McDaniel College graduates the Class of 2017

Graduating Class of 2017
May 20, 2017

Family and friends of the Class of 2017 cheered the 382 bachelor’s and 278 master’s candidates who received their degrees May 20 during the college’s 147th Commencement ceremony. 

President Roger N. Casey sent off the graduates with two requests. 

“Wherever you go, no matter how far you travel around the world, wear your ‘I Am McDaniel’ buttons with pride. Spread the word!” Casey said. “Friend us, email us, post to us regular updates so that we can keep up with all that you will accomplish. And keep it up.  You are now liberal artists and scientists, or masters of your professional disciplines, charged with working collaboratively to confront the world's problems and embrace change as a friend.” 

Casey invited the graduates to ring the bell in time-honored tradition before leaving campus to signal the closing chapter in their time on the Hill. As first-year students, they each rang the same bell to symbolize the beginning of their college career. 

From 17 countries and 26 states and the District of Columbia, the graduates completed studies in 53 programs. They are global citizens, having studied in 29 countries, including Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, England, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. 

Eleven graduates received the Global Fellow designation on their diplomas for completing a three-year program that is designed to enhance their understanding of global issues, develop heightened intercultural competency and cultivate the skills and attitudes important to leading successful lives in a global context. 

Senior Julie A. Wilson, a Social Work major with a Business Administration minor from Jefferson, Md., received the College’s Argonaut Award for earning the highest grade-point average of 3.99 in her completed course of study. In addition, Cristina Anselma Stockton-Juarez, an Art History and Environmental Studies double major from Carlisle, Pa., won the Edith Farr Ridington Writing Award for the best senior paper. Read more about "Graduating seniors earn top awards at Commencement"

Trisha Leigh Waddell of Hyattsville, Md., who earned her master’s degree in Deaf Education, received The B. Jill Brooks Hodge Professional Development Award for the graduate student who demonstrated academic excellence and an interest in serving the deaf or disabled. While a graduate student at McDaniel, she has served as house director of the ASL house, an on-campus residence where ASL is the primary method of communication, as well as a mentor in the ASL lab.

The Joan Develin Coley Award for Excellence in Education, to a graduate student with the best record in the study of literacy theory and practice, honored Ashleigh N. Rizzo of West Friendship, Md., who completed her master’s degree in the Reading Specialist: Literacy Leadership graduate program. A 2010 summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of McDaniel with a major in Psychology and minor in Elementary Education. Since 2011, Rizzo has taught third- and fourth-grade at Robert Moton Elementary School in Westminster, Md. Read more about them in “Hodge and Coley awards presented to 2017 graduate students”

Two professors with emeriti status were recognized upon their retirement. Recognized for their combined 54 years of service to the College are Sharon Craig, professor of Education, with 17 years of service and John Olsh, Ethan A. Seidel Chair in Economics and Business Administration and professor of Economics, with 37 years of service.

Joining the graduates in cap and gown was honorary degree recipient James Edward Lightner, a 1959 alumnus and professor emeritus of Mathematics at McDaniel College, has generously served the College and its community for six decades as teacher, trustee, historian and faithful friend.

Lightner completed his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude with majors in English and Mathematics along with a minor in Education in just three years, enrolling in summer classes to accomplish the feat. He received a Master of Arts in Education from Northwestern University in 1962 and a Ph.D. in Mathematics-Education from The Ohio State University in 1968. After four years working in the public school system of his native Frederick County, Md., the 25-year-old was invited to join the faculty at his undergraduate alma mater, where he taught for 36 years until his retirement in 1998. 

Known as a professor who was at once demanding of and intensely devoted to his students, Lightner received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1966 and was named Maryland’s Outstanding Mathematics Educator of the Year in 1986. He helped found and was inducted into the College’s Delta Chapter of Maryland of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. In 2015, he was recognized with Phi Beta Kappa’s John Hope Franklin Award for distinguished service. 

Lightner devoted seven years to researching and writing the more than 700-page College history that was published in 2007 as “Fearless and Bold,” and as the College begins its 150th anniversary year-long celebration, treated the 2017 graduates to the story of Western Maryland and now McDaniel College.

In closing his remarks, Lightner told the class of 2017 that as they marched out into the College’s 151st year, they too join the “long green line” of  35,000 graduates over the past 147 commencements.

“May I urge you to take pride in your solid liberal arts education, esteem your alma mater that changed your life, and glory in its historic past," Lightner said. "Come back to the Hill often, keep us posted on your successes, be a good ambassador, and help us grow the Fund for McDaniel so that we can, as our motto says, continue to call future generations of students 'from darkness into light.'”

In a time-honored Commencement tradition of guessing the exact time the ceremony ends with the first note of McDaniel’s Alma Mater, Communication professor Robert Lemieux came closest with his guess of 12:34:56 p.m. (note the sequence of numbers), which came within 9 seconds of the 12:35:05 p.m. actual closing time.