Wilkes University awarded more than 650 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at its 76th spring commencement ceremonies on May 20. The ceremony for graduate students receiving doctoral and master’s degrees was held at 10 a.m., while the ceremony for undergraduates receiving bachelor’s degrees was held at 3 p.m. Both ceremonies were held in the McHale Athletic Center in the Simms Center on Main, 169 S. Main Street in Wilkes-Barre.
The degrees conferred include approximately 278 bachelor’s, 305 master’s and 83 doctoral degrees.
Before both ceremonies, a procession of graduating students led by bagpipers processed from the Henry Student Center on West South Street to the Campus Gateway, where graduates entered the McHale Athletic Center.
President Greg Cant addressed the graduates at the 10 a.m. ceremony. Kimberly Yoo, Jackson, New Jersey, also provided greetings during the morning ceremony. Yoo earned the Doctor of Pharmacy as well as the Master of Business Administration. Upon graduation, she will start her career with CVS Pharmacy.
During the afternoon ceremony, Megan A. Makovsky, Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, delivered remarks on behalf of the graduating class. Makovsky earned the Bachelor of Science degree on her way to the Doctor of Pharmacy, anticipated in 2025. She is also the recipient of the Alumni Award for Leadership (more below).
In addition, Wilkes awarded two honorary degrees at the 3 p.m. ceremony.
James Sandman, Esquire, also addressed the graduating class. Sandman serves as distinguished lecturer and director of the Future of the Profession Lab at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. He is president emeritus of Legal Services Corporation, following his tenure as president from 2011 to 2020. Sandman practiced with Arnold & Porter for 30 years, acting as the firm’s managing partner for a decade.
Sandman is a graduate of Boston College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He served as a member of the Wilkes University Board of Trustees from 2002 through 2007. He was a law clerk for the honorable judge Max Rosenn and maintains a leadership role in the University’s annual Max Rosenn Lecture Series in Law and Humanities
Lawrence E. Cohen is the second-generation owner of Benco Dental Company, founded by his father, Benjamin Cohen, in 1930. Cohen joined Benco Dental as manager of the “tooth department” before transitioning into outside sales. He served as the president of Benco for more than 30 years, from 1965 through 1996. He also served in the U. S. Army Reserve from 1958 through 1964.
Cohen graduated with a bachelor of science in accounting from Wilkes College in 1957 and a master of science in management and finance from Columbia University in 1958. He was a member of the Wilkes University Board of Trustees from 1994 through 2008, and now holds the title of board member emeritus. Along with his wife, Sally, Cohen made the principal gift for the construction of the Larry and Sally Cohen Science Center. He was recognized with the President’s Medal in 2018 for his commitment to the University.
The following awards were presented to students at the ceremonies:
Mabel Scott Wandell Award and Sterling Leroy Wandell Award
The Mabel Scott Wandell and the Sterling Leroy Wandell awards are presented to the individuals in Wilkes University’s graduating class with the highest grade-point averages.
The graduates listed below are the 70th and 71st graduates to earn perfect 4.0 grade point averages in Wilkes history.
Nikki A. Polivka, Weatherly, Pennsylvania, earned the Bachelor of Science, summa cum laude, on her way to the Doctor of Pharmacy in May 2025. Polivka is also the recipient of the Honors Program Academic Distinction Award. Beyond her academic pursuits, she has served as a pharmacy ambassador, a first-year student e-mentor and as pharmacy senate class president. She is the daughter of Rhonda and Nicholas Polivka.
Matthew C. Schwarztrauber, Hop Bottom, Pennsylvania, earned the Bachelor of Science, summa cum laude, on his way to graduating with the Doctor of Pharmacy in May 2025. He is the recipient of the Honors Program Academic Distinction Award. Beyond his academic pursuits, he has served as a chemistry teacher assistant, a first-year student e-mentor and a resident assistant. He is the son of Laurie and John Schwarztrauber.
Teresa Jordan and Frank Mehm Prize – Melanie A. Fouts, Fulton, Missouri (raised in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Selinsgrove Area High School).
The Mehm Prize is awarded annually to the undergraduate who most nearly represents the ideal respecting moral courage, unselfishness and noteworthy extracurricular participation significantly advancing the University on and off campus.
Melanie A. Fouts’ activities and contributions to campus are notable. She graduated with the Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering while also serving as a first-year student e-mentor, orientation coordinator, vice president of the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers, a facilitator for the Wilkes Adventure Education program, vice president of the Society of Women’s Engineers and Honors Program student committee president. She also participated in two alternative break service trips to Give Kids the World in Florida and received the Honors Program Community Leadership Award and Academic Achievement Award in Environmental Engineering. Upon graduation, Fouts will be an environmental engineer with the Pennsylvania American Water Company. She is the daughter of Diohn and Dean Fouts.
Alumni Leadership Award – Megan A. Makovsky, Fleetwood, Pa.
The Alumni Leadership Award is given by the Wilkes University Alumni Association to the member of the graduating class considered to have made the strongest contribution to student life and the student activities program of the University.
Megan A. Makovsky graduated with a Bachelor of Science, summa cum laude, on her way to the Doctor of Pharmacy in May 2025. She served as president of student government during the 2022-23 academic year and is the incoming president of the pharmacy student senate. Megan is also a graduate of the Honors Program and served as recording secretary of student government, vice president of pharmacy student senate, secretary of the residence hall council, resident assistant and first-year student mentor. Makovsky is a pharmacy intern at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Reading and plans to pursue a career as a hospital pharmacist or as a pharmacy faculty member following her graduation from the Nesbitt School of Pharmacy in 2025. She is the daughter of Stephanie Stump and Michael Makovsky.