Renowned West Virginia novelist Ann Pancake leads the list of honorary degree recipients when West Virginia University sends more than 4,450 graduates into the world the weekend of May 11-13 as commencement ceremonies take place in three venues for 13 colleges and schools.
Of those graduates, 3,009 have earned their undergraduate degrees or certificates, 1,110 their master’s degrees and 360 have earned their doctorates.
From the time WVU Reed College of Media’s graduates turn their tassels Friday (May 11) until Eberly College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate programs toss their mortarboards Sunday (May 13), the weekend is filled with honors, photographs and farewells.
WVU President Gordon Gee will confer honorary doctoral degrees at the College of Creative Arts and Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design (May 11), the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and the College of Business and Economics (May 12), and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences (May 13, 4 p.m.) ceremonies.
A West Virginia native, Ann Stuart Pancake writes eloquently about her home state. Her work has been honored with a Whiting Award and she was the first recipient of the Barry Lopez Visiting Writer in Ethics and the Community Fellowship. She will return to West Virginia this fall to serve as Writer-in-Residence at the WVU Humanities Center. Pancake will be awarded an honorary doctorate at the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences 12:30 p.m. graduate degree commencement exercises.
Gee will grant Presidential Awards to three people at the College of Business and Economics commencement exercises, where all three will deliver remarks. As the former executive director of the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, Greg Burton was instrumental in the state’s reform of that fund. Burton also led WVWCC’s privatized successor, Brickstreet. Dan McCarthy completed a 38-year career in the U.S. Navy in 2007, retiring as a vice admiral Since his retirement, McCarthy continues his involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, including as the group director of the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve development in 2012. The first woman to be president and CEO in the National 4-H Council’s 100-year history, Jennifer Sirangelo leads its mission to increase investment and participation in 4-H’s youth development programs. Sirangelo directs the Grow True Leaders Campaign, the largest brand and alumni activation initiative in 4-H history, in partnership with land-grant universities, the Cooperative Extension System and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Last year she was named to Fast Company’s annual list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.
Gee will bestow an honorary doctorate to Maestro Everett Lee, Jr., the first African-American to conduct a major Broadway production—“On the Town” which had an integrated cast and an all-white orchestra. Born in Wheeling, Lee began playing the violin as a child and went on to graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Lee, who is 102 and lives in Sweden, will not attend the commencement ceremonies. Keith Jackson, College of Creative Arts interim dean, is the commencement speaker. Jackson has been a member of the faculty since 1995 and is also active in both classical and jazz styles as a performer and clinician.
An alumnus of the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, John W. Crites, founded Allegheny Wood Products in 1973 with one sawmill and 13 employees. More than 40 years later, AWP is one of the largest hardwood manufacturers in the nation. Gee will award Crites an honorary doctorate during the school’s commencement ceremonies. Another WVU alumnus, George Seiler, will provide the commencement address. Seiler is a veterinarian, teacher and mentor who began his career in Fairmont and is currently the managing veterinarian of Paw Prints. Being named the West Virginia Veterinarian of the Year is among his career accomplishments. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the Davis College.
The Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will confer honorary doctoral degrees upon two alumni this year. Wayne Richards is the president and CEO of GR Energy services, a company focused on the upstream oil and gas business providing products and services to aid in completion and production. Over three decades, George John Schuller, Jr. has established an international career in mining, which ultimately led him to being named president of Peabody Australia. Richards and Schuller are also commencement speakers for the Statler College.
Peter Kalis is the former chair and global managing partner of K&L Gates LLP. A WVU alumnus, Kalis majored in political science and is a Rhodes Scholar, receiving his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University. He was editor-in-chief of Yale (University) Law Journal and went on to clerk for then-Associate Justice Byron White of the U.S. Supreme Court. Kalis is a member of WVU’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni and serves on the WVU Foundation board of directors. Kalis will be awarded an honorary doctorate at the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences 4 p.m. undergraduate commencement ceremonies, where he will also serve as speaker.
Nzinga Shaw is the speaker at the Reed College of Media. Shaw is the chief diversity and inclusion officer and the senior vice president of community for the Atlanta Hawks. Among the several industry awards Shaw has earned are The Network Journal 40 Under 40, PR Week 40 Under 40 and Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Women Who Mean Business.”
Patrick “Blake” Leeper was born with both legs missing below his knees and spent his youth focused on succeeding in sports. He began wearing prosthetics at nine months, but got his first running legs in 2008 and competed in his first Paralympics Games in 2012.
WVU Provost Joyce McConnell is the chief academic officer responsible for the administration of all academic policies, programs, facilities and budgetary matters. She has been deeply engaged in ensuring the exceptional academic performance of WVU’s student athletes and serves on the National collegiate Athletic Association Division I Committee on Infractions. McConnell is slated to give the commencement address at the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences.
A two-time graduate of West Virginia University, Dr. Clay Marsh, who leads the academic health sciences center of WVU, will speak to graduates of the School of Medicine, the School of Public Health, the School of Pharmacy (Ph.D.), the School of Dentistry and the School of Nursing. A national leader in personalized medicine and in pulmonary and critical care medicine, Marsh has concentrated his efforts in determining how to help individuals stay healthy and how to create ecosystems to make this easy.
An Army veteran who teaches torts, evidence and public health law, Jennifer Oliva is the speaker for the College of Law commencement ceremonies. Oliva directs the WVU Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic and is one of only four national Bellow Scholars selected by the American Association of Law Schools for legal scholarship who promotes social justice.
The Air Force ROTC Commissioning Ceremony will take place at 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 11 in the Mountainlair Ballrooms.
WVU held its fifth annual Lavender Graduation April 22. The commencement ceremony is designed to honor the LGBTQ students’ achievements and contributions to the University.
Other pre-commencement functions take place Thursday (May 10), including an International Reception at 4:30 p.m. at the Morgantown Marriott; and the invitation-only Honors Medallion Ceremony at 7 p.m. in the Morgantown Event Center.
Commencement ceremonies also take place at WVU’s divisional campuses. Potomac State College in Keyser will hold its ceremony May 5 and Institute of Technology students will graduate May 12 in Beckley.
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