Wilkes University Awards More Than 700 Degrees at 77th Spring Commencement

by Kelly Clisham
two graduates celebrate on the Wilkes bridge across south main street

Wilkes University awarded more than 700 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at its 77th spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18. 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 South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. 

The degrees conferred include approximately 285 bachelor’s, 359 master’s and 95 doctoral degrees.

Ann Marie Bartuska ’75 delivered the commencement address at the morning ceremony and was awarded an honorary degree.

photo of ann marie bartuska in front of green trees
Ann Marie Bartuska ’75

Bartuska serves as a senior contributing scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, focusing on climate change mitigation through natural climate solutions. She also is a senior advisor at Resources for the Future. Bartuska’s extensive career has featured positions in government, education and the non-profit sector with organizations including the USDA and the Nature Conservancy. 

She blazed a trail as the first woman and first ecologist named director of forest management for the United States Forest Service. She also chaired the subcommittee on global change research at the White House Office of Science and Technology in 2016 and has recently served as a member of the Biden administration’s Wildfire Commission.

Bartuska earned her doctorate in biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology from West Virginia University and her master of science in botany and ecology from Ohio University. She graduated from Wilkes College with a bachelor of science in biology in 1975. Bartuska is a second-generation Wilkes alumnae and honorary degree recipient. Her mother, Doris Gorka Bartuska, graduated from Wilkes in 1949 and received an honorary degree in 1997.

Daniel D. Magie of Ellsworth, Kansas, provided greetings as a member of the graduating class during the 10 a.m. ceremony. Magie earned a doctor of education degree in K-12 school leadership.

Paul Wender ’69 delivered the commencement address for the afternoon ceremony. Wilkes awarded him an honorary degree in 1993. 

Photo of paul wender in front of bookcases
Paul Wender ’69

Wender serves as the Francis W. Bergstrom Professor of Chemistry and holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Chemical and Systems Biology at Stanford University. He previously served on the faculty at Harvard University.

The Wender Group, housed at Stanford University, examines issues of significance in chemistry, biology and medicine, including HIV/AIDS, resistant cancer, cancer immunotherapy, infectious diseases and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Wender is the co-founder of several biotech companies.

He is an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Royal Spanish Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Wender’s research has been recognized with awards including the Tetrahedron Prize, the Prelog Medal, the Arthur Cope Award and the Cohen Award for Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry. Teaching honors include the Hoagland Prize, Bing Teaching Award and Dean’s Teaching Award.

Wender was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University. He earned a doctorate in chemistry from Yale University and a bachelor of science degree from Wilkes College.

Kara Beerley of Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, provided greetings as a member of the graduating class during the 3 p.m. ceremony. Beerley earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology.

a photo of the platform party on stage and graduates in the audience

William R. Miller ’81, chair of the Board of Trustees, and Del Lucent ’03, associate professor of physics and computer science and chair of the Faculty Affairs Council, offered greetings at the morning and afternoon ceremonies.

The following awards were presented to students at the ceremonies:

Ellie Freiss of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Brandon Gebenus of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, David Greybosh of Hazle Township, Pennsylvania, and Daniel Whitman of Wapwallopen, Pennsylvania, earned perfect 4.0 grade point averages and received the 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.

Michael Nowak of Mayfield, Pennsylvania, received the Teresa Jordan and Frank Mehm Prize. 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.Kara Beerley of Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, received the Alumni Leadership Award. 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.

graduate touches the boot of the john wilkes statue for luck - a Wilkes tradition during the commencement procession
bagpipers play as the graduation procession goes from the henry student center to the commencement ceremony

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