Home Student LifeBehind the Scenes Ten Things You Might Not Know About Wilkes University’s Graduating Class of 2020

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Wilkes University’s Graduating Class of 2020

by Vicki Mayk

Although the face-to-face commencement ceremony scheduled for May 16 has been postponed until September, Wilkes University students in the Class of 2020 are still officially graduating this weekend. And there is a lot to celebrate about these wonderful students – both undergraduate and graduate — who persevered to complete their degrees in the midst of a global pandemic.

Here are 10 things you might not know about the Wilkes University Class of 2020 and their commencement into the world:

  • Although a ceremony will take places at a later date, more than 700 undergraduate and graduate students will have their degrees conferred on May 16. That is the date that will be on their diplomas
  • There will be a live degree conferral at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 16 with Interim President Paul Adams and Interim Provost Terese Wignot. To access the live telecast, click here.
  • One group of Wilkes graduates will have a different date on their diplomas. The newest Doctor of Pharmacy graduates in the Nesbitt School of Pharmacy will have diplomas dated May 29. The later date was necessary to accommodate additional time needed to complete clinical requirements for graduation. The additional time was necessary because of the pandemic restrictions. 
  • The traditional Latin honors – cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude – will still be awarded to graduates. Honors are being calculated based on grade-point averages at the end of the fall 2019 semester due to the use of a S/P/W grading option this semester. (But students can petition the provost’s office to use spring 2020 semester grades to compute their honors!)
  • Other commencement awards – the Wandell Award, presented to the male and female graduates with the highest grade-point averages in the graduating class, and the Mehm Award presented to the student embodying the qualities of the ideal Wilkes student – will be presented soon. But they will be presented!
  • And speaking of honors – more than 100 graduating students received other awards this week heading into graduation as academic and extracurricular awards were presented. To view the academic awards, please go here. To see the extracurricular awards, visit this page.
  • There will be many firsts at this commencement. Those firsts include the joyful graduation of many of our first-generation college students – the first in their families to earn a degree from a four-year college.
  • Other firsts include the first students earning degrees with majors in geology. The graduating geology majors are Alexandria Aspey, Hannah Thornton, Emma Sukowaski and Joshua Foust.  (And Hannah and Joshua are graduating with second majors in earth and environmental science and environmental science respectively.) Another first – this one in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences:  Jessica Gardner will be the first student to graduate with a degree with theatre design and technology.
  • The family of Colonels grows with every commencement. And with every commencement – the number of Colonels in individual families grows. Among the families continuing their Colonel tradition in May 2020 are the Kovalicks. Michael Kovalick, who is graduating with a degree in biology, is the son of Dr. Michael Kovalick D.O. and Dr. Kimberly Sarnecki Kovalick D.O,  both members of Wilkes’ Class of 1991. And Michael’s younger brother, Andrew, is a Wilkes biology major. Lacey Bradshaw, a 2020 electrical engineering graduate, is becoming the second Colonel graduate in her family, following in the footsteps of her father, Mark Bradshaw ’96. And the list goes on! 
  •  And finally – lots of inspiring stories can be found among our graduates about overcoming obstacles on the road to earning their degrees and about the love and support they received along the way from their Wilkes family. One of those stories came from Madison Ensley, who is graduating in just three years with a biology degree while navigating the University with a disability. Madison was diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss and nerve damage at age 6 – but she powered through Wilkes, playing two sports (softball and field hockey) and succeeding academically. Accepted to nine audiology graduate programs, she will be entering Pacific University on her way to earning her doctorate in audiology. Let’s end by sharing what Madison wrote about her Wilkes experience on Facebook:

“Being a legally deaf young woman, I have personally experienced the hardships and obstacles that come with being an individual with a disability. I so badly want to give back to the deaf community. I have learned so many life lessons from my hearing impairment – I have learned that it is okay to be different, to always be kind because you never know what someone is going through, and to always pick yourself and others up because you are never defined by your falls, but rather how many times you fall and rise again. My college experience is a unique one… I still remember stepping into Sara Myers (my field hockey coach) office when I visited Wilkes University for the first time. Her open arms and big heart is what ultimately lead me to selecting Wilkes to earn my biology degree and play sports in college. I knew in that moment that Wilkes was not just a school to earn a good education, but a school where individuals grow into highly appreciated and respectful adults. I only hope someday I will have a heart just as big as my Coach, Sara Myers – thank you Coach for all you ever did for me. To my academic advisor and mentor Kenneth Klemow, thank you so much for taking me under your wing and helping me become such a well-rounded student and individual… I could not have done it without you!” 

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