WILKES-BARRE — More than 650 students were awarded degrees at Wilkes University’s 68th spring commencement ceremony on Saturday.
The new graduates say they are prepared to face the challenges of the future.
Chrissy Bergey, who is moving on to dental school in Maryland, described her four years at Wilkes as a great experience providing an excellent educational foundation.
Bergey, a native of Kingston, was one of five students who earned the university’s Wandell Award for the highest grade-point average with a perfect 4.0. She earned it after recently learning she was battling multiple sclerosis.
She said she had “incredible teachers” in the biology department. The faculty and students were all supportive, especially after finding out about her illness.
“At Wilkes, you really get to know your professors,” she said. She looks forward to moving on to the dental school at the University of Maryland.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, addressed the students earning graduate degrees in a morning ceremony. They represented more than half of the graduate total.
Yudichak said he was “truly honored and inspired” to be asked to speak. He praised the university and its students for their continuing efforts to provide opportunities in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“These are the innovators of the future,” he said. “They are transforming lives not only in the City of Wilkes-Barre but all over northeast Pennsylvania,” he added.
He pointed to the Wilkes Enterprise Center, which recently opened in the city, as an example of a program run by students that is drawing “top information technology companies” to the area. He also lauded the Nesbitt School of Pharmacy, which awarded its 1,000th degree on Saturday.
University President Patrick Leahy spoke to the undergraduate degree recipients in an afternoon ceremony. He led an honorary degree ceremony for Seymour Holtzman, an alumnus of the class of 1957.
An international milestone was reached this year, according to Vicki Mayk, the university’s director of public relations. Simone Davies from the Bahamas graduated following in her mother’s footsteps. Italia Wells Davies also came to Wilkes University from the Bahamas, earning her degree in 1980. They are the first international mother/daughter graduates, Mayk said.
Davies was one of the 20 international students to graduate on Saturday. Students from Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom were also there.
Yudichak emphasized one of the challenges faced locally is the fact that a large percentage of the graduating class tends to leave to pursue their careers elsewhere.
The university is working toward “reversing the pipeline of talent back to northeast Pennsylvania,” he said.