College of Education

12:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director and CEO, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

Gentzel is the primary spokesperson for NSBA and has worked on behalf of, and advocated for, school boards and effective local governance for more than 35 years. He serves a membership comprising state associations of school boards and their more than 13,000-member school districts. Prior to NSBA, he served as executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) for 11 years. Gentzel received a bachelor of science degree in community development and a master of public administration degree from Penn State.

College of Engineering

8 p.m. Friday, May 5, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: Patricia Stevens, chief technologist for Boeing Phantom Works Rotary Wing Programs

Stevens is chief technologist for Boeing Phantom Works Rotary Wing Programs, which develops advanced technologies, configurations and prototypes to promote vertical lift growth into the next decades. She manages the R&D portfolio, leads the Vertical Lift Technology Strategy Team, and leads functional engineering for the organization. Stevens’ previous positions at Boeing include program manager for DARPA DiscRotor, program manager for Improvised Explosive Device Defeat, lead technologist for Army Systems Business Unit, technical lead for Sensors and Fire Control for the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter.

College of Health and Human Development

3 p.m. Saturday, May 6, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: Kevin Lynch, founder, The Quell Foundation

A veteran of the U.S. Naval Submarine Force and a hospital system professional, Lynch was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2012; he decided to battle the disease with knowledge, transparency and grit. While researching his graduate thesis as a master’s degree candidate in health administration at Penn State, he recognized the impact of a shortage and lack of access to mental health professionals. He started The Quell Foundation, which provides scholarships to students entering the mental health care field and students who have been diagnosed with a mental health illness. It also educates communities to reduce suicides, drug overdoses and incarceration of people with treatable mental illnesses and trains first responders to recognize signs of mental distress. 

College of Information Sciences and Technology

3 p.m. Saturday, May 6, Eisenhower Auditorium

Speaker: Steve Huffman, co-founder and CEO of Reddit

Huffman is the co-founder and CEO of Reddit, the seventh most visited website in the world. From 2010 to 2015, he served as the co-founder and chief technical officer for Hipmunk, a travel search site that was named a “Top 50 Website” and “Top 10 Smartphone App” by Time magazine. Huffman was named to Inc. Magazine's “30 Under 30” list in 2011 and Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list in 2012, and he has been a regular speaker during Penn State Startup Week.

College of the Liberal Arts

6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: Elizabeth Catchmark, student marshal, College of the Liberal Arts

A Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, native, Catchmark is a Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Honors Scholar at Penn State, graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in African-American studies, English, philosophy and women’s studies. As a student, she worked as a writing tutor, a teaching assistant and a research assistant. She taught in Washington, D.C., public schools as a Social Justice Fellow; and served as a peer educator for Peers Helping Reaffirm, Educate and Empower. She also was a grant writer for the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County. Next year, she will attend a doctoral program in English literature, specializing in African-American literature.

College of Nursing

6 p.m. Saturday, May 6, Eisenhower Auditorium

Speaker: Janice Penrod, professor of nursing, Penn State College of Nursing

In addition to receiving her master’s degree from the College of Nursing in 1996, Penrod was the first doctoral student to graduate from the program, in 2001. In 2011, Penrod started Penn State’s Center for Nursing Research, for which she served as director until 2015. Currently, she is co-director of the KL2 Program in Penn State’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Penrod’s research focuses on states of uncertainty among informal caregivers providing end-of-life care, with emphasis on qualitative methodologies.

Eberly College of Science

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

Speaker: Nina G. Jablonski, Evan Pugh University Professor of Anthropology at Penn State

A biological anthropologist by training, Jablonski pursues basic research on the evolution of adaptations of primates, including humans, to their environment. For the last 25 years, she has been most intrigued by questions in human evolution not directly answered by the fossil record, foremost among these being the evolution of human skin and skin pigmentation.

Schreyer Honors College Medals Ceremony

5 p.m. Friday, May 5, Eisenhower Auditorium

The Graduate School

6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Bryce Jordan Center

Speaker: Andrew Read, Evan Pugh Professor in Biology and Entomology, Eberly Professor in Biotechnology, and director of Penn State’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics

Read's research group investigates the pathogen adaptation prompted by medical and public health measures, most obviously drug and insecticide resistance, and also the evolution of virulence, infectiousness and vaccine escape. Originally from New Zealand, Read received a D.Phil. in evolutionary biology from the University of Oxford. At the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, he was chair of natural history, a professorship established in 1767, teaching ecology, evolution, microbiology and statistics.