West Liberty University Spring 2014 Commencement Ceremony took place at 11 a.m., Saturday, May 10, in the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex (ASRC).
West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman was the speaker and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from University President Robin C. Capehart. A resident of Wheeling, Harshman is married to WLU’s Elbin Library Director Cheryl Ryan Harshman.
Telling the graduates to follow their own hearts, Harshman went on to explain the value of books in his childhood, as he delivered an inspirational talk encouraging all graduates to look for their own stories to tell.
“There are no days more special in childhood than those not lived at all, those days spent inside a favorite book,” he began, quoting French author Marcel Proust.
Harshman then described his growing up years and the importance of the story table, as his family gathered around the dinner table with grandparents and others and listened to stories about the day, the past and even gossip.
“The delicious story of our everyday life is gossip … when they are polished, they become a story,” he said.
“These stories can connect the old West Liberty to today and the future. West Liberty was founded as an academy in 1837, founded to raise-up good teachers. This continues throughout life. You are not done. Leave here with the potential to be a teacher and a leader. You bear responsibility to preserve our great nation and do your part to create the world. The best can always be better.”
“One way you can teach will be as an example giver. Be a story of the passion in your career. You’ll find your stories everywhere.”
“Pay attention, be astonished, tell about it! You hold great if not divine possibilities. You are leaving with the seeds of your future. A wide-open future, filled with surprises. You must follow your heart.“
Harshman also paid tribute to the value of a small university like West Liberty.
“How lucky you are to be educated in this small University. Because of its relative size it allowed you to know your administrators and professors, to not fall through the cracks.”
Lindsay Cervenak, Weirton, W.Va., student speaker and highest-ranking student from the College of Education, also spoke and thanked her professors, family and friends for their part in her education.
She also stressed the value of friendship and encouraged everyone to use their passion to build their careers.
An elementary education major with a pre-K specialization, she most recently completed her student teaching at Hilltop Elementary School in Marshall County and also completed student teaching at Woodsdale Elementary.
The Commencement Ceremony began with music provided by the West Liberty University Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Matthew Inkster, conductor. Also performing was the WLU Concert Choir, under the direction of Alfred R. de Jaager, who was one of two faculty members honored during the ceremony for years of service.
de Jaager served 48 years as a music instructor at West Liberty and Judy Carney served 16 years as a math instructor, both are retiring at the end of this academic year.
Alumni were represented at the ceremony by Joelle Connors ‘03 who delivered an encouraging statement from the Alumni Association known as “Forever Hilltopper,” asking all graduates to remain connected to the University throughout their professional careers.
The 2014 Spring Commencement also offered the inaugural class of physician assistants its first opportunity to walk and participate in graduation. The Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree program welcomed its first class in July 2012 and the 17 students are expected to complete final rotations in June.
The Class of 2014 included students from 11 states and the District of Columbia, plus three foreign countries.
The ceremony ended with a benediction delivered by Debra Dague, Protestant campus minister. A festive reception followed in the College Union.
WLU-TV streamed the ceremony live on U-Stream and will replay it at 7 p.m., Monday, May 12.