WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., May 6, 2023 —West Liberty University welcomed families and guests to its Spring 2023 Commencement ceremony made all the better by the cooperation of the weather on a perfect spring day.
Commencement began at 11 a.m., Saturday, May 6, in a traditional ceremony held in the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex (ASRC )and 355 graduates were included in the Class of 2023.
Interim President Dr. Cathy Monteroso presided over the ceremony and began with a welcome and reflection on the special moment and the pride that graduates should feel on earning their degrees.
Interim Provost Dr. Mark Schulman then presented the special guests, and was followed by Chairman of the Board of Governors Rich Lucas offering personal greetings from the governing board. Next the student speakers took the podium.
Senior Claire Valentine, a graduate from the College of Sciences as a full-ride Elbin Scholarship recipient, earning a degree in biology/premedicine. Graduating Summa Cum Laude, she is the daughter of Kary and Claudine Valentine, she is from Mars, Pa. and will soon enter the Doctor of Optometry program at Ohio State University
Valentine began by explaining how West Liberty was a place she could truly thrive, offering “unforgettable experiences and special people.” She made special mention of the excellent faculty that supported her throughout her college career.
“No matter where life takes you, you will forever be part of the West Liberty family,” said Valentine.
Also achieving the honor of student speaker was, Mariah Cashbaugh, a graduate from the College of Sciences and a full-ride Elbin Scholarship recipient, earning a degree in preveterinary science. Graduating Summa Cum Laude, Cashbaugh is the child of Sonny and Stacie Cashbaugh from Canfield, Ohio. Cashbaugh is accepted into Purdue University (Indiana) doctoral program for plant pathology and plans on becoming a college professor.
Cashbaugh termed West Liberty a “second home for me, a place of learning and growth. It is a place free to develop academic interests and personal ones.”
“I always had a support system here and my family at home to rely on. As a biology major, West Liberty has helped me become the person I am today. I am incredibly grateful for the mentorship.” Cashbaugh singled out professors, Dr. Joseph Horzempa, Dr. Jeremiah Dann, Dr. Robert Kreisberg and Dr. Roger Seeber.
Next, the keynote address was given by Denise M. Penz, co-founder, CEO and vice chairman of the Preferred Legacy Trust Company. Also, an alumna, Penz recently was elected to serve on the WLU Foundation Board of Directors.
Penz began by explaining a bit about life’s paths and the various directions they take you.
“All of us have an inner child that plays a part in the decisions we make and the adult that we choose to become,” Penz said as she began sharing her personal experiences in life.
Penz stated that she draws on a quote from George Washington Carver: “Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these.”
She encouraged graduates to “find something you’re really passionate about.”
Penz told a compelling story of how she found her first passion at an early age when she became a member of the United States Navy, serving happily till an unfortunate car accident made it impossible for her to continue in her naval career.
After returning to civilian life, she enrolled in WLU and earned her degree in accounting which took her to a new career in banking, followed by an MBA. She is now a founder of a second trust bank where she is passionate about what she does for both her clients and employees.
“From this I learned you must find the courage to do things you are not ready to do.”
Penz paid tribute to her parents for teaching her another important life lesson, the power of a gift, be it time, money or talent, suggesting that going through life by “giving what you can and then a little more,” is good advice.
In closing, she shared a quote from celebrity coach Ted Lasso: “Just listen to your gut, and on the way down to your gut, check in with your heart. Between those two things, they’ll let you know what’s what.”
The ceremony then turned to the Announcement of Honors from each of the various colleges of the university including: the Honors College, the College of Sciences, the Gary E. West College of Business, The College of Education and Human Performances and the College of Liberal and Creative Arts.
Monteroso next conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Speaker Penz. Following this, all graduates received their degrees.
Also honored at the ceremony were graduating students with the highest GPA in each respective college who received the honor of carrying the college banner. These include:
- Graduate Studies – Shannon Davis, Lubbock, Texas
- College of Sciences – Cara Campbell, Wheeling and Jordyn Hughes, Moundsville
- Gary E. West College of Business – Sierra Aniballi, Greensburg, Pa., Gemma Cliffe, Auckland, NZ; Tucker Sebring, Caldwell, Ohio and Parker Sherry, East Palestine, Ohio
- College of Education and Human Performance – Madison Young, Cadiz, Ohio
- College of Liberal and Creative Arts – Kali Adams, Pittsburgh, Pa., Madison Cavicchia, Wheeling, Jessica Dobbins, Toronto, Ohio and Ashton Wronikowski, Coldwater, Mich.
Interim President Monteroso concluded the ceremonies with brief remarks, reminding the new alumni to be proud of their degrees and all it stands and encouraging them to remain engaged in the university.
“I ask you to continue to support and advocate for West Liberty University and visit campus often.”
The Commencement ceremonies can be viewed on Topper Station for those unable to attend.
The University Concert Band, under the direction of Professor Dr. Alvin Simpson performed both the processional and recessional music and the WLU Singers, under the direction of Professor Dr. Douglas McCall performed both the Star-Spangled Banner and the Alma Mater.
A reception for graduates, guests and families was held in the nearby Bear’s Den immediately following the ceremony.