Lebanon Valley College Celebrates 153rd Commencement

Doctor of Physical Therapy graduates

Nearly 330 students in the Class of 2022 celebrated their educational and personal accomplishments during a morning Commencement Ceremony today. Another 110 graduate-level students participated in a separate afternoon ceremony.

Michael Pittari, professor of creative arts, was the morning’s featured Commencement speaker by virtue of being named the Vickroy Award winner (see below) during the 2021 Commencement Celebration. Dr. Si M. Pham ’79, H’22, professor of surgery and chair of the department of cardiothoracic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., delivered the afternoon Commencement speech. Dr. Pham also received an honorary doctor of science degree from LVC during the morning ceremony.

Professor Pittari’s speech focused on “Learning to See.” He advised the Class of 2022, “If we, as citizens of the twenty-first century, are to overcome the tremendous challenges facing the world, then we can no longer overlook that which is clearly visible. We must learn to see–with our eyes and with our hearts.”

Along with honoring graduates, LVC revealed the winners of several major annual awards.

Dr. Kristen Boeshore, associate professor of biology and director of pre-medical professions, presented the top student award, the H. Anthony Neidig Award, to Erica Werner, a neuroscience major with a minor in applied Spanish for healthcare professionals. Werner, one of the College’s distinguished Allwein Scholars, scored in the 97th percentile on the MCATs-one of the highest scores achieved by an LVC student-and was accepted into the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, where she will continue conducting research while pursuing her M.D.

Dr. Erica Unger, director of neuroscience and associate professor of biology, said, “Without hesitancy, she is the most gifted undergraduate I have taught and mentored during my nearly two-decade career working with more than 100 student researchers.” Dr. Gabriela McEvoy, chair of languages and associate professor of Spanish, noted, “Her work is always of high caliber, and her command of written and spoken Spanish places her in the top ten percent of her Spanish classes at the college level. She is genuinely interested in the complex interactions between culture, language, and health.”

Also, during the morning Commencement, Dr. Monica Cowart, provost and vice president of academic affairs, announced Dr. Boeshore as the recipient of this year’s Vickroy Award, the top honor for a full-time faculty member. Her colleague, Dr. Robert Carey, director of biochemistry & molecular biology and professor of biology, wrote, “In her role as chair of the Health Professions Committee, Dr. Boeshore is tireless in her efforts to prepare students for the rigors of the professional school application process she has dramatically increased the success rate of LVC students-at 89 percent according to the most recent numbers-when they apply to professional programs in the health professions. As I see the success rate of our former students as they become doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and physicians’ assistants, I know that much of this success is due to Dr. Boeshore’s relentless and dedicated efforts toward helping these students realize their dreams.”

The second teaching award presented by Dr. Cowart during Commencement was the Nevelyn J. Knisley Award, annually bestowed on a part-time or adjunct member of the College faculty. Theodora “Teddi” Sakellarides, adjunct instructor in English and sociology, received this year’s honor. A 2012 alumna of The Valley who was a founding member of the College’s Women’s Services and Gender Resource Center as an undergraduate, Sakellarides returned to her alma mater in 2015 and has taught nine courses in several disciplines since.

Dr. Mukunda Ghimire, assistant professor of chemistry, received the Educator of the Year Award from Julia Resele ’22, president of Student Government, on behalf of the student body during Dutchmen Day on Friday, May 6. This honor is bestowed annually on a member of the full-time faculty who embodies the transformative power of the LVC experience, in and out of the classroom.

Dr. Si Mai Pham ’79, H’22, professor of surgery and chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Fla., received an honorary doctor of science degree from his alma mater. Among several historic medical milestones, Dr. Pham was a member of the surgical team that performed the historic combined heart and liver transplant of the late Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey in June 1993.

In addition to a busy clinical practice, Dr. Pham has conducted extensive research, publishing more than 190 scientific papers and receiving grants from the National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and Transplant Foundation. He has made several seminal contributions to the field of heart/lung transplantations, such as the use of tacrolimus (Prograf) to prevent rejection in heart/lung transplant recipients and pioneering work in the use of donor bone marrow to prevent rejections in heart and lung recipients.

Giovanni Ferrero H’22, an author, entrepreneur, and the executive chairman of the Ferrero Group, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from The Valley. In 1980, he spent six months studying at Lebanon Valley College with several legendary professors.

Under Ferrero’s leadership, the Ferrero Group has made several important acquisitions, starting with the UK chocolate confectionary Thorntons in 2015, the Belgian fine biscuits company Delacre in 2016, the American Candy manufacturer Ferrara in 2017, one of the largest acquisitions for the Group, the Nestle’s US confectionary business in 2018, but also the famous Danish butter cookies Kelsen in 2019 as well as the cookies Keebler, Famous Amos, and others. More recently he expanded the Group’s presence in the biscuits market acquiring two British biscuits makers, Fox’s Biscuits (2020) and Burton’s Biscuits (2021). He eventually entered in the healthy products market acquiring the UK leading bar producer Eat Natural, also in 2021.

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