The roar of shouting friends and family members echoed around Shippensburg University’s Heiges Field House during the two undergraduate commencement ceremonies Saturday.
Rain and cool weather pushed the celebration inside, causing it to split into two ceremonies. The first started at 11 a.m. and included the college of business and the college of education and human services and the second started at 3 p.m. and was for the college of arts and sciences.
Between the two ceremonies 1,001 students graduated, with 477 from the college of arts and sciences, 300 from the college of business and 224 from the college of education and human services. Additionally, 256 students graduated with a master’s degree.
Stephanie Madara spoke for her graduating class and reminded her peers of the experiences they had at SU.
“One of the first big moments we had was when we decided when Ship was it,” Madara said. “Our time and moments at Ship are about to close. It is up to us to find the beauty in every moment.”
President of Gannon Associates Tom Abell served as the keynote speaker for the two ceremonies. Abell worked as a farmhand and stonecutter to pay his way through college. He eventually partnered with Max Gannon to form nationwide insurance agency Gannon Associates.
Abell started off his speech by noting that he was alumnus of Mansfield University not Shippensburg, and then said he had a confession to make.
“Since 2005 I’ve been having an affair,” Abell said. “That affair has been with Shippensburg University.”
After putting on a red raiders baseball cap to a cheering crowd he took a more serious tone and imparted his wisdom to the graduates. He said life will go faster than most people think and that it is important to focus on each moment.
“There are no ordinary moments,” Abell said. “Most of us do not realize that until its too late. The most powerful moment is the present.”
While people pay attention to the present, it is also important to look at life as a child would, he said.
“Each and everyday remind yourself to look at the world through child-like eyes,” Abell said, picking up the ceremonial mace and examining it wide-eyed.
Finally, he warned, that life will bring challenges and people must brighten their own corners of life.
“You are tough and you can figures things out,” Abell said. “As I look out in these faces I see hope.”
Three SU alumni who overcame life’s challenges took the stage next to receive the Outstanding Young Alumni Award. SU Interim President Barbara Lyman presented them to Antoinette “Toni” Marchowsky, class of 2006; Andrew Blass, class of 2010; and Rick Moyer, class of 2000.
Acting provost Tracy Schoolcraft presented the bachelor’s degree candidates for the class of 2017.
Among the hundreds of parents cheering for their sons and daughters was Noel Torchio, father of graduate Chelsea Moyer. Torchio said before the first ceremony started that SU was great school for Moyer to attend.
“The university served her very well,” Torchio said. “She fit right in.”
After dropping their daughter at SU for her first year, Torchio said Moyer called them and said not worry about her because the staff and her new peers were very welcoming.
Moyer took after her mother to become an elementary school teacher and graduated cum laude with a bachelors in education and human services.
“She’s a very smart girl,” Torchio said. “We have no question she’ll get a job.”
Also graduating from the college of education and human services was Annie Rider, who said attending SU was great experience to prepare her for her future.
“It’s prepared us really well,” she said. “It definitely set everything up for this.”
Rider is looking for teaching job in the Lansdale, Pennsylvania, area, where she grew up, she said.
“Our mission has been to provide you with learning experiences,” Lyman said, as the ceremony closed. “Embrace diversity, value education and never stop learning.
“When you arrived at SU you became a part of the Shippensburg family. That membership does not change.”